• Sunday, May 26, 2024


Bhasker Patel: Creating characters convincingly

The versatile performer spoke to Eastern Eye on the sets of his latest short film, Aajao, at a gurdwara in Leamington Spa

Bhasker Patel

By: Mita Mistry

A DISTINGUISHED career on stage, television and cinema has enabled Bhasker Patel to play a wide variety of roles. This has ranged from being a series regular in the iconic soap, Emmerdale, to working with big Hollywood names.

Despite achieving so much, including breaking ground for British Asian actors, the 67-year-old isn’t ready to rest on his laurels and continues to take on new challenges, including acting in short films directed by new talent.

Eastern Eye recently visited the versatile performer on the sets of his latest short film, Aajao, at a gurdwara in Leamington Spa. The acclaimed actor brightened up a cold day with his warm personality, as he spoke about his journey, short films, significant creative inspiration and the secret behind a great performance.

How do you reflect on your journey as an actor?

I think now, being in the business for many years, the parts are getting better. Interestingly, when I started out, the parts were mostly cameos and not so interesting. So, I think now I’m choosing the parts I would love to play. In that sense, the journey is getting even better.

You have played a wide variety of roles, but which has been closest to your heart?

I would say that film roles are sort of closer to my heart. In 1987, I did a film (Drachenfutter) in Germany and played the lead part. It was a black and white movie that went all over the world. Also, working with (the late) Robin Williams in a movie (Being Human) was great. Recently, I worked with Oliver Stone and played a very good part in a film. So, I think I find feature film roles more interesting.

How does acting in film and TV compare to performing on stage?

For film and TV, the characterisation is very concise, very short. On stage, you can elaborate your character – I think that’s how I can best put it. Film and TV characters may have a limitation, but they are challenging and very interesting to play. But having done theatre, I must admit that it really helps you to play those characters in films and on TV, however complex.

Patel with Mita Mistry

What did you like about this short film, Aajao, that you are working on?

Short films are very interesting. Once you read the script, it grabs you and this one grabbed me because it’s about loss.

The son lost his father and didn’t attend his funeral. And now, a year down the line, he wants to revisit what he lost.

Tell us about your character in this short film?

I play Gurjit, a very devotional Sikh man. He lost touch with his son and then he left the world. Now, his son is trying to find the father, who he never got to say goodbye to. The film and characters are very relatable.

How do you approach a character such as this?

Usually, when you read a script, there is something from your past, maybe your childhood, that informs you. Something from your own self actually comes to light. I always try to imagine how I, or me as a person playing that part, would react. So, you have to dig deep and find the truth.

What do you like most about acting in short films?

Short films actually test a writer, director, actor and the entire creative team involved. If you haven’t mastered your craft, then short films become difficult and challenging. I think then you have to really work hard at it. They are a good place to learn also. Short films are brilliant to do, but if you can’t tell a story that way, then forget about being in the business.

Patel shooting for the short film ‘Aajao’

What, according to you, is the secret of a great performance?

You have to find a truth in your character and the script. Then you have to go and play it in a simple way. The simpler, the better, because then it can carry the weight [of the character]. So, yes, I think finding the truth in your character and in the situation you play is really the key.

Do you have a dream role you would love to play?

Now that I’m 67, I would like to play the kind of lead parts playing myself, rather than somebody else. And also, someone from my ethnicity and background – from an Asian background, whether that person is Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. I don’t think we see such roles or lead parts being played by a lot of Asian actors.

What inspires you as an actor?

I love my profession because it’s always different. You work with different people and tell diverse tales. It’s never the same and I think that really inspires me.

It’s a tough job being in the media and the arts, as we all know, whether you are an actor, writer or creative. With acting, I just love it because not a day is the same as the previous one.

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