A role that has stretched him

2013-08-28 00:00

ASHISH Gangapersad is determined not to let his current storyline on SABC3’s flagship soapie, Isidingo, follow any stereotypes.

As fans will know, his character, Prada, has found himself engaged to the beautiful Devina in an arranged marriage that seems to suit everyone but the groom-to-be.

Prada’s mother is desperate for a grandchild, and to show that her two sons are married and successful. His brother, Jayesh, and his wife are desperate to have a child, and Prada wants to reconnect with his family after many years of them pretending he didn’t exist.

When Prada’s grandfather dies, he leaves him and his brother R1 million — the only problem is that neither brother will receive a cent until they are both married ... to a woman. Given that Prada is gay, that’s a big problem.

As Prada struggles with the weight of family obligation, he discovers that his bride-to-be, Devina, is not the sweet and innocent girl she appears to be.

Prada’s cousin, Priya (Leenada Reddy), also smells a rat. Aside from not liking the fact that her cousin is marrying a woman for money so that his brother can have a child, she believes Devina’s father, Abhi Singh, is dodgy and sets out to investigate him.

Speaking to The Witness, Gangapersad, who was born in Newcastle and grew up in Stanger, said: “Arranged marriages in the Indian community are a thing of the past ... they don’t really happen in this day and age. So I felt that we needed to find a plausible reason for it.

“I raised my concerns with the scriptwriters and that’s how we came up with the inheritance storyline. It’s Prada’s first big story so I really wanted it to be good.”

Gangapersad is enjoying working with Kajal Bagwandeen (Devina), Vikash Mathura (Jayesh) and Ruthan Kumar (Abhi). “It’s the first time that I have worked with any of them, but they’ve been great,” he said.

The actor, who has been playing the role of Prada on and off for four years since 2009, admitted that it has been scary from day one.

“Initially, my character was only created to support Priya’s pregnancy story line, so I had to work hard to make viewers connect with the character,” Gangapersad said. “I knew that if I didn’t do it right it could backfire and then people would react badly to Prada as a character, and to me as an actor.

“But the producers kept calling me back and all my hard work paid of. I’m really glad I got to play Prada and I’m really pleased with the choices that I’ve made for him. As an actor, you want roles that will stretch you.”

Although Gangapersad has always known that he wanted to act, he didn’t follow the usual drama-school route.

“When I left Stanger Manor Secondary School, university wasn’t an option, so I got a job in IT and saved enough money to do acting lessons with James Parker, a private tutor from Britain who had lectured in Los Angeles and England. He trained me in method acting,” he said.

Later, when his parents left Stanger and moved to Johannesburg, he decided to hand in his notice and use the family home as a base from which to have a crack at the world of film and television acting.

“I can only call it a leap of faith, but it really was worth it because within a few months I got the job on Isidingo,” Gangapersad said.

Looking ahead, the actor is set to star in Chander Pahar (which means Mountain of the Moon), a film that tells the story of a young Bengali man’s adventures in Africa in the years 1909 and 1910.

Shankar Roy Chowdhury, the protagonist, is a 20-year-old man who yearns for adventure, wild lands, forests and animals, and wants to follow the footsteps of famous explorers such as David Livingstone, Mungo Park and Marco Polo.

After a stroke of luck, he secures a job as a clerk in Uganda Railway and goes to Africa where his adventures begin. The film stars Bengali actor Dev, as Shankar.

Gangapersad is also working on a script for a thriller titled Unborn Different, which he hopes to get financing for.

The actor has been working on the film for four years and says it is a story that will speak to every South African community. “I can promise you that it will be a production of international quality,” he added.

In the meantime, however, fans can catch him at 7.30 pm, Monday to Friday, on SABC3’s Isidingo.

• arts@witness.co.za

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