Talented Indian American actress Tiya Sircar discusses Miss India America, Bollywood and completing the Grouse Grind in Vancouver with Almas Meherally for Bollywood and Beyond.
Q: How did you land the role of Lily Prasad for Miss India America?
A: I had worked with Ravi and Meera before. So when they asked me to read the part of Lily… in the nascent stages of the making of this film, I of course agreed. But as soon as I read the script, I knew I had to play the part of Lily… something about her really resonated with me. So when things got rolling and the casting process was underway, I fought for the role. And luckily, they gave me the job!
Q: Tell us a little about your character in the film. How much do you identify with Lily Prasad’s personality?
A: Lily is a Type-A overachiever who thinks she has it all figured out. She excels at everything… She’s valedictorian of her graduating class, she’s going to become a neurosurgeon, she’s involved in all kinds of extracurricular activities. But due to some unforeseen circumstances, she is thrust into a world (of beauty pageants!) well outside her comfort zone and is forced to reevaluate what is most important in life. And that perhaps winning isn’t always it.
I definitely felt a kind of kinship with Lily. I, too, am pretty Type-A and have a pretty competitive nature. Alas, I’m not as smart as Lily but I think I have better social skills! And even though I wasn’t a Lily when I was in school, she felt very familiar to me.
Q: What is the USP of the film that will draw in the audience?
A: This film is fairly unique in that it catalogues the life and struggles of a second generation Indian-American, which is not something I’ve seen very often… (Also) the story isn’t just specific to South Asian culture. Hopefully people from all walks of life will be able to identify with or at least feel familiar with the themes we explore in the film, whether it’s familial dynamics or the pressure to succeed.
Q: How was your experience working with Hannah Simone, Ravi Kapoor and Meera Simhan?
A: They are really talented and happen to be lovely human beings to boot! Ravi is also an actor, so his approach to directing is very actor-friendly, which was refreshing. Not everyone giving you direction knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end. He’s also totally open to ideas and suggestions, which made the whole shoot feel like a collaborative experience.
Q: As an actress, what part of the film did you find most challenging?
A: Honestly? There was a tennis scene, which was pretty challenging. Full disclosure: I am terrible at tennis. Plus, it felt like 100 degrees on the court that day. I was a sweaty mess trying my best just to make contact with the ball! Hats off to our cinematographer and editor who had their work cut out for them, trying to make me look like I knew what I was doing!
Q: What are your thoughts on increasing number of South Asians on TV shows and in films?
A: I am thrilled to see so many South Asian actors on TV and in films right now! It has been a long time coming and we still have a long way to go. But the fact that there are so many mainstream network television shows featuring South Asian actors playing a whole slew of characters — not just your stereotypical doctor, cab driver or Quiki-mart owner — is incredibly encouraging and exciting.
Q: Have you thought about working in Bollywood?
A: The opportunity has never really presented itself thus far, but I certainly wouldn’t be opposed! There is some really exciting cinema being made in Bollywood right now by directors like Ayan Mukherjee and Anurag Kasyap that I’d love to be a part of!
Q: Could you shed light on the struggles of making a place for yourself in this highly competitive industry?
A: One thing I’ve learned in the time I’ve worked in this industry is that every person has a different path and there is no real formula one can follow in order to succeed. I moved to Los Angeles by myself after graduating college and knew almost no one here. I didn’t have any connections or job prospects to pursue. So it was quite a challenge, trying to get my foot in the proverbial door. But I was really fortunate. I booked my first TV gig a week or so after signing with my first agent. And I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to make a living getting to do what I love ever since!
Q: What would you advise young and upcoming talent to focus on?
A: Their craft! I think a lot of people think acting might be “fun” and “glamorous” or even “easy”, but I can assure you, while it can (and should!) be fun, it also requires hard work. Treating it like a business and honing your skills as an actor are so important. I’ve known plenty of young people who move to LA and want to live the lifestyle but not necessarily put in the work. Not surprisingly, those people aren’t the ones becoming successful actors and enjoying long and productive careers.
Q: Is there anything special you would like to share with our Vancouver audience?
A: Well, firstly, I hope you enjoy the film! It was truly a labor of love for all of us involved and I am so happy that we are able to get to share it with audiences across the U.S. and the world.
Also, I love Vancouver! I’ve had the pleasure of working there on a couple of different projects and have thoroughly enjoyed myself each time.
I’d also like to say that I have successfully completed the Grouse Grind once in my life. And though I thought I might die more than once during the hike, I felt like an absolute champion once I finally made it to the top.