Stu Greenfield chats with Martin Delaney, Sam Vincenti and Rez Kempton about Amar Akbar and Tony…
With the VOD release of Amar Akbar and Tony this November there has been a buzz around this unsuspecting little British delight. Bringing together different communities and meshing cultures is the backbone of this film, and this can be seen no better than in its leading cast. The three leads Martin Delaney, Sam Vincenti and Rez Kempton spoke to Flickering Myth’s Stu Greenfield about realism, time in front and behind the camera and that time old British tradition, going down the pub!
Stu Greenfield – Do you feel the film reflects the British-Asian community?
Martin Delaney – I think it’s a positive look at British life in general. For the most part, those of us that have grown up in London and have had a healthy upbringing, live side by side no matter the cultural differences, in harmony. Amar Akbar & Tony felt very much like the London life I grew up in, when in my young adult years.
Rez Kempton – I feel our film is the most realistic representation of my own experiences of growing up not only in a British-Asian community but multicultural Britain as a whole. I felt that the moment Atul (director/writer) gave me the script to read. I could relate to the experiences of the three friends immediately. I grew up in East London and had always been surrounded by a diverse community. I had friends from all walks of life and we lived side by side and just got on with life, sharing the same experiences. Atul mentioned he grew up in West London and had similar experiences to mine. I genuinely felt this was a truer depiction of the Britain I knew.
Sam Vincenti – Yes I do, at least as far as the British-Asian community in West London is concerned. Our story is set mainly in and around the Southall/Hounslow area which is very close to Ealing Broadway where I’ve been raised and currently still reside. So upon reading Atul’s script I had an immediate familiarity with that world and the three title characters. I recognised them from my adolescent years and my early adulthood in particular; their dialogue, banter and body language was all very present in my memory. One of the main things that stuck in my mind when recalling these memories was this wonderful sense of identity these characters have – beautifully balancing eastern and western values so naturally. It was a real joy to see that captured so perfectly with a realistic honesty in Atul’s story.
SG What was it about this project that attracted you to it?
MD – I am British Asian myself, though I am fully aware that I don’t look it. My mum is from Burma (Myanmar) and my dad, Ireland. Coming from two large different families, our cultures and most importantly our relationships are an important part of our lives. I felt like the film seemed to hit that for me. I also liked the theme of brotherhood between these three culturally different young men. My character, Tony, also seemed like a really fun person to play. He’s not the sharpest of the three but he’s got a good heart. An innocence about him too, not to mention he has admirable tenacity. In a way, him being so tenacious comes from his simplicity. I really liked that about him.
RK – The script was realistic and funny. It had all the best I feel British films have to offer. I’ve often said that we in the UK do this type of film so well. We are able to cover social issues and yet still laugh at ourselves – The Full Monty and Brassed Off to name a couple. Whilst doing an American chat show this came up and I totally agree it does seem a unique Brit quality – those are films I love too.
SV – There were many things such as the sheer delight I had in seeing the beauty of Amar, Akbar and Tony’s friendship dancing off the scripts pages, or its heart-warming message of social and religious tolerance. But for me, the most attractive quality of this project is that it is a celebration of multi-cultural contemporary London life. It’s one of the things I’m very proud of, about being a Londoner of a mixed cultural background and part of a great eye opening example of how so many communities of diverse nationalities, cultures, languages and religions are, for the most part, very happily and peacefully intertwined within today’s society.
SG – Did you have any exposure or knowledge of the loosely referenced Hindi film, Amar Akbar and Anthony, prior to filming or as part of your prep? What were your thoughts on it? Did you draw anything from it for your performances?
MD – I wasn’t aware of the Bollywood film beforehand, and have still not seen it in its entirety to be perfectly honest. However, there were some references to the movie that Director Atul Malhotra used. It’s very much an homage or ‘nod’ to that film in places and not a reworking in any way. We looked at those moments closely, but I’m not sure my Tony is anything like Amitabh Bachchan’s Anthony! Certainly not as cool.
RK – I had seen the film as a kid years ago. It had everything in it as all good masala Bollywood did from that period – fighting, singing, romance and comedy. Even though our film is essentially a Brit film, I felt Atul created a unique hybrid of some of that masala quality for Amar Akbar & Tony. I loved that about our film. I did try to watch the 70’s classic but gave up half way as it didn’t really help in prep for our film – fun as it is to watch. Saying that though, Atul’s direction lifted the humour in the movie, which I’m sure was inspired by that style of movie. He really made it work.
SV – I loved the essence of what Amar, Akbar, Anthony is about. It depicts Love in whatever shape or form (that of friendship, family, etc) can and must always transcend beyond all walls and boundaries that are sometimes unfortunately, and historically, created through ethnic, cultural or religious divides. Both of the stories essentially act as a reminder of that which is why both are so close to my heart.
But to answer your first question…No. I knew nothing of the 1977 film at the time of first auditioning for Amar, Akbar & Tony; and I made a conscious decision not to see it prior to completing the film, partly because I didn’t want to find myself unknowingly or subconsciously taking on characterisation influences. I saw it as a positive in my working process to be able to approach the story with a completely blank canvas with no preconceptions. Furthermore, Atul, Rez, Martin and I were adamant and steadfast in our belief that this story was its own thing with its own individual identity, which is why I feel it important to clarify that AAT is not a remake of AAA, but rather the essence of our multi-cultural London story is indeed influenced by the heart and message of the 1970’s classic…with a couple of other celebratory nods to what was a golden era of the Bollywood film industry.
SG – Did you do anything prior to filming to help build the relationship between the three of you that is evident within the film? Any trips to the pub or bonding activities?
MD – What apart from drinking? Ha! We were lucky to have some time rehearsing, so that definitely helped us. I actually remember our first chemistry read which was still part of the audition process and we already seemed to nail that bond. The chemistry was always good from the off, which was really reassuring. The truth is, they’re both such good guys. I really enjoyed being part of the film with Rez and Sam. We each brought something different and we had a lot of fun in the process, so we were very fortunate in that respect.
RK – We had limited time to rehearse. We were a low budget British Independent movie and luxuries like rehearsals aren’t always available. However, we did have a few days for the cast to come together and that really helped cement relationships. To be honest, in the casting process I felt the three of us had a real chemistry and was excited to get going. I think you’ll agree it comes out in our film. The three of us do appear to have been lifelong friends that have a bond. We did the pub thing of course – nothing like bonding in a good ole pub over a drink and setting the world to rights.
SV – The three of us, as well as the whole cast were truly blessed when Atul scheduled in a 2week workshop on the script prior to commencing principal photography. Any actor will tell you how this is a rarity generally in film and TV projects, as the formula of time and economics dictate it so, which is a shame. But by doing this, Atul created a delightfully adventurous working environment akin to that of a theatre project approach, pungent with artistic freedom and bold exploration with the text, the characters and their relationships. Improvisation was encouraged. The process was particularly vital in helping Rez, Martin and I tap into and capture the rapport, energy and naturalism in our title characters’ friendship (which the whole films’ composition and structure hinges on), whereby the dialogue and banter would effortlessly bounce off each other in a way that only happens between the closest of friends over many years.
Trips to the pub did indeed substantially aid that whole process…especially since the rehearsal space hired was an upstairs function room located above the pub!
SG – Martin and Rez specifically, you were credited as associate producers on the film, how did this come about and is a role behind the camera something you would like to pursue further?
MD – Well, it really came about after the film was up, so it wasn’t the case from the start. It was simply about me putting some of my wage and support back into the production and also trying to learn something along the way. I co-produced a documentary some years back and have also directed and written for TV. There was an opportunity with Amar, Akbar and Tony to learn a bit more about production in a way that I didn’t know, so I felt this was valuable. Atul has along the way, discussed some pretty large decisions with Rez and I, however ultimately it’s entirely his project. He has openly discussed some elements but it’s his baby and therefore any major choices regarding the film have been nothing to do with us. I guess really that’s quite reassuring as the pressure is not on us in the same way, but it’s been nice to witness how the movie evolves and having occasional input where possible.
RZ – Atul kindly let me have a title of associate producer for which I’m grateful. During filming I had asked him if it was okay for me to attend meetings with him after the shoot was over and the filmmaker goes into the strenuous stage of getting the film released. As an actor I felt my journey kind of normally ended after the last day of the shoot. I’ve always been fascinated by film and wanted to learn more about the business side of things and hanging around Atul has allowed me to do that. It’s been a steep learning curve and I’ve learnt what a mammoth task it is for UK Indie filmmakers getting a film made, then getting it to an audience. If you are not independently wealthy or backed by the BFI, Film4 etc., it seems a near on mission impossible. I’ve got so much respect for people that go out there and get films made. Without their passion we wouldn’t have these amazing films to enjoy. I hope these are skills and lessons I can put to use again making more films.
Amar Akbar and Tony is released on VOD on the 2nd November 2015. For more details visit the Amar Akbar and Tony website.