Hollywood films are made with great adherence to schedule
... says Amitash Pradhan, the villain in Velaiyilla Pattadhari, who is all set to play the lead in a Hollywood film
There’s something about Velaiyilla Pattadhari and Hollywood. Its hero, Dhanush, announced that he’d be part of the Hollywood film, The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir. And now, Amitash Pradhan of Velaiyilla Pattadhari fame is gearing up for the Indian release of his Hollywood film, Heartbeats, which had its international premiere recently. Talking to us from Berlin, where the film has released in over 150 screens, Amitash’s excitement is evident. "A casting agent from Mumbai asked if I could dance and I said yes," says Amitash, recounting how he landed the project. "After about three days, I was called to meet the director. That's when I realised it was Duane Adler, the man behind the Step Up franchise. I had about seven auditions, and passed a chemistry test with the heroine, Krystal Ellsworth. Finally, I got the role."
He says the film’s a love story between an American girl and an Indian boy. “She meets him, when she comes to India for a wedding. That’s when they introduce their dancing styles to each other," he says. Heartbeats, naturally, had him dancing a lot. "As a kid, Hrithik Roshan's dance moves were a big inspiration. I had Emmy-winner Tessandra Chavez train me for the hip-hop sequences, and Shampa Gopikrishna (who has worked in Bajirao Mastani and Ram Leela) train me in Indian dancing. The rehearsals were gruelling, but if they hadn’t been, I couldn't have pulled off moves that only professional dancers can do."
Amitash saw how different the process of filmmaking is for a Hollywood film. "Hollywood films are made with strict schedule adherence. They are very punctual. I think Indian films are also waking up to this. That's a great thing,” he says.
His role in Heartbeats is in complete contrast to the one he played in Velaiyilla Pattadhari. "My character is more expressive and goes through a lot of emotions. I also play the lead; so there are bigger responsibilities." He owes it all to his theatre background. "English theatre helped me learn on-stage movement, and my diction too. All my plays had music and dance which helped me prepare for this role."
The film has some top talents working on it, the most significant being its cinematographer, Ravi Varman. Amitash has little doubt that he is one of the greatest talents of the country. “In such East-meets-West stories, there’s usually a foreign cinematographer. But when you have someone like him on board, who has a better understanding of Indian landscape, the result is even better,” he says. “We connected a great deal on the sets, and spoke in Tamil during the shoot. He took a lot of interest in me and helped me get my expressions right based on the lens he was using.”
Jay Z’s band, Roc Nation, is behind the film’s original music, alongside Oscar-nominated composer Gingger Shankar (who’s worked on The Passion Of The Christ). "The music has come out really well. For a dance film, it is of huge importance. After the South African release, a lot of people have been enquiring about the soundtrack. We are in the process of releasing the tracks,” he says.
The film is expected to hit the screens in India by October. "I can't wait to see how India reacts to this film. I’m quite excited about being the first South Indian to play a lead in a Hollywood film,” he says. “I may go on to do a number of films in the future but this will always be special."