In recent times, Indian actors – both male and female – are finally getting more recognition on American TV. Although we still see Hollywood portraying Indian characters with an Indian accent, there are some who are able to break through the stereotype. One such actor is Sachin Bhatt, who is a rising star in Hollywood. He has done some theater, television, and even movie roles. For example, some may recognize him as “Chino” from Westside Story‘s Asian-European tour, “Cousin Manish” in a guest spot on Outsourced, or “Raj” from the movie Bollywood Beats (releasing on DVD Jan 31; co-starring Pooja Kumar, Lillette Dubey and Sarita Joshi). Most people, however, will associate Sachin as the male lead “Akaash” in the 2006 national tour of Bombay Dreams, which was his breakout role.
Irrespective of how you know him, everyone will acknowledge that no matter what role Sachin’s taken on, he’s done justice to it above and beyond what was required. I had a chance to interview Sachin regarding his career so far. Check out the exclusive below only on UrbanAsian.com.
Sachin: As a kid, I was always lost in a daydream. Paying attention was extremely difficult for me because my imagination was always SO much more interesting than anything in my personal life. But I started acting in 7th grade in my junior high school musical and immediately quit the art after seeing my horrific performance on tape. I was a lead and not satisfied with my acting. Even then, I was dramatic. But it spoke volumes because to this day, I look back at all my work, and I always think “Man, I can do better.”
So anyway, I scratched the acting after 7th grade and got into singing. I went to Indiana University – School of Music for opera and then slowly drifted back into acting through musical theatre and stage shows.
UA: Was it hard convincing the folks, or did they support you right away?
Sachin: Not at all. My entire family is extremely artistic. My father was a great artist. He created beautiful charcoal drawings as well as played the sitar. My sisters danced their whole lives, one of which studied Bharat Natayam in Madras at Kalakshetra, and my mother acted and sang in her community growing up. For Indians, I’d say they were pretty friggin’ supportive. (*laughs*)
UA: What type of acting roles do you love to do?
Sachin: I love playing any roles that are outside my typical behavior. We all possess possibility of characters within us and I love to explore the parts of me that I may not share or reveal personally. I love dark characters.
Sachin: The funniest role I’ve played was Samdaji Kumar Reshamiya in the pilot “Glass Heels.” I play an employee at Empire Communications who enjoys hitting on women at the Scuttle Butt, a gentleman’s club. He offers Jasmine, a new “dancer” at the club a job interview since she had to resort to dancing after she lost her high profile job due to the recession. Unfortunately for her, the job interview takes a turn when I turn on the music so that Jasmine can give me and my boss a private show. I’m a real charmer! And then she kicks my ass. It hurt.
UA: You’re also well known for dance, having been a dancer in “The Love Guru”, but more importantly as the lead role of Akaash in the 2006 national tour of Bombay Dreams. What was it like playing the coveted role for such a major production?
Sachin: It was an amazing journey and an eye-opening experience for me. I had heard of the London Production very late in the game and was studying opera at Indiana University when Bombay Dreams went to Broadway. So, when the tour happened, I was thrilled to be a part of it. I was on the International Tour of West Side Story when I got the role and ended up leaving that contract early to play Akaash. Being a part of that production was amazing because it allowed me to embrace my roots and culture that I had slowly strayed away from over the years. It taught me discipline, good work ethnic and how to hold an entire show on your shoulders 8 times a week.
UA: What dance forms have you trained in, if any?
Sachin: I trained in NYC after I graduated college in Jazz, Musical Theatre and Hip Hop. Bollywood was something I never studied. I mean we’re Indian…It comes naturally, right? In any case it probably didn’t hurt watching all those Bollywood movies as a kid. I am thankful for Bombay Dreams because it allowed me to have the confidence to choreograph Bollywood for different production companies in LA. Most recently I created a show at the infamous Shrine Auditorium in downtown LA and had the pleasure of dancing with A.R. Rahman at the Hollywood Bowl.
Sachin: Both are challenging. I don’t want to lessen either avenue because they both require much discipline in different ways. In theater, there are no second takes. It is a live performance and one must be invested the entire time and to know what is being asked of you. In film it’s a “hurry up and wait” sort of game. So, you have much less time to prepare and money is always on the line. You may get a few takes, but doesn’t mean you should need them. One thing is true though – the story you are telling is always more important than any other exterior concerns.
UA: I know most theater people have some rituals they like to do before a show. Is there any that you did (that you can share) while touring for Bombay Dreams?
Sachin: Bombay Dreams was a very taxing show physically and vocally. So, I would always spend at least 20 minutes singing and humming scales before every show as well as another 20 minutes stretching and warming up the body. I don’t think I had any crazy superstitious habits before a show that I can remember… Sorry, nothing crazy to tell you… I can make something up though… (*grins*)
UA: How come you decided to make the switch from theater to tv/film?
Sachin: I didn’t really know TV/FILM was something that I wanted to pursue until I did the film, The Ode. I randomly sent an audition dvd over to LA last minute from my agents and ended up flying for the producer session and booking the role. It was a highly dramatic film and I was in LA shooting for 2 months. I feel in love with LA and the entire experience. I realized that on camera work was something I wanted to focus on and there is much more opportunity to do that in Los Angeles. I also enjoy the life style better here. Things are more relaxed and easy going in LA and you can’t beat the weather. I love theater and may find myself back in NYC in the future doing a show or a series, but, for now, I’m very content in LA.
Sachin: I didn’t move straight from St. Louis to LA. I first studied in Indiana at Indiana University for 4 years before making the big move to NYC. So, moving to New York from the Midwest was the transition! The lifestyle in NY is so fast-paced that even on your day off you’ll find yourself running – literally running – to catch the subway. And you have to remind yourself – “oh yeah I have nothing to do…chillout.” (*laughs*) Moving to LA was an easy transition coming from New York, but I still have a lot of NY qualities that will never leave me. I still walk way too fast.
UA: I know you have an appetite for acting, but what’s your fav gujarati meal?
Sachin: Chorda – “an indian chilli” if you will. It’s kind of like a Red lentil soup with onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and A LOT of spices. Served with rice. Yum.
UA: Who are three actors (Hollywood and Bollywood) whom you would love to work with?
Sachin: Johnny Depp, Edward Norton and Javier Bardem
Amir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan
UA: How about three actresses (Hollywood and Bollywood) whom you would love to be paired opposite?
Sachin: Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Meryl Streep
Priyanka Chopra, Konkona Sen Sharma, Shabana Azmi
Sachin: Never say never, but unless someone scouts me out and has investors ready to go…I’m good doing what I’m doing. (*laughs*)
UA: Can you please share any upcoming projects we will see you in during 2012?
Sachin: It’s a pilot season right now and I just finished the CBS Diversity Sketch Showcase, which was an amazingly hilarious experience. Out of over 5,000 applicants they selected 23 of us to perform SNL style sketches that we write collectively together. We had 4 shows for all casting directors, producers, agents etc…in the business to showcase some great talent right before pilot season. I’ve been having a lot of meetings some of which have been with the Executive Casting Director of ABC studio and the VP of CBS/Paramount Casting.
Also, a dance film I starred in called BOLLYWOOD BEATS with actress Pooja Kumar is coming out Jan 31st on DVD. It’s a really fun movie with a lot of heart and ofcourse a lot of dancing. Look out for a few McDonalds commercials and a Vitamin Water soon to be airing on TV.
But I’m most excited about producing my own project, INDIAN FAIRY TALES. It’s a compilation of Indian Fables that is geared towards children. The proceeds will benefit orphanages in India.
UA: Any other message for your fans?
Sachin: I really appreciate everyone’s support in my art and career. I’m continuing to grow as an artist and really want to thank everyone who I have been blessed to meet on this journey.
UA: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview from your busy schedule!
Hope you all enjoyed the interview and be sure to keep it locked to UrbanAsian.com for the best exclusives! Check out clips from Sachin’s projects below:
CBS Diversity Showcase
The Ode Trailer (with NBC’s Outsources’ Rebecca Hazelwood and Parvesh Cheena)