Even though we may recognize Ajay Naidu for his comedic talent, particularly in his breakthrough cult classic Office Space, his latest film Ashes takes us on a more serious journey. For this indie-flick in which Ajay writes, directs and stars in, the film deals with heavy topics such as mental health issues, growing up in a hyphenated culture, and survival. The film premiered in New York City last month and will be making the indie-film circuit this upcoming year.
Ashes – Movie Trailer from angelo fabara on Vimeo.
I haven’t seen the film yet, but would be interested to hear what people thought who were able to make the premiere for the film. Here’s what Abdullah at MTV Desi had to say:
[Ajay] is Ashes (short for Ashish), an Indian New Yorker charged with caring for his mentally ill older brother Kartik (Faran Tahir) who is fresh out of a care facility. We follow Ashes as he rejects the conventional path of working at an Indian restaurant and instead pursues his chosen hustle, the weed game….Though his drug dealing career is boosting his income, with money comes trouble, and soon Ashes is embroiled in a chess game between high-powered drug dealers. Ashes, who vows only to deal with marijuana and no harder substance, finds himself an accessory to the heroin trafficking. As the stakes rise, so does the number of people involved, complicating the story.
While Ashes and Kartik’s relationship tugs at the heartstrings, the drug game described in Ashes at times becomes cumbersome under the weight of its characters…Moreover, it becomes hard to believe that the business of moving high grade marijuana in New York is under the control of armed South Asian gangsters. [mtvdesi]
To abate my curiosity, I asked Ajay Naidu himself some questions about his making this film, what it means to be a South Asian actor this day and age and creative process. Check out my interview with the poignant Ajay Naidu below.
Taz: You are one of the most recognizable South Asian actors in the US, notable for picking roles where you are hilarious. Most people recognize you as Samir from Office Space though I personally adored your role on American Chai. This film, Ashes, is on the more serious side covering a grittier life story. Do you think the shift from comedy to serious was particularly sudden? How do you think the film will be accepted by your fans who are used to seeing you in comedic roles?
Ajay: It’s a strange thing to think of being called strictly a “comedic” actor. That’s a brand that other people put on actors. I grew up acting in the classical theater playing all kinds of roles not strictly related to funny or humorous subjects. It’s not a “shift” – it is a logical progression for a normal actor to take on roles that challenges them. Actually, the only other time I was noticed for a serious actor, I was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for my role in Suburbia. That was a very, very serious role.
T:You not only co-wrote this film, but you also directed and star in it as well. What is the story about and why did you feel it was an important story to tell?
A: This story is about a small time drug dealer who takes care of his mentally ill older brother. I felt it was important to tell this story because I lost my sister to manic depressive schizoid disorder. I wanted to share that story with others who have suffered through similar losses and to discuss the subject through a modality wherein I could be as honest as possible about it. Film is that mode. Continue reading