Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WHEN HARRY TRIES TO MARRY: Arranged marriage vs love -- and guess which wins? Q&A with newcomer/star Rahul Rai

You might think, going into the new Amer/East-Indian movie WHEN HARRY TRIES TO MARRY, that -- at last -- here is a film that will go to bat with some legitimacy for the idea of an "arranged marriage."  After all, its main character, the guy who is clearly meant to be its hero (the titular Harry who wants to marry), immediately regales us with his own set of statistics about the many arranged marriages that have worked. His own parents, he tells us, were the sole exceptions: They married for love and are now divorced. Finally, we think, we're going to get a rom-com that's a little different. Fat chance.

And yet, same-ol, same-ol with an east Indian slant can be, at the very least, colorful and energetic -- which Harry/Marry generally is. It moves along with a certain zip, lasts but 93 minutes and has been directed (by Nayan Padrai, shown at left) and acted by its ensemble with enough flair to keep a none-too-demanding audience entertained. Where the film falls down farthest is in its script: Story, screenplay and especially the dialog are ser-viceable, at best. They almost always go exactly where you will expect and ask nothing of importance from either the characters or us viewers. This makes for an easy, challenge-free ride that gets everyone to the finish line intact.

What the movie does offer is some nice cinematography (by Nick Taylor) and a cast of pleasant, attractive people you're likely not to have seen previously. In the lead is a young man, Rahul Rai (above), whose first film this it. While Mr. Rai won't win any acting awards yet (he has won a Best New Talent award, however: See the interview below), he proves himself an adept enough leading man. His Harry is charming, sexy and fun.

 His leading ladies -- one "arranged," the other the "love" interest -- are also well-cast and played by, respectively, Freishia Bomanbehram (above) and Stefanie Estes (below). Movies like this have their built-in audience of Indian emigres but also have some cross-over appeal, as witness the recent release of Today's Special. This latest offering won't set the box-office afire but should do some decent business before appearing on DVD and cable.

When Harry Tries to Marry opens this Friday, April 22, in the New York City, Queens and Long Island.  You can click here to find specific theaters. Next week it opens in New Jersey and the following week (May 6) in Los Angeles.


Last week Trust Movies had a few minutes on the phone to interview the star of When Harry Tries to Marry, newcomer Rahul Rai.  TM's questions, below, appear in boldface, while Rahul's answers are in standard type.

So, Rahul: this is actually your very first acting experience? Ever?

Yes, this is my first acting experience. I was discovered by director of the film, Nayan Padrai. I belong to a dance company in Long Island: Bollywood Performing Arts, in Hicksville, New York. We had a performance in Manhattan, and it so happened that the director was there. He saw me perform, liked it, and at the end of the performance, he came back stage and asked me to audition for this movie.

What surprised me most about your movie was that it sets us up for how “possible” an arranged marriage might be, and how well these can often work – it even gives us all these statistics at the beginning – and then instead takes us down the same old road of love-and-romance-win-the-day. Did you think for a while that it might come out for the “arranged marriage” thing?

Well, Nayan also co-wrote the story, and what the writers wanted to do was to take the romantic comedy genre and flip it on its head. Take a guy who wants to get married. Except for his mom and dad, who married for love and are now divorced, the rest of his family have had arranged marriage all of which have worked out. He feels that, if he marries for love, he’ll suffer the same fate as his parents. So goes ahead for an arranged marriage. But the movie says that the all the planning and all the work you might do, this doesn’t always pan out. It’s not saying that arranged marriages are all bad, however. They can and do work. In fact, my sister had an arranged marriage and she has found someone that she actually loves.

OK: I’ll settle for that. What’s up for you at this point – now that this movie is finished?

Nothing is on the table yet. Since finishing the movie I have just been doing my part to promote it. Maybe when the movie comes out, something might happen, which will lead to further acting jobs. Part of the game is just being patient and waiting. And I am doing my part is helping with the promotion for this movie. We’re all doing whatever we can to get this movie out there. And what we’ve seen so far in terms of response from audiences has been very positive.

Which film fests have you --and the film -- been part of?

Our U.S. premier was at the Austin Film Festival last October. Then the international premier was at the Mumbai Film Fest, where the movie had such a high demand that the director of the fest played it for a second day . It completely sold out in all three venues. Then we played the London Asian Film Festival, where we actually grabbed some awards: the Audience Choice Award, and I got the Best New Talent Award.

Very good! How long had you been performing in the dance company?

For around five to six years. And I am still performing with them. I owe my success to them -- and to being in the right place at the right time.

How long did it take to shoot the movie?

We shot in October of 2009 thru December 2009. 32-34 days shooting time in all. Since then, my life had not changed drastically at all. Even now, a week before the opening, my life seems com-pletely normal, I’m still a student going to school, still the same guy.

Do you have an agent?

Not yet, but I am working hard trying to find one.

It might be easier once the film is out and people are more aware of it. How old are you, Rahul?

I am only 20 now. I was only 18 when we shot the film.


Yes: I had just graduated high school.

Anything else you’ll like to say, before we end this interview?

Can’t think of anything – just come and see the movie!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this interview! I had already heard a little bit about this movie, but after seeing those beautiful photos, I'm even more intrigued. I hope it plays near me so I can see it!