As in most fields, there is a need to connect as a community so that we can help each other grow. So I felt the need for making a group for South Asian artists, living in the US and Canada, so that we could help each other and contribute to supporting each other’s dreams.
When I started this group in February 2013 with 100 of my close South Asian actor friends, the idea was to create a platform for Desi actors (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Nepali) because Hollywood doesn’t have enough roles for Desis, and Bollywood is already saturated with talented actors of its own. I envisioned a platform where members would not only post casting calls, but also share knowledge and information about the industry not only with each other, but also with aspiring actors.
In the beginning it was difficult to get people to join, or stay in the group, because they thought we were trying to add people to then spam them with marketing messages. Some even sent messages in private expressing their displeasure at being added to the group, but those issues were short lived, as people started inviting other artists to the group and soon the numbers grew. I did assign a few co-admins to the group to assist me with operating the group optimally, but they all eventually moved on.
We have had some funny incidents like; there was a man claiming to be a producer who asked actors to pay to be in his film and someone posted about him in the group, and fortunately, I knew the man well and asked the actor not to invest in his film. The funny thing is that he was in the group too and liked the post where I told the actor not to invest in the film. People are strange, but in spite of some rare strange incidents, we became popular.
With popularity, came arguments and fights. We had several skirmishes ranging from language used in casting calls, to people mass adding members, or sending inappropriate messages to other members. I had to remove members who would violate the rules of the group. But soon our numbers grew rapidly as word about the seriousness of the group and the no nonsense attitude of the admin spread. Not to brag about my group, but unlike other admins, I do not tolerate any form of spam, such as posts about ticket sales of any kind, or clothing or other products. I also do not allow posts that are not specifically related to the film industry.
Another unique feature of my group is the annual actors meet where actors, directors, and producers meet in an informal setting and discuss past and present projects, ask for advice, or screen their films. Everyone has a good time. Our first meet was at a lounge in the city which was attended by over 75 members. The evening was filled with excitement, and there was considerable buzz. For the next three years we held the meets at a member’s home. Jyoti Singh graciously hosted the meet twice, and I hosted one at my own home. This year we held the event at Pondicheri Restaurant in New York City with around 100 members in attendance. Our event was covered by several media outlets, and people got an opportunity to meet and interact.
How has the group helped actors:
I’ll be honest, others had started groups for South Asian Actors before I did, but for lack of interest, or scheduling issues people just stopped meeting. I feel I have been very consistent in arranging meets at regular times so people don’t forget about the group. Most actors have told me they have grown as actors after meeting fellow actors, and filmmakers through the group. It is difficult to gauge the success of each individual actor, but in general actors have benefited from being in the group. Most established actors have been very supportive of newer actors with little or no experience.
We are blessed to have established actors among us who guide us every step of the way. The group also has casting agents who want to cast South Asian Talent in films, commercials, and television. The group is fulfilling the goals I had in mind when I formed it five years ago. I hope we continue to grow and thrive.