Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
A little all over the place in the best way, I was born in Bangalore, India, to Malayali parents, grew up in Dubai, and completed my higher education in New York, and then Los Angeles. My educational history also shows versatility in terms of knowledge in several art forms. With a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design, to certification in Dance, and a Master of Fine Arts in Acting, I think it’s safe to say Art, in its many forms, has been a calling I don’t plan to refuse.
With that being said, I’m an Actor, Choreographer, and Model.
“What do you like to do more?” I don’t know. That’s like asking me if I’d rather breathe, eat or drink. If I had to pick one and lose the rest forever, it could be detrimental to my health.
The one thing I see myself doing ‘more’ of, however, is Acting. Heading soul-first into a script and being part of a story, instead of just watching it unravel, has a certain addictive property.
I grew up in a family where our ancestry has literally two artists. So it was quite an astonishment for my parents when they realized I was on a journey that would take lots of patience, resilience, and plenty of family-time sacrifices.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
To start with an interesting fact, I trained for 9+ years in an ancient South Indian classical dance form called ‘Bharatanatyam’. My ‘guru’ (teacher) was a traditional Indian man who devoted his entire life to the craft. My ‘graduation’ or ‘arangetram’ as we call it, was at a 14th Century temple in India that’s considered one of the most auspicious places to have one, saved for only a handful of dancers who’ve trained rigorously for years.
Having said that, I believe it’s my ‘marketability’ that has me standing out in the industry. Let me elaborate, picture this, a writer’s room where the screenwriters are playing with ideas to move along a TV show and it’s characters, and they want to see if there’s anything unique one of the actors can do to spice up the episode a smidge. I offer a buffet of random little talents. Did I mention I’ve done murals? Story for another day. Having learned different mediums of expression, if I’m master of anything, I’m master of being able to learn and perform any skill or ‘talent’ a character may possess.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
There was one distinct moment when I was at the theatre with my family. There wasn’t anything particularly special about this visit. It was like any other time we went to a movie. We found our seats trying not to drop too much of the already spilling popcorn on the way, settled down and waited for the trailers to end.
The film started like most do, with the title screens and production logos. As the film went on, we ate our popcorn and drank our sodas.
It was at the end of the film, as the credits rolled and my parents nudged me to move from my trance, that I realized, I had felt something, a lot of somethings, that night. It amazed me the whole way home that I had felt all these feelings without going through anything in my waking life to make me feel that way.
That’s when it hit me, the phenomenal job the actors did transformed them into a beacon that helped me, an audience member, safely reside and FEEL in a world other than my own. At that point it was clear to me, an actor’s job isn’t to act. That’s just was the activity is called. An actor’s job was to provide a safe space to millions around the world to feel feelings they wouldn’t want to come face-to-face with in their waking lives.
Right then, I had my moment of “I want to do that for the rest of my life”.
And as life progressed and i went from being in front of one camera to the next, I feel in love each time over.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
It wasn’t as scary when I told my parents of my plans to fly to a whole new country. It was actually very easy to talk about it and confirm plans and head out.
The scary part happened when I was walking around alone in New York City (keep in mind, this was the first time I was in a whole different, unknown country without any family or relatives around or even close to where I was), and I walked into a grocery store and froze. I realized everyone’s accents were different, I wasn’t familiar with any social cues in this new place, I realized I’d walked my way into a what felt like a different dimension.
Accepting the fact that yes, I was alone physically, yes, I had to figure it out from scratch and no friends, and yes, it was going to be hard was the first step. Then the actual work of being ok with so many differences and coming to terms with standing out like a sore thumb came up.
They say the bigger challenges you never plan for. This definitely wasn’t on my list of things to look out for.
I ran with the strategy of ‘pretend to know what you’re doing’ and somehow it all worked out. At this point, all I am is grateful for being thrown into a situation like that. I have to have come out stronger right?
Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?
Mindy Kaling ! – She honestly just seems like a gem to work with. Her energy and vibes are goals. She has had a vision for south Asian actors and have helped elevate careers for so many.
Donald Glover – His versatility and his success with being so versatile is what inspires me. The fact that he can do several different things in different industries and be that phenomenal in each, is the built of an excellent artist.
Tyler Perry – Tyler Perry’s lack of care for boundaries and rules when it comes to artistic storylines is such an inspiration. I’m specifically awed by his comedic projects and his take on comedy in general. I’m the biggest fan of comedy and it’s safe to say Tyler Perry has that down solid.
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Instagram : www.instagram.com/aathirarajeevofficial