Remember Harold and Kumar? That’s the first thought that pops up in my mind when I think of Kal Penn. Standing next to him as we waited to enter the CAAMFest in San Francisco, I struck up a conversation. Kal, it turns out, remembers India Currents fondly for the many opportunities this magazine has given to aspiring artists, writers, and film-makers before they became famous.
Our readers would be delighted to hear that you remember India Currents and are familiar with it. Can you tell us how you first heard of India Currents?
Well, there are a handful of Indo American publications and you end up coming across them. I can’t remember exactly how I first came across India Currents—whether it is through family or through the love that you have given us over the years, through some of the film coverage. We very much appreciate it. I know that a lot of artists really appreciate the community support.
Kal, you are one of the few artists who has managed to cross over from the warm, nurturing, ethnic environment into the mainstream. Do you have any advice for the budding artists, writers, filmmakers?
Oh, you know there are so many really talented South Asian or Indian American artists. It has just exploded, especially in the last 10-15 years. But there were so many even before who are my mentors—folks like Ajay Naidoo, and countless people before me. So really I am not someone who should be offering any advice. I have taken advice from them.
Oh, you are way too modest. Tell me a little bit about the film The Sisterhood of Night that we are going to see today and also about “Bhopal.”
The Sisterhood of Night was shot about three years ago. It is about a group of young girls in a small town in upstate NewYork and a secret society that they form and the hysteria that takes place in the town based on their secret society. It raises questions about things like whether we trust our children—whether the girls are doing something nefarious or they are just innocently hanging out together. It has a lot of very strong female characters and was very refreshing for a male actor to get the opportunity to perform in an environment like that. It was a fantastic group of people, relatively a small, independent film, which was a big plus.
I enjoyed your role in The Namesake but I was getting flashbacks from Harold and Kumar.
Oh ya! that remains my favorite film.
What about Bhopal?
Bhopal is a film written and directed by a guy named Ravi Kumar, also co-written with his writing partner David Brooks. I think they first got in touch with me about five years ago and sent the script. I was so taken aback in a positive way by how layered the script was, and how complex the story line was. It is not a biopic it is a fictionalized account of one guy’s journey through that whole process.
And how do you like San Francisco?
I love San Francisco. I don’t get to come here as often as I would like to. It is a beautiful, creative, fun city.
Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D. is the guest Managing Editor of India Currents.
This interview was transcribed by Jyoti Khera.