This is Jamael I. Clark (Founder & President) of Northern Illinois University’s Spoken Word organization and months after establishing the on-campus club, I finally came up with a name for the Spoken Word slam team and a logo. Please read the story below to find out the meaning behind it all.
-Born and raised in India, Priyank Thakkar lived with a typical family. While growing up in India, he went to a private school, had a blast with sports and was always creative. Due to the countries struggles, his parents decided to bring him and his brother to the United States for a better education and a better future. He moved here with his family at the age of 10, did not speak a word of English and was a complete outsider. But, after moving here, it was all fun and games to him for a long time. He didn’t begin school here right away and did not catch on as to why he moved here with struggles his parents went through raising him and his brother. It wasn’t until much later in high school that he started to take school seriously and understood his responsibilities in his family. Now, that he is in college, AWP took advantage of interviewing the diverse Mr. Thakkar on his acting/modeling journey.
AWP: Welcome to Andwepresent sir! In the initial stages of being raised in India, did you envision yourself becoming attracted to the actor/model lifestyle?
Priyank Thakkar: Its a pleasure! Since the beginning, I could see myself being on TV, I would always imitate actors from action movies and such so that was something I always saw myself doing. I knew I loved to be active and move around as well, that had some significance to it, I’m sure.
AWP: What were some obstacles you had to overcome as a beginner in the United States, having to learn English and pretty much begin a new life?
Priyank Thakkar: Being an outsider and having to learn a completely new life style was a struggle enough. Getting used to the school system, adapting to the social life and just getting started overall was the hardest part. I didn’t have anyone next to me telling me how it all worked; I had to figure it out. Once I started going to school, being around people more, I started to get the gist of it all.
AWP: Yes, making the transition is never easy and sometimes a perilous journey. You mentioned there were plenty struggles occurring in your country, how did those struggles influence and inspire you to better yourself and not allow adversity submerge your confidence to succeed?
Priyank Thakkar: Well my parents grew up in India, as did I and they knew that being successful in that country meant being born into a famous and well known house hold. If you weren’t so lucky, you were either stuck studying for a good number of years and hoping that you will be successful, and a college education is not as affordable as it is here, or you followed your families’ footsteps and took over the family business. The possibilities of innovation are very limited to the everyday working family. My parents brought me here so that I can have a chance at being successful and not be locked into a specific lifestyle. As far as adversity goes, being brought here at a young enough age where racial background or ethnic beliefs did not matter to me, as I grew up in a multi-cultural society, I never had to teach myself to accept it, it just came as natural as acting to me. It’s rather interesting and I think people should embrace everyone’s unique backgrounds and celebrate the differences instead of letting them judge what you think of the individual. Not everyone is of bad nature just because of their background, whether they are or not comes down to judge of character.
AWP: Describe your interest in sports and how that possibly helped you improve with some of your acting skills?
Priyank Thakkar: I know for a fact that my ability to keep pushing for the best and not giving up until I have achieved my goals comes from having played sports all my life. No matter what sport, no matter who the coach was, I was always been taught to keep pushing and never taking my eyes off the price. As I played cricket in high school, I worked hard all four years and my senior year; I led my team to a first place state championship. I know that hard work pays off and if you have a good, strong work ethic, and a good head on your shoulders, anything is possible. I tell myself every day that I can be big and famous one day if I keep working hard and giving it a hundred percent every single day. I know I can do it.
AWP: What intrigued you most about acting and which actors/actresses did you study to help push your drive in the acting business. Also, were there any Indian actors/actresses that you looked up to?
Priyank Thakkar: When I first started to work with acting in high school, I loved the creative process. I loved being able to create a completely unique and believable character and playing that characters life on stage. The process of creating specifics, coming up with subtext and imagery to attach my thoughts to and playing active verbs to effect change in the other character in the scene was a creative process and I love being able to play with the details and discovering things about the character. As far as performances go, I love to feed off of an audiences energy, I love the fact that acting is the art of communication and when I am performing and I get an authentic emotional response on stage as well as the audience, I know I have done my job. When it comes to what pushed me to drive in the acting business, I just love the creative process and like I said before, I can see myself on the big screen one day and I like what I see. I just need a chance. There are actors I admire and look forward to watching them on stage and on the screen, but I do not like to use their work for inspiration. There are things to learn from each and every actor, but I have enough inspiration of my own, and that is, seeing me successful one day.
AWP: Has your cultural background of being Indian and actually living there benefited you in a sense that made you more marketable because of your diversity?
Priyank Thakkar: I think that being born in another country and being raised there for a little while gave me a different perspective of everything. In India, there is Bollywood which I do not like to watch a whole lot, but the business there is very limited, you can only be successful if there is someone famous in your family already. That made me appreciate every little chance I get to shine and not take any of it for granted. Also, the support that I get from my family and friends is appreciated beyond belief. They are a huge part of my inspiration because I know they want to see me successful. I also think I got lucky because physically, I can portray many different ethnic backgrounds and that for sure has made me more marketable.
AWP: We are currently asking our artists in every interview to Break Down the Process (BDP). When I say this I am asking you to provide the step-by-step process you follow every time you prepare for either an acting role or a photo shoot. I’m pretty sure you have some sort of ritual/routine, ha ha!
Priyank Thakkar: Ha Ha, I actually do have a process that I go through to prepare for a role. First of all, my character work has to be done on paper and I have to study it for a little bit. I will literally sit down with a notebook and a pen and start writing down specifics about my characters life. It is called my character work, by asking myself questions about my character, I am able to create a specific life for them, which later I can tap into for my performance. I have heard many actors say that when you are on stage or on camera, the character’s past has no importance on me. I completely disagree. I practice an acting technique called the Stanislavski Technique. I must ask myself questions like, where did I come from? What are my relationships like with the different characters in the movie/play? How did I get to where I am today? What events in my past influence me the most today? With all this information, I break down the character life to the most specific details and then I create subtext for my scenes. I will read a scene, examine it and say to myself, what is my character thinking? Why do I choose to say these words now? I also create imagery to attach my subtext with. For example, if I know that my parents died in a car accident, I have a specific image of what happened, how it happened and how it influenced my actions from then on. Once I have my subtext, I will come up with my verbs, because in order to play active verbs, you must be constantly effecting change in the other character. What do I want from this person and how am I going to get it. For example, I want “revenge” on this character. I want to know what happened, I want the truth. So, first comes the written character work, creating the characters life, then comes the subtext, what I am thinking and why, and then comes the verbs, what I want and how I am going to get it. Then when it is time to perform, I take a seat, close my eyes and just think about all the things I have come up with about my character. I think of the images that I have created or a quote that I can think of right before the scene that will tap me into my character’s life. It all just comes down to being alive, being present and being active, making active choices and taking a risk.
AWP: Whoa! That sounds like a timely procedure, but I bet its well worth the patience. The experiences lived through college are some of which are incomparable to any you can discover anywhere else. What have you learned in college about yourself and how have you handled those experiences to reinvent yourself as well as improve on your craft?
Priyank Thakkar: I learned in college what true acting is and how to go about handling such a delicate craft. I set up a firm ground to work off of and now every time I am handed a script, I look back at what I have learned and do the work. I was able to figure out how I work as an actor and as an individual. No two artists work the same way, everyone has their own way of working and I was able to figure out what my routine would be and how I can develop a character to its fullest for a memorable and exhilarating performance. I was also able to learn how to time manage between school, work and professional life by getting involved shows in school and around town. This helps me to balance my schedule and be as flexible as possible.
AWP: Are there any other fields of art that you considered pursuing and if so, what has prevented you from doing so or will you place those on your bucket list? Becoming involved in other fields may open doors for acting opportunities.
Priyank Thakkar: That is very true…There are many other fields that I wanted to pursue; architecture, law enforcement, other arts, but I have found what I am really interested in and what I really love, and I am putting every day of my life into this craft. Other fields, such as painting and music are still an important part of my life in the form of hobbies. I will always be involved in my hobbies and if a door opens for me, I will take it. It only gets better every time.
AWP: For my last question, I want to know what change do you want to see in your country and how do you want that change to dwell in yourself to motivate you to continue to with your acting/modeling career?
Priyank Thakkar: I would like to see that country not be as cruel to new talent and celebrate their arts in a more diverse way. Bollywood has become more politics and a family business instead of an art form, I would like to see it welcome more fresh talent. I have friends there who are tremendously talented, but just do not have the luck to make it.
AWP: Please provide a Wave of inspiration for people who are considering a acting/modeling career and what they can to reinvent/redefine their purpose if they feel like they are unsure about that career.
Priyank Thakkar: It is not an easy career path, there is no certainty that you will be successful, but if you love the craft enough, if you feel that you are confident that you can make it, nothing can stop you from being successful. Putting in a hundred and ten percent every day and mastering your craft is not only a fun and creative process, but it can be very rewarding as well. You have to go all out for a field such as acting or modeling, and you can’t let people’s judgment stop you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make it because you can. You are in a country where talent is appreciated and celebrated. Don’t let anyone define your limits because of where you come from; your only limit is yourself. “Not everyone can be a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere” (Ratatouille).
Priyank Thakkar (SIDE NOTE): “I have done many theater shows before at a college level and look forward to moving on to a professional level. I have been awarded scholarships as well as appreciation awards for dedication to theater by my school. I am trying to make my transition into film and I plan to take courses that will help me understand the difference much better. I currently work on student films and short films as well an ongoing Indie film that I am currently working on to sharpen my skills.”
(Check out the short clip of Mr. Thakkar in action)
Facebook: Priyank Thakkar