November 21 2015
UK actor is now based on the other side of the pond and tells us why…
ONE OF THE GUEST stars featuring in the Youtube series, “Corner Shop Show” episodes 8, 9 and 10 is Naresh Kumar, a Midlands-born actor now based stateside in New York.
Kumar’s decision to relocate to the US appears to have been a good decision – he’s just bagged two leading roles in independent films alongside some established actors and this somewhat gives credence to the notion that there are more opportunities for non-white actors in the US. He also features in a starring role in a stirring drama about about a Muslim family in the US which will hit the big screen in early 2016.
You probably don’t need us to tell you that Idris Elba, David Harewood and David Oyelowo all clinched big breakthrough parts after moving there from here (UK) – and while we are on the subject, Aziz Ansari (once of “Parks & Recreation”) and Mindy Kaling (once of the US “The Office”), both have their own shows in the US. From that perspective we, in the UK, are a long way behind.
Viewers of “Corner Shop Show” will know Kumar plays the hapless and rather dim security guard, Zack – who Malik (the main character, played by series’ creator Islah Abdur-Rahman) employs to keep him safe as threats are made to his personal safety.
(There’s something of a vicious turf war going on…yes, between convenience stores…it’s comedy drama, after all).
Zack’s quizzical expressions and thick Brummie accent are the source of much unintended humour and mirth as he tries to communicate with London lads Malik and Tony (Michael Truong) Michael’s right hand man in the shop. He met Abdur-Rahman on a previous mutual acting engagement and the pair kept in touch.
“Zack was a lot of fun to play,” Kumar told www.asianculturevulture. com. “I’ve never played a Brummie with a thick accent before but it was fun and Zack is a very funny character.”
Note – not intentionally funny, in his job interview with Malik, he makes out quite seriously that he has been in a high-level military role, alluding to ‘black ops’ and special forces operations.
Malik doesn’t know what to make of it all, but accepts it as face value and is desperate anyway – and employs him. He probably thinks Zack is a bit autistic, rather than a complete fraud.
Kumar certainly looks the part – he enjoyed a successful career as an international model before focussing exclusively on his acting.
It was more than a year ago when we last spoke to him after his starring role in the film, “Pseudo Blood of Our Own” was screened on popular UK cable channel, B4U.
An independent Canadian production about an Asian drugs gang (before Deepa Mehta’s “Beeba Boys“), the film enjoyed huge success in North America and put him on the map, so to speak.
It was an eye-opener for Kumar, who had a spell in Mumbai walking the ramp, and dabbling with Bollywood but returned to the UK in 2013 and deciding to move as he got more commercial work Stateside.
Moving was still a big decision but it was made on the likely trajectory of his career which is increasingly gravitating towards film.
“I won’t deny it – it was hard back home. There are only a small number of independent films and it’s difficult for anyone non-white to get a look-in. I moved because there is much more opportunity here (in the US). There are a lot of new TV shows too and there is much more scope for a person of my type whom is ethnically ambiguous.”
It’s something of a well-worn phrase in the US – ‘ethnically ambiguous’ and means crudely, that if you are brown, there are a huge range of potential roles, not just ‘Asian’ as there are here and in short supply, anyway.
“There are just far more opportunities in the US, and it’s right across the board – film, TV and theatre especially in the New York,” revealed Kumar.
He has just finished filming “Niya” – an independent feature film made by Yusuf Al-Rahman, an African Academy Award nominee in 2014 for short, “Father Must Die” and whose first full length feature is now eagerly anticipated – and hugely topical.
At the heart of the drama is Yusuf (Al-Rahman himself) whose life as a financial advisor disintegrates after losing his job. With financial pressures mounting and a daughter who expects to go to college, and no job on the horizon, Yusuf drifts towards unsavoury temptations.
Kumar plays Saeed, his best friend, and the title of the film refers to ‘Niya’, Yusuf’s strong and loving wife. Both sense the danger to Yusuf and intervene.
“It was very powerful. There is so much negativity about Islam in the mass media (we spoke before the tragic events of Paris), and this really highlighted the positive aspects of Islam, of having a strong faith which can help you overcome real challenges and difficulties.
“Niya herself is a very strong character and it was good to see a film where the main focal point is a strong Muslim female character.”
Kumar can’t tell us too much about the two new parts – though they are both very gritty and deal with serious issues – in contrast to his role in “Corner Shop Show”.
Both features have a strong Canadian element and he will be seen alongside more recognised Canadian and Indian actors – “182 Kanishka” is about the doomed Air-India flight that was downed by a bomb off the coast of Ireland in 1985 as it made its way from Toronto/Montreal to Delhi, via London. The other is “On the Guard for Thee” about a Canadian Army officer trying to readjust to life outside and finding it a lot tougher than he imagined.
“It’s going to be an interesting and challenging year and the move I feel has been beneficial,” said Kumar.