An accomplished actor who has excelled on the stage and on screen, Rez Kempton has tackled an eclectic array of challenging roles during his action-packed career.
He plays the lead role in Amar Akbar & Tony, which is out in selected UK cinemas on Friday (17). The British-Asian coming-of-age comedy-drama has been receiving a lot of support from big names in the lead-up to its release and has a great ensemble cast of many familiar names.
Eastern Eye caught up with Rez to talk about his interesting journey as an actor, Amar Akbar & Tony, the importance of supporting independent cinema, dream role and the most daring thing he has done for his craft.
How would you describe your journey as an actor so far?
Being an actor is an incredibly privileged position. I’m so lucky to be doing a job that I have a huge passion for and that can touch so many people in different ways. It’s not an easy journey by any means. It’s a tough profession with highs and lows. I can tell you even the biggest of big stars will have, at some point, struggled to reach where they are. It’s a vocation, so the rewards and satisfaction that we actors get from actually doing the job, outweighs any struggles we have had to endure.
Which of your roles have given you the greatest satisfaction?
Choosing my favourite role is really difficult. I’ve been lucky to play lots of different characters and because as an actor you invest so much of yourself into that role, we have to identify with those characters and understand them. I have played roles where I have had to do lots of research, learn a variety of accents and make myself aware of different cultures and religions. Bringing all the characters to life for audiences to enjoy has given me a lot of satisfaction.
Tell us about Amar Akbar & Tony and your role?
The movie follows the story of three childhood friends and their journey into mature adulthood. They are from different cultures and religions, and we get to see how they face the challenges of friendship, family and finding love. This is something that I certainly feel we all can relate to.
Amar, who I play, is the ‘sensible’ one of the three friends. He’s ambitious and wants to make his family proud by doing well and pursuing a career as a lawyer and take a break away from the family business.
What was the biggest challenge of being in the film?
Amar Akbar & Tony is a British independent film, which means it’s not financed by a big studio or with public money. The producers worked very hard to raise the money to make the film. Therefore the luxuries of time and lavish expenses have had to be curtailed.
Everyone has had to work really hard and sometimes long hours in order to finish the film. We all felt this was going to be a great project so there were very few complaints and it was amazing to see everyone pitching in to make it happen.
Aside from that, for me the challenge was playing Amar, who is a practicing Sikh.
How did you approach that?
Atul Malhotra (the director) and I wanted to make sure we approached the role authentically to portray this young man as realistic and plausible. I did lots of research and I hope all that comes through on screen. For example, we felt getting the turban right was really important. All too often the ‘ready-made turbans’ in movies can be spotted a mile off. I didn’t want to go down that road and we made sure it was done authentically as possible. We met with practicing Sikh guys to make sure we got things right.
Which is your favourite moment in the movie?
(Laughs) That’s like asking, which is my favourite arm? Left or right? I love the whole film. It really works and I feel our audiences will agree. There’s comedy, romance, family issues. It’s a brilliant film and hats off to Atul for writing it.
Have you seen Amar Akbar Anthony, the Bollywood film that inspired the title?
I have actually, and loved it. Our film, I feel, is a nod to the classic Bollywood one. I loved the message behind that movie and feel very proud that we have kept that spirit in our film.
In the Bollywood film, the story is about three brothers who are separated at birth and brought up in different faiths – Hindu, Muslim and Christian. Our film follows three friends from different backgrounds, and friendship and love transcends any differences.
Is there a memorable behind-the-scenes story from the shoot that you can share with us?
Even though I said it was a hard-working shoot, we had so much fun every day. It was an amazing journey with a fabulous cast and crew. We were sad when the film wrapped because we’ve been like a family. I’ve made genuine friends on this project and that doesn’t always happen on all jobs. During the shoot we laughed so very much. We have had some of Britain’s best-loved actors like Meera Syal, Nina Wadia and Ace Bhatti come and support our film, and people will genuinely be surprised how amazing and funny their contributions are. I don’t want to spoil anything for our audiences, but you will be pleasantly surprised.
Who is this movie aimed at?
I feel Amar Akbar & Tony will be enjoyed by a wide and diverse audience. There really is something for everyone in this movie. It’s well written, the themes are really relatable and can be enjoyed by all. It’s a good story and for me, that’s very important. I can envisage guys on a night out going to see the movie as well as couples on a date. It’s a fun, enjoyable piece – who isn’t up for that?
How important do you think is it to support British films like these?
It’s vitally important. This is not only where the new talent comes from but also from where new voices can be heard. Without independent cinema, we would only have the mainstream movies and as great as they are, we wouldn’t get to see films like ours. Audiences need diversity of choice. Small films can also tackle subjects that might not be deemed commercial, but nonetheless are important – without this avenue, where would those filmmakers and talent go?
What would be your dream role?
I don’t have one, really. As a kid I loved Indiana Jones, James Bond, Star Wars and Amitabh Bachchan movies. These are the films that inspired me and led me to becoming an actor.
Who is your acting hero?
As I said before, acting is a tough profession and every actor who has made this choice is incredibly brave and dedicated to their craft. People who follow their heart and dreams are inspiring and have inspired me.
Also, I can’t forget our fans. Without their support, actors would be nowhere. So our audiences are our heroes too.
Which role from the past would you have loved to have played?
Okay, so you’re really pushing me. (Thinks) Because I’ve mentioned it before, I would say Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford did an amazing job in playing that character and I feel that role has everything. He’s smart, clever, brave but vulnerable. It would be a great part to play.
Do you think you have to be fearless as an actor?
Dealing with the business side and the disappointments, I would say yes. You’ve got to be resilient and determined. Sometimes you have only yourself as a resource, so it can take all the courage you can muster.
So what is the most daring thing you have done for your craft?
Acting is very exposing and as I’ve said, all actors are brave. I suppose when we have to portray deep emotions that can be challenging, but for me, it’s probably love scenes. When any actor is asked to do that, it’s a real challenge to be authentic and of course, truthful and respectful to our fellow actress.
Finally, why should we watch Amar Akbar & Tony?
It’s a great story. I also felt this was one of the first scripts I had read that actually reflected what it is like to live and grow up in modern Britain. It’s not a British gangster film like many before, but more in the mould of East Is East and The Full Monty. It’s what I feel Britain does so well – making poignant films with humour. It felt like a very realistic depiction of contemporary British life, where people from different backgrounds live side by side and get on. It’s one of the many things that make me proud of being British and Asian.
Amar Akbar & Tony is out now in selected cinemas. See www.amarakbarand tony.com or www.facebook. com/amarakbarandtony for screening details and other information.