JADOO is a British-made film set in Leicester, and tells the story of two brothers, Raja (Harish Patel – Run Fatboy Run) and Jagi (Kulvinder Ghir – Bend it Like Beckham). Both are wonderful chefs, who fall out so catastrophically that in the climax of their dispute they rip the family recipe book in half: one brother gets the starters and the other gets the main courses. They set up rival restaurants, on opposite sides of the Belgrave Road in Leicester; one cooking starters and the other main courses, and refuse to talk to one another.
A delicious foodie-comedy, JADOO’s secret ingredient is a delightful romantic twist, which sees Raja’s daughter Shalini (Amara Karan – The Darjeeling Limited), attempt to get the brothers talking again. She hatches a plan and asks them to work together to cook her a perfect Indian wedding banquet…but will she succeed?
The film also stars Indian chef and actress Madhur Jaffrey, Tom Mison (One Day), Ray Panthaki (Eastenders), Paul Bazely (Benidorm), Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions), and the late Sophiya Haque (Coronation Street) and Paul Bhattacharjee (Casino Royale). JADOO, which means ‘Magic’ in Hindi, is written and directed by Amit Gupta whose debut film Resistance garnered him a Best First Film Award nomination by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Awards, and is produced by Richard Holmes (Eden Lake), Isabelle Georgeaux (Resistance), Amanda Faber (Resistance) and Nikki Parrott (The Market: a Tale of Trade).
The film received its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, and will also feature in this year’s Culinary Zinema: Film and Gastronomy section at this year’s San Sebastian Film Festival.
We sat down with the very charming and very funny Harish Patel to talk about how he got into acting and his experience of bringing Jadoo to life.
Can you talk about your character Raja?
He’s the older brother who, in his younger days, had to give a lot to his younger brother – from his cricket bat to his toys. As a child he never liked it, in fact. No child likes it actually. I’m an older brother; there’re three of us and I’m the middle one, so I had to listen to the elder one and give in to the younger one. This role is very close to me. I don’t have to act, in fact, for this role.
How did you get the part of Raja?
I’d been told to do the wrong part so I didn’t accept it. However the producers thought I’d said no to the part of Raja so I received a letter from one of the producers, Richard, asking me to please accept it. It was such a beautiful letter he sent me and it made me feel wanted. Yes, yes I was wanted for this role. This is what an actor wants, you know.
How do you prepare for a role?
I believe in a script. I tell my juniors also, I read a script at least a hundred times, whether it’s a play, film or TV. I keep reading the script until they’re no longer in front of my eyes. If it’s a well written script you can get all your answers about the character from it. Jadoo is one of those scripts.
Why do you think people should go and see Jadoo?
People should go and see this film so that they will communicate. If there’re any family problems or misunderstandings between your relatives, go and see this film and next time communicate. Talk to them. Otherwise nobody talks to each other and the problem remains. It doesn’t get solved. With this film, you should go and see it so your problems are solved forever.
Why was it so important that director Amit Gupta shot Jadoo in Leicester?
There is aroma and smell of Leicester in the script. No other location would have been perfect. Filming Jadoo in Leicester is being right place at the right time with right people.
What was it like working with director Amit Gupta?
He’s great. So calm, quiet and he’ll explain what he wants in hardly two or three words. He’ll just say give me this. Very, very good, you know. Excellent director!
What was it like working with Amara Karan?
She’s playing my daughter who wants her uncle to be invited to her wedding, which is the major problem for me. In this film I have more interaction with her. It was very good. Great learning from her also. She would correct my dictions, which I am thankful to her for. The fun is in the script. Not my Indian English being pronounced wrong. That is not the intention. So she would always correct me.
What was it like working with Kulvinder Ghir?
When I met him actually I could see Jagi in him. We had a reading and we gelled actually in a very big way. He calls me big brother.
What do you like to cook?
To tell you frankly, I make starters only. Sandwiches, toasties, I’m very good at that. In fact, in Mumbai also when my children were young, when they came back from school I would prepare for them sandwiches and samosas and I would present them in a very interesting way.
How did you get into acting?
When I was seven years old our family members in the village used to preform for ten days in the light of festival. It’s a religious thing. No female actor can take part in it because it is a religious thing. So I started my career playing a female Goddess. There’s a crowd of around seven thousand people and you have to preform and sing without a mic. There was also no electricity in my village at that time so we were preforming with gaslights, you know. That’s how I started.
Do you enjoy singing?
Yes of course. I do love to sing. I’m a bathroom singer, a good bathroom singer.
How do you stay so happy and positive on set?
The secret is very simple really. I’m one of those privileged people whose hobby has become their profession. I love camera. I like to be on sets and I like to preform. This is what my life is. I’d like to die with my makeup on. Today is actually my off day and I hate off days. Even at home in Mumbai, if I’m not filming for a few days or a week, nobody comes near me. I’m miserable. I’m the worst person in the world. So when I’m working I’m happy.
We sat down with the delightfully funny Kulvinder Ghir to talk Jadoo.
Can you please talk about your character Jagi?
I think Jagi’s a lovely man, really. He’s short tempered at the moment only due to his circumstances. He’s very passionate about his food. He loves cooking. He cooks the best main courses that anyone could taste and he’s very particular about it.
How did you get into acting?
I went to a drama school at the age of 11 up in Yorkshire. That’s really when the acting came in. Prior to that I use to imitate the teachers, and one of my teachers actually said I should apply for a drama course. That’s when I really got started in this mad world of the acting world.
What was it about the script that made you want to be a part of Jadoo?
First when you read the script you could see how delicate it was. There was also something very real about it. I was also really attracted to the humor and at the same time, there was pathos within what was written. There was a sense of real reality.
Why should people go and see Jadoo?
People should go and see this film because they’ll relate to it, and I think there’s an honesty about the film. It’s a real journey. There’s a simplicity to it but there’s also a complexity within the relationships that exist, it’s very intriguing to see how it unfolds. For an audience it’s not only going to be visually fantastic in the story telling of it, but I think they’ll also get really involved in their own personal way.
When did you first meet Amit Gupta?
Funny enough, I met Amit twelve years ago on the Belgrave road when he said, “will you come into my mums restaurant and have some food?” He made a tea and he said he wanted to be a filmmaker. Now to be sitting here and to be in his film is a blessing. It tells you a lot about Amit, his drive and his passion for filmmaking.
We sat down with the very lovely and enthusiastic Amara Karan to talk about her role as Shalini in Jadoo.
Can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Amara Karan, and I’m playing “Shalini” in Jadoo. I am the character that brings together her father and uncle, who has fallen out. I’m determined to have them cook together for my wedding day. And my father and my uncle currently run rival curry houses in Leicester. My character is Shalini, and she is a woman who grew up in Leicester, and she now works in London as a very successful corporate lawyer. And her very handsome fiancé has just proposed to her, and she finds herself in this situation where, having thought about what she wants for her wedding, she has to have both her father and her uncle there at the wedding together. And she feels very compelled to bring her father and uncle, who’ve fallen out, together by any means possible – extreme means – even threatening not to have a proper wedding.
How did you prepare for the role of Shalini?
I found it tricky to prepare for the role of Shalini because I felt so similar to her in many ways, but I was very subtly different. And I think when you play a character that is very subtly different to you, sometimes it’s harder, because you can more easily fall back to your default position of being you, and there are just tiny nuance changes that you have to bring into a character. You’re not creating a whole new entity that’s very specifically different to you, so I found it really difficult. Also, I think that the character’s a very complex character, and she is going on a very interesting singular journey; I don’t come across many characters like her. It’s quite a bizarre situation, it’s quite specific. And I had to understand what her motivation and driving force was through this film, and why she’s doing what she’s doing.
Why did you want to become an actor?
I loved acting all through school and university, and I fully participated in any acting I could possibly do. After university, that was a time where I had to kind of “make the call” as to what I was going to do professionally with my life. So I did a short stint in the city, because I felt like I had such strong academic qualifications that I could go in for a really high powered job in the city. But I quickly realised that you only live once, and you should do what you really feel passionate about, and I’ve always felt passionate about telling stories through theatre and I think it was the arrogance of youth, really, that made me take the plunge. Because really, thinking about it now, I don’t know if I could … it’s quite crazy, it was a very ambitious move, because I don’t have any family in the business; I knew nothing about it; I had no connections; I had no understanding of any systems that might or might not exist in the world of acting, and the world of theatre and filmmaking. So the odds were stacked against me. And also, being from an ethnic minority in Britain, you have to think about what roles might exist for you, and how you can possibly get work anyway, let along being from an ethnic minority. And that’s something I had to consider before making this decision.
How did you get your first break?
You know, it’s sheer luck. I finished drama school, and one of the first things I got to audition for was the Darjeeling Limited and I ended up getting that part. And I just went through rounds of audition. So that was my break, and after that, many doors were opened.
What was it about the script that made you want to be a part of it?
I read the Jadoo script, and it was magic! It was beautiful. It’s a brilliant script, it’s a fantastic story that I really love, and believe in, and enjoy bringing to life. And you don’t read many scripts like that. It’s so well written; the characters are so fully realised, there are so many connections, the structure is beautiful. It’s so uplifting and hope-giving, it’s quite a tremendous story actually, even though it’s small and domestic, what’s actually happening is really tremendous.
What was it like working with director Amit Gupta?
It’s brilliant, because he’s the writer as well as the director, so it’s great because I really trust and connect to his direction immediately. It’s so easy working with him, because he knows the A-Z of the character, he knows when I’m doing something, he knows when I’m making an offer of an idea in the playing of it – I know he knows what I’m doing – and he enjoys things that I might be offering, but at the same time, he’ll have a very strong insight, and a very clear vision about the character, which is so helpful for me because if the director doesn’t have such a clear insight – a very deep connection with this characters motivation, driving force, and psychology – then it becomes a little bit wishy-washy and vague on set. It’s also really lovely because Amit is close to the character. There are elements of him that I observe in the character naturally, and it’s also nice to have that person there. He’s also the reference point for the story because he was raised in Leicester, and this is a story set there, about a family there, and about my character, born and raised in Leicester. So, you know, from all kinds of points of view, it’s just so easy working with him.
What has it been like working in Leicester?
A dream. I felt at home from day 1, I’ve loved it. I’ve really enjoyed the enthusiasm of everybody in all the locations, and it feels like I’ve fitted in so easily, and it doesn’t feel a million miles away from my own experience. And it’s fun! I love great food, I love great clothes, I love Indian culture – tick, tick, tick!
What has the atmosphere on set been like?
The atmosphere on this set has been wonderful. Everyone is gorgeous, everyone is so on top of their game, and everyone’s really collaborative and helpful. It’s very stress-free, and it means that we can all do our best work, and relax into it, and really focus. We work long days – it’s a long working week – and it’s lovely that everyone really gets on.
What was it like working with Roger Pratt?
Amazing! I mean, I’m very humbled. I’m really lucky. Roger is so much fun on set to work with, he really knows his stuff, he’s so effortless…and it’s actually really magical, what he’s doing when he’s lighting a scene. And he’s imparted some of his knowledge to me as well, and explained that this is this and that is that because I’ve taken an interest in what he’s doing, obviously, and I’ve learnt about lighting! I’ve learnt a little bit about lighting, and it’s really nice, because I’m going to take that away with me forever.
What did you enjoy most about filming Holi?
I think it’s so much fun to bring in spring. I just love that idea. So I thought it was really auspicious that we were doing Holi, because it was a timely thing to do – it was in March – and it’s beautiful, and it’s fun, and there was and atmosphere, and we were all in it together. We were outdoors with the big crane! That was exciting, too. How often in life do you get to be a kid, and throw paint at your friends, and have paint thrown at you? I think it’s just the chance to play like a child which we don’t let ourselves do as adults. I wouldn’t get the chance to play Holi, and this was my first Holi, and it might be my last – but it was so much fun.
What was it like working with the supporting artists?
Okay, I think there are two things: the crowd were so up for it. I think Rashid, who sourced the people in the crowd, did a great job because they were so excited for shooting a film, and they were really energised and enthused take adter take after take. But the drummers – I love the doldrums, they are just spellbinding. You throw those drums into a scene, and you’ve got the atmosphere just like that. They were incredible, it’s an amazing skill they have, and… that rhythm that really invites you to dance – it’s a party! You hear the drums and you want to dance, and you want to jump, and you want to have a party.
What was it like working with Harish Patel?
This is my second time working with Harish Patel. It’s amazing. I knew it was going to be amazing when I found out Harish was doing it, because I had so much fun with him last time. I think Harish Patel is one of the best actors in the world. He can make you cry and he can make you laugh in a split second. He has so much range and so much depth, and he minds tirelessly to get the best scene. I have learnt so much
working with him, and I continue to learn every day I go on set working with Harish. I hope I get to make another film with him again. When I finished working with him on the last film, I said to myself, “I hope I get to work with Harish”. And I got my dream.
What was it like working with Kulvinder Ghir?
I grew up watching Kulvinder on TV, and I was very excited that Kulvinder was playing this character. He’s so right for the character, he’s so funny. He’s got a real facility for improvising, and comedy. And also for the dark side as well. He’s like a little boy – he loves to play! And it’s so energising and inspiring. I really, really like him, very much.
Were you nervous about kissing Tom Mison?
I was nervous about kissing Tom Mison the first time, because he’s so gorgeous, and so talented, and he’s very attractive, and he’s quite arresting! And I think it was quite embarrassing! But you know, someone had to do it, so I did it!
What was it like working with Kiran Landa?
Well, I’m so glad you asked that, because Kiran is sparkling. I mean, she’s so upbeat and inspiring, and she’s got that glow. And I can’t wait to see her in this film. She really glows. She has such a great spirit. I’d like to play Kiran! I’d like to play her character, because she has so much fun, and she’s so energetic and so positive and bright.
What was it like having to eat so much food on set?
I don’t think I got to eat enough food, actually! It was absolutely delicious, beautifully laid out. I could only taste bits here and there. There’s not much eating that I can do. So let me tell you, when I had my chance to eat – I ate!
How did you prepare for this film?
My preparation for this film was meeting Mrs Gupta and going to the Chaat house. She’s the person that’s inspired this story, and I have to say, I was blown away. I’ve never eating Indian food like this before, and I’m really sorry that she’s shutting the Chaat house down. It’samazing, it’s delicious food, and it’s really opened my eyes to a new style of Indian food! In this country Indian food is made in a very standard way, and it’s just amazing that there is a completely different kind of food, which we don’t hear about – or hear less about – that is Indian food, but does not resemble anything that I’ve been eating in Indian restaurants! And Mrs Gupta is a pretty remarkable, impressive woman, and she’s made me feel at home. Their restaurant, the Chaat house, is beautiful. I’ve refined and changed my food taste; I can now see how food is prepared, and I’ve got more of a heightened sense of cooking, and taste, and food preparation. It’s been an education for me, and I’m really excited to experiment more after this film.
How have you enjoyed the filmmaking process?
I love making films. I love the whole process of filmmaking. It’s a really collaborative process, and I think that when it’s at its best, it’s truly collaborative, and everybody knows quite intimately what everybody else is doing, so that they can help each other out. So that they can coordinate with each other, with the different department. Interestingly, some of the best actors I know, know intimately all the different departments of filmmaking, so that they can work with them, and work that into their performances – and enjoy filmmaking more! And also, each department is an art form. Designing is a beautiful art form – it’s like enjoying fine art. Production design, and lighting are art forms in themselves which are truly fascinating, and I am so lucky on this to be working with so many incredibly talented people in the crew, that I just have to milk them for what I can get, in terms of their experience, and what they’re doing, and how they work. And maybe that might influence how I work – because they are fellow artists, after all.
What has it been like working with Nikesh Patel?
He is so outwardly directed. He’s so interesting. He’s really interested in other people, and his energy is really infectious. He’s so easy to work with. I really hope I get to work with Nikesh again, because we get on so well, and he’s so patient and generous. And he’s always there for me; he’s always helping me out, or coordinating what he can do for me. I really think he’s special.