Sagar Radia – One for the Future

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The Asian Today Interview

DESPITE being relatively young Brit-Asian actor Sagar Radia is slowly making a name for himself in the acting world. He’s starred in the critically acclaimed and award-winning Channel 4 drama Britz, the BBC’s Waking the Dead and even bagged himself a small role in the Bollywood film Namastey London. His next venture sees him take to the stage in his theatre debut for the prestigious Tamasha Theatre Company later this year. We caught up with Sagar to find out what made him get into acting and whether his short stint in Namastey London has given him the Bollywood itch …

 

Sagar you’re gearing up for your stage debut later this year in ‘Sweet Cider’. How much are you looking forward to it?

Very much so! It’s bizarre because I went to see a play a few months ago and I just got the buzz of wanting to do theatre after that. Next thing you know I’m in the audition, then offered the role! It couldn’t have happened at a better time. Also because I’ve done a lot more TV and Film, I’m geared up to prove I can cut it in theatre because any actor will tell you that theatre is a different ball-game so I’m definitely looking forward to that aspect of it. Also working with Kristine Landon-Smith (director) will be an experience because she’s done so many great plays in the past.

 

Tell us a bit about the production and your role in it

The main story of ‘Sweet Cider’ looks at two girls who have run away from their families and end up in a women’s refuge. It then asks the question of how sweet freedom really is for them and was it the right decision? More-over the story looks at the community which they live in and the characters that emerge from there. That’s where the character I play, Amir, comes in. He’s a regular teen trying to find his way in the world. Certain insecurities and anxieties come across from his character and he’s confused about where his life is going. That’s kind of the basis of the story, the ability to think and wonder about the bitter sweetness of life…like a pint of cider!

 

Working with the Tamasha Theatre Company must be some coup

To say the least! I’ve known about Tamasha before I got into acting. I had a friend who was in one of their productions a few years ago and I thought that was great! But they’re such a well-known company within the Asian community and outside of it too, it would have been difficult to turn it down. I’m just privileged they saw something in me and hopefully I can deliver to that potential.

 

It’s not been that long since you started out in the acting world. What made you want to be an actor and how did you get into it?

In all I’ve been kicking around for about 5 years now. While I was at College and University, I would sneak off to auditions and then maybe a week or two for filming, but I was able to keep it pretty balanced. I started off just going to evening classes at a local Drama School and they were kind enough to put me on their books because they doubled as an agency. I went out for auditions and eventually got a break in my first year at University.

What made me want to be an actor is a difficult question and probably one I’m still not sure about. To try and put it into perspective I guess I just enjoy having the opportunity to be someone else. You get to think, behave, walk and talk differently. When I was younger I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was probably one of the most laid back kids you would’ve met. Acting was just something I found myself drawn too and went with it. Fortunately for me it’s going ok so far!

 

You chose to study at University rather than pursue action professionally – do you ever look back on this decision with regret?

Not at all. I said in a previous interview that I knew very early on that if I was going to be an actor, then I was going to be an actor, drama school or no drama school. I found myself leaning more towards University and just went with my gut on that one. During which time I just got very lucky with some nice parts.

If I’m looking in hindsight then I certainly don’t have any regrets. As an actor, yes I would like to have experienced drama school and the training they go through but the experiences I had at University, the people I met, and the friends I made, I wouldn’t trade for the world.

 

You’ve worked on quite a diverse range of productions so far. What’s been your best role so far?

In terms of best role, I enjoyed playing Rafiq Wahid in ‘Britz’ but I recently did two episodes for BBC’s Waking the Dead and the character in that was something I hadn’t played before. He was a young guy going out with a white girl whose neo-fascist parents weren’t happy to find out about their daughters ‘Asian’ boyfriend. I then got kidnapped and tortured and it was just an experience that doesn’t come around too often and working alongside Trevor Eve is something not too many actors can say they’ve done!

 

Peter Kosminsky’s ‘Britz’ was such a phenomenal drama. What was it like being part of it?

When I first got the role I kind of took it for granted because I wasn’t aware of how big the production really was. It wasn’t till I started meeting the rest of the cast and going to rehearsals that I began to feel like it was something unique. It was definitely a risky move from Channel 4 and it did get heavily criticised but I’m glad to say I was a part of it because I came out feeling like I’d reached a new level in my career.

 

You’ve also been part of the Bollywood scene with ‘Namastey London’. How did you manage to get a part in the film?

Honestly, it was just one of those right-place, right-time moments! Namastey London was filmed around 2 and half years ago at which point I was still new to the acting world. I got offered a job as a runner on-set and knowing I was pursuing a career in acting, they offered me a couple of small scenes! It was good fun, but I’d barely call it a role!

 

What was the Bollywood experience like – can you see yourself jetting off to Mumbai and practising those dance moves?

I don’t know about that?! It’s great what they do in the Indian film industry but my Hindi is way to rubbish to even attempt to go out there. What’s more, I don’t have nearly enough muscle as some of those leading guys! Having been born and brought up in London; I really want to take advantage of my environment and continue to do projects from my western perspective. But then again never say never!

 

As an Asian actor do you find there is a lack of opportunities to play a character that is not defined by race?

Yes and no. I reckon whether your black, white or brown there will always been a pigeon-hole to put you in. Is that right? No, but it’s the way it is and you’d be naive to think otherwise. It’s not till you reach that ‘A-list’ status that you’re able to choose the characters you want to play. But on the flip-side things have come a long way in the past 10-15 years. Art Malik is the only name that comes to mind when you think about an Asian actor who was remotely successful back then. Now there are actors like Nasseruddin Shah, Parminder Nagra and more recently, Riz Ahmed who are all making positive moves in Western Film and TV.

 

What would be your dream film project?

My only dream film project would be to do many film projects! I’m just fortunate that I’ve been able to make a career of this because there are so many actors out there. If I can say in 5-10 years that I’m consistently working and doing positive things then that’s the dream right there! Of course if someone’s offering me the opportunity of a lead role alongside side Will Smith, you better believe I’m going to be first in line to audition!

 

Aside from ‘Sweet Cider’ what other projects have you got lined up?

In-between projects I try and focus on a bit of writing. If not that, I’m always looking for different classes to go to and keep training the craft. But after ‘Sweet Cider’ I’ve written some things which I’ll probably return to until the next project reveals itself!

 

For more information on Sagar log onto http://www.myspace.com/sagarradia

 

‘Sweet Cider’ will be playing at the Arcola Theatre from 22 October – 15 November 2008

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