Talented actor-couple and filmmakers Ravi Kapoor and Meera Simhan discuss Miss India America with Almas Meherally, an award-winning feature film that will headline VISAFF 2015 closing night.
Q: What inspired the script of Miss India America? I have heard that the film was based on some of your experiences Meera. Could you shed some light on it?
Meera: The inspiration for the script came from my beauty pageant days. I won the Miss India California pageant but came in third at the Miss India USA pageant. It stung me for many years, so I had to write a movie about it to deal with my issues of losing. But really, Ravi and I were interested in exploring the theme of ambition and achievement in a second generation community and we thought the Indian beauty pageant world would be a fantastic and fun world in which to set a comedy.
Q: How is it different from other pageant-driven films?
Ravi: I think it’s different in that our focus was more on the lead character’s emotional transition rather than us trying to mine all the comedy we could from the pageant world. We weren’t interested in making a comment or judgement about beauty pageants. The world is used more as vehicle to get Lily from point A to point Z. Ultimately it’s a coming of age story.
Q: How was your experience filming with Tiya Sircar and Hannah Simone?
R: Tiya was fantastic to work with. It’s a hard role to pull off, since you can’t worry about being sympathetic and likable. She had to be brave and ultimately she knocks it out the park. And I don’t think she’d deny, there are certain aspects she and Lily share. Tiya is driven and determined to get it right just like Lily. She sets herself really high standards.
Hannah was a breeze. She makes it look all so effortless, but that takes a cart load of talent and technique. Her character Sonia has to really create a huge amount of fear in Lily by her presence alone and Hannah was perfect. She also came on board early as an Executive Producer and that was a huge help in moving the film forward.
Q: What do you want the audience to take away from this film?
R: The idea that winning takes many forms. It’s not just about the shiny trophy, it’s also about friendships and family and living a full life. And also to have some fun!
M: We would love for them to connect to this film and when they do, tell their friends and family about it.
Q: Did you face any particular challenges while making MIA?
R: Always the challenge on independent films is limited resources. Getting lots of extras when you can’t pay for them is a struggle. You have to employ all sorts of bribery. Free pizza seems to help a little.
Q: Are there any other projects that you are working on?
R: We are both determined to continue to tell stories from the South Asian American perspective that resonate with a wider audience. So watch this space!
Q: Could you share some interesting experiences while filming MIA?
M: What was amazing and surprising was what a wealth of South Asian American talent there is out there. We saw so many actors and actresses for the roles in the film. Some we knew and some we didn’t. And it was so great to see them tackle these roles so beautifully.
Q: Will you be attending VISAFF and what are your expectations from Vancouver?
R: We are hoping that one of us can make it out. I love Vancouver and there is such a vibrant South Asian community there. We are hoping that the festival can help raise awareness for the film and it’s just great to connect to the audience face to face and get their feedback.
Q: Would you like to share something with the Vancouver audience?
R: Come see the film and make a night of it. Bring your friends and family. This is a fun film to watch with a crowd.