Sunday, May 26, 2024

An interview with Luke Kenny, Indian actor, composer, film and music director

Interviewed, written and edited by – Robin Bhuyan (Editor-in-Chief) 

Luke Kenny is an underrated talent in the Hindi film industry, who is not just an actor, but also a film director, producer, music director and composer. Luke Kenny became known for playing one of the main roles in the musical drama film Rock On! He continued to appear in several other projects such as the popular web series Sacred Games, where he played the role of Malcolm, a mysterious mercenary, and Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, where he played the role of Aurangzeb.

Most recently, he was seen in a cameo appearance in the Sriram Raghavan’s mystery thriller Merry Christmas, as the abusive husband of Katrina Kaif’s character. He also had a supporting role in The Archies, which released recently on Netflix.

In this exclusive interview with Mr Kenny, we discuss in detail about his journey as an artist, some of his insights regarding cinema, and his future projects.    

We know you began your career as a dancer. Could you tell us a bit about your childhood?

My childhood was spent growing up with music, films, and performance. My grandfather was a musician, a ventriloquist, and a magician. My father was also a musician, and my grandmother was a huge fan of Hindi films. So, as a child, I had a very entertaining initiation into the world of performance and self-expression.

What drew you to the world of entertainment?

School days tend to be the formative period of individual evolution. As cliche would have it, because of my unconventional looks, I would get inserted into all the annual day events, be it the dances (folk and otherwise), the plays (Hindi and English), the elocution (Hindi and English), the sporting events, etc. This was a key element in the fomentation of my interest in realizing the potential of getting up on stage and expressing oneself creatively in front of a captive audience. And as I went on from year to year in school and then college, the entertainment world drew me in further and further.

How did your acting career begin?

It was during my ongoing stint as a Video Jockey for a music channel that I was asked to be a part of a play that was going to be staged at various Mumbai stages. And it was a Shakespearean one no less—the ever-popular Romeo and Juliet. It was a wonderful time with a wonderful director and the most gracious actors. It was while doing this play that I was spotted by the director who offered me my first film, Bombay Boys.

Please tell us about your first directorial venture, 13th Floor. What challenges did you face as a director, and how was the experience?

13th Floor came about as an effort to enter the Independent digital film space as a producer and director (a startup production house). The idea was to fund a project that was as minimal as it can get, thereby making a talking point for the project. I had the good graces of two fantastic actors, Sandhya Mridul and Purab Kohli, who were super supportive of the whole process. Everything was absolutely managed by a collective team of 5-6 people. From the set design to the edit, to the music scoring, to the cinematography, it was a true creative collective coming together of good friends and professional colleagues who made it possible. Plus, it became India’s first digitally ‘shot and released’ film, shot in 6 days on the smallest set ever!!

Tell us a bit about your film Rise of the Zombie, which was India’s first zombie film.

I would say that it is India’s first Zombie Origin Hindi Film. Again, this was an effort similar to 13th Floor. The only difference was I had a bit more of a budget to play with. I still had to keep it a simplistic, with minimal story, more human drama than horror, as the co-producers were being logically prudish about their investment. So, all the action was in camera, all the special effects were practical, and all the makeup was as real as you see it (no digital enhancements). Plus, I had a wonderful independent music soundtrack, contributed to very generously by some of my good friends in the music world.

Let’s talk about Rock On! for which many people know you. It can be considered one of your most important projects. How did you become a part of the project, and can you share your experiences in the movie?

Abhishek Kapoor, the director, called me one day and asked me to come in for a meeting. I was still with the music channel at the time, so I thought he wanted to speak about some promotions for one of his upcoming projects. Upon meeting me, he pitched the role to me and asked me to do a test. I complied, and he said he’d get back to me in a few days. Within the week, he called me back for another meeting and said that I’m in and that I need to sign my contract with Ritesh Sidhwani, the producer in Excel Entertainment. I was pleasantly surprised that I’ve suddenly been chosen for a relatively big Hindi film about a rock band. I have always been enthusiastic and proactive about any creative opportunities that have come my way. Therefore, while we were shooting the film, all of the actors had a wonderful time, the chemistry was great, everyone was kind and gracious, we all played our scenes off of each other so well. And when the film released, we secretly went to theatres across all the metro cities to gauge the response. We were completely overwhelmed with the appreciation and love that the audiences showered on the film. It warms my heart to know and see that it still continues to this day.

We would like to know about your role in “Sacred Games,” one of the most popular and successful web series in India. Can you also share some behind-the-scenes moments from the show that nobody has talked about before?

Sacred Games was a dream for me. I got to work with three iconic and wonderful directors of this generation: Vikramaditya Motwane, Anurag Kashyap, and Neeraj Ghaywan. I got to play a character that I was able to ‘live’ in. And I got to be a part of a game-changing project for a game-changing platform through which I could reach out to a whole new generation of audience through my character.

Out of all the roles you have played, is there any character that you connect with the most or that is close to your heart? If so, tell us why.

All my characters are my favourite children. Yes, there will be some characters that will resonate more with the viewer for various reasons, but I always look back on them as another facet that has been added to the raw diamond that is still being bruted, so to speak.

Your performance as Aurangzeb in the blockbuster film Tanhaji was commendable. Could you talk more about your experiences in the movie?

Om Raut is a visionary director, success and failure notwithstanding. Om was very sure that he wanted only me to play Aurangzeb, and I am humbled, yet proud to say that I was his only choice. He was clear on how he wanted the portrayal, he was clear on how he wanted to shoot it, he was exact on his camera work. Plus, I got styled by the superb Nachiket Barve. And it reunited me with Saif once again. Yay!!!

Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects?

I’ve recently had two releases, The Archies on Netflix, which came out in December last year, and Merry Christmas in theaters that just released this January. Both have been wonderful experiences, again being given an opportunity to work with two wonderful filmmakers, Zoya Akhtar and Shriram Raghavan, respectively. I recently wrapped another wonderful film, a radical remake of the classic Basu Chatterjee film Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, which was a remake of the 1957 Sidney Lumet film 12 Angry Men.’ This one has been craftily directed by Darshan Trivedi and features the most brilliant cast ever assembled. I am also developing projects of my own which will roll out in due course.

There is talk about a movie on Shivaji Maharaj being made. Is there any chance you will reprise your role of Aurangzeb?

That would be wonderful.

In recent years, we are seeing that a lot of movies are being made on social issues. Do you think cinema can be an effective tool to bring about significant social change?

Social change can be brought about by being a pro-active citizen who pays taxes and practices civic sense, thereby empowering governments to create and amend administrative legislature which brings about a qualitative living standard for all. I feel movies are fiction and for entertainment.

You have acted alongside many renowned actors in the industry. Would you mind telling us if you have any favourite co-actor and favourite director?

A most difficult one to respond to every time. It has been a fortuitous time for me as an actor to have shared screen time and set presence with legends and stalwart contemporaries alike.

Do you have any dream role that you wish to play, or any dream project that you wish to be a part of?

The effort is always to play characters as different from the past ones as much as possible. As far as dream projects go, I would like to be every writer’s dream character, every producer’s dream investment, every director’s dream actor, every actor’s dream colleague, and every viewer’s dream performer.

What is your advice to aspiring artists who want to make a name in the film industry?

Watch as many films as you can. Read as many books as you can. And keep working as much as you can.

Thank you for your time!

Thank you! It was a pleasure!

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