Early in her career Fagun Thakrar beat thousands of Britain’s hopefuls in the BBC’s nationwide search ‘Bolly Idol’ for new acting talent. She was brought up outside of London and as a straight ‘A’ student’ studied several particularly challenging fields simultaneously. At the age of 16 the national network ITV did a segment on this Beautiful actress and she was picked out for the lead in the feature film ‘Brick Lane’, making her sought after by agents and casting directors.
With academy training Fagun shared her talents in numerous productions playing wonderful lead roles like Phoebe in ‘As You Like It’, Hermia in ‘A Mid Summer Nights Dream’ and Juliet in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. With her stunning looks and precious talent, Fagun quickly became in high demand starring in Bollywood features like ‘Love Aaj Kai’, ‘Prem’ and ‘Kings Cross’. It was long before Hollywood called her name, with starring roles in the upcoming features ‘Blood and Curry’ and ‘Bhopal’ – A prayer for Rain’ alongside Micha Barton and Martin Sheen.
Fagun was kind enough to sit down with Anglotopia for an exclusive interview about what she’s up to – including Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain – a project with Martin Sheen.
1. In Blood & Curry you play a victim of domestic violence, how did you get into character for the role?
I found the role to be challenging and emotionally draining, but my traditional acting background helped me get into the character. I was able to first sympathize, and then empathize with these women. When I did charity work in India I helped abused children. Their pain is something I have never forgotten. So, I was able to channel my despair about their desperation into the role. Also, I have been working with SAHARA – the South Asian Helpline and Referral Agency. SAHARA is an international organization that helps victims of domestic violence.
2. Did you do any research?
I spoke to women who have been abused by their husbands and did a lot of research. Sometimes I broke down in tears as I became aware of the plight of helpless women trapped desperate situations. As an actress I enjoyed the challenge. This role enabled me to bring this dire situation to light. Hopefully, compassionate people will come to the fore and provide potential solutions.
3. Is Domestic violence usually hidden in Indian culture?
Yes, domestic violence is hidden in Indian culture because women tend to feel as a failure to their family and feel that they will be untouchable to society. They would be shunned by society if they knew of the abuse. In Indian culture it is known that you don’t just get married for one lifetime but for four life times.
4. Where can people do go for help?
Visit www.sahara.org. This is a great organization. Only one of many, but I am proud of it and I support it in every way.
5. What did you like about playing Deepa in Blood and Curry?
I play the central role of Deepa — a traditional Indian bride who comes to America, suffers emotional and physically. She cannot go back to India because she would be a failure to her family and untouchable to society. What I like about it was even if one woman escapes from a violent relationship because of this film – I’d think I have done a good job!
6. Congratulations on becoming the spokesperson for Sahara, what made you take that role?
The founder of SAHARA was at the first big screening. They approached me and were very enthusiastic about having me be the spokesperson for the organization. They felt that I had the passion and persistence for the job. I am honored to speak on these women’s behalf.
7. The director also played your husband, how did you find working with a director who was also acting in the film?
I began to see the process from the director’s perspective for the first time. This helps me as an actor both artistically and as a member of the filmmaking team. It was an invaluable experience.
8. When can we see it?
It will be released early next year.
9. Tell us about the disaster Bhopal was made after?
On the night of 3rd December 1984, Union Carbide plant leaked MIC (Methylisocyanate) gas into the surrounding slums in Bhopal, Central India. By the morning 10,000 people lay dead or dying. The plant was owned and managed by American Multinational Union Carbide who walked away from Bhopal paying $350 for each dead victim. Bhopal water is still polluted killing people even today.
10. What kind of character do you play?
In prayer for rain I play a bride in the slums who married a carbide worker and is looking forward to a beautiful future but her world falls apart when her husband is killed in an accident Rekha becomes a recluse, only going out to pray… a foreign journalist becomes interested in my face as it reminds her of that iconic image of Afghan girl with green eyes… the journalist prints My photo in her glossy magazine, my character is an enigmatic figure through out the film. It broke my heart doing those emotional scenes.
11. What was it like working with Martin Sheen?
I found Mr Sheen to be very knowledgeable about India in general and Bhopal disaster in particular. Martin Sheen is a prince. He’s a spiritual person who is kind and caring and the ultimate professional. He’s very down-to-earth and comfortable in his own skin. Sometimes shooting in a foreign country can be a challenge, but Mr. Sheen was always relaxed and upbeat. He’s a great raconteur with stories to share and a perfect charming gentleman.
12. What drew you to the role?
I think this is a very important story and it has to be told lest the younger generation forgets about the environmental effects of Industrialization. If people can open their eyes after watching this film, and prevent another Bhopal from happening. There may be another Bhopal about to happen somewhere in the world as speak. Just take an example of BP disaster this summer. This is a relevant and contemporary story for the whole world.
13. What is your next role?
There are several potential projects that I am considering. I want to continue working in film, television and theatre. All three offer me challenges and are emotionally satisfying in different ways. I’m lucky that I am able to work in these three mediums.
14. Tell us how you started in acting?
I had been doing non-professional acting from a very young age. It started right from school. My first film was really a stroke of luck I was being interview for high achiever in school by ITV live news at Ten. A director watched me and tracked me down to my school and offered me the lead role in his short film. I continue with my study and then got into the prestigious medical school at UCL. A producer saw my short film in a festival and invited me to a talent competition sponsored by BBC I wasn’t expecting to win and won the lead part against thousands of applicants all over the UK! After that I was offered many role but could not take anything on because I was still going to Medical School at that time so I just couldn’t pursue acting professionally. Now I’m taking time off so I can.
15. What shows/roles did you play in the UK?
I was playing wonderful lead roles like Juliet in â€˜Romeo and Juliet,’ Phoebe in â€˜As You Like It’ and Hermia in â€˜A Mid Summer Nights Dream.’
I played the lead character â€˜Tara’ in the musical â€˜Precious Bazaar,’ which toured nationally. It all began when I was honored to win the prestigious BBC – sponsored show â€œBolly Idol.â€ (The British equivalent of â€œAmerican Idol”).
16. What do you miss about London?
Walking everywhere. Meeting people of different culture. My home.
17. What do you love about living in London?
It’s multicultural. And has been for centuries. London is tolerant to all weird and wonderful things in life. It’s my home. I love walking in London; you can walk anywhere and never need to get in a car! I can walk across London – something I can’t do in Los Angeles.
18. Tell us more about your signature line ‘Fagun’
Fagun was an extension of the desire to create a unique space-not just of glamour and complete meticulousness -but the creation of a real showstopper. Your favorite go-to jeans or that ultimate dressâ€¦all taken to the next level. Now there are twelve purses available in many different styles and colors.
The first â€œpurseâ€ was hand sewn- a delicate process that took several weeks. The detail is extraordinarily intricate, I was touched, but wondered: could these â€˜Showstoppers’ translate from the Red Carpet to everyday wear? The answer, I quickly learned, was yesâ€¦when-and only if – you want to look likeâ€¦a billion dollars.
Your favorite jeans, tank top, shoes and The Fagun, it’s not replicable.
I decided to create a collection. Now there are twelve purses available in many different styles and colors. Accepting Very Limited waiting list orders only at Fagun.co.uk