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TNS chats to the stars of Speedy Singhs

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TNS caught up with Canadian comedy superstar Russell Peters and Bollywood newcomer Vinay Virmani at the release of new film Speedy Singhs; to chat about real-life racial drama, the emergence of Bollywood cinema, and ice-skating with Hollywood heavyweights Rob Lowe and Camilla Belle.

Billed as ‘one of the most exciting cross-over films of recent times,’ Speedy Singhs follows the story of Rajveer Singh (Vinay Virmani), a young man with aspirations of becoming a professional ice hockey player who is struggling to succeed in a sport with very little ethnic diversity.

Speedy SinghsIn the face of prejudice from his peers, Rajveer assembles his own all-Sikh ice hockey team, the Speedy Singhs, and begins a challenging journey towards social acceptance and sporting success. However problems arise as he must work to reconcile his personal ambitions with the expectations of his orthodox Sikh family who want to see him dedicate his life to the family business and the Sikh faith.

Pegged as the new Bend it Like Beckham, Speedy Singhs explores issues of inter-racial relations, migration and cross-cultural tensions. It looks at a contemporary reality facing young people all over the world as they attempt to find a balance between their own aspirations and those of their parents, against a background of the exciting world of Canadian ice-hockey.

Two of the film’s biggest stars, Russell Peters and Vinay Virmani sat down with TNS to talk about the film.

TNS: So, why should we go and watch this film?

Russell Peters: I’m not the kind of guy who could lie to you if this movie wasn’t good. But I can look you straight in the eye, and say that this one is. When I saw the film I actually LOL’d, and there were a couple of moments when I got teary-eyed, and I’m not that kind of guy. This is just one of those movies that has been shot, directed, acted and cut well.

Vinay Virmani: This movie is straight from the heart. Yes, it showcases hockey, but it is not a hockey film. Hockey is just a vehicle to tell a larger story of these boys who want to be a part of the national sport; about boys who set out to prove that sport depends on your talent and your drive, not on your race or the colour of your skin. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you live in London, Toronto, or Delhi; if you’re a grandparent or a child, everyone can see this film, and everyone can relate to it.

TNS: Sounds like the perfect feel-good film! Russell, this is one of your first acting roles, what attracted you to move from stand-up comedy into acting?

RP: Actually, I wanted to be an actor from the start, but somebody told me very early in my career that I wasn’t good looking enough to be an actor. As I was already doing stand-up, I decided to just carry on with that, and figured that acting would come eventually. It always just seemed like the natural step up.

TNS: But will fans of your stand-up comedy still be able to see some Russell Peters moments in the film?

RP: Absolutely, there are plenty of Russell Peters moments in the film. In fact, we re-shot some additional scenes after we finished shooting to make sure that there was plenty!

TNS: So did you work with the scriptwriters in writing for your character?

RP: No, I wasn’t directly involved in writing the script, but I did re-work some stuff to make it work for me. I was so grateful, they were very giving and allowed me to do what I needed to do. If anything, they had to pull me back a little bit, I was going for the R-Rating, and they had to be like “No, no, no, this is a family film!”

VV: One thing you definitely learn about working with Russell Peters is that he is not very good at staying on script! (Laughs) But it’s okay, because it all works out in the end.

TNS: Vinay, at the start of the interview you mentioned that the film explores inter-racial tensions, as you are one of the film’s co-writer’s I was wondering to what extent the work was autobiographical? Is this something that you’ve experienced personally?

VV: There are definitely elements of Rajveet Singh that are inspired by my life. But fortunately I didn’t personally go through discrimination to the same extent that he experiences, some of which can be really disturbing. I did definitely struggle with a question of identity though. I think it’s something that we all struggle with, especially those of us who are living in a different country than the one that our family is originally from, we are left asking, “Is this really our country?”

At the heart of Speedy Singhs lies Rajveet’s relationship with Melissa, a young, white Canadian woman played by Camilla Belle (The Lost World: Jurassic Park, 10,000BC). The relationship works as a counter-point to the prejudice young Rajveet faces from his hockey-playing peers and instead demonstrates the social integration he strives for.

TNS: Vinay, in this film you get to work with one of the most beautiful young actress’ in Hollywood, what was it like working with Camilla Belle?

VV: I am still in love. Camilla is beautiful, she’s sweet, she’s all heart and she really connected to this film. And that’s what this movie is all about, two people from different backgrounds coming together and finding a connection. The love story we have in the film is very sweet, it’s simple, it’s inter-racial, it’s a relationship that shows we can’t really help who we fall in love with.

As you can imagine, I couldn’t help but be charmed by Mr. Virmani’s sentimental streak. All that was left was to ask about the future.

TNS: So then tell us, where will we be seeing you next, Bollywood or Hollywood?

RP: Definitely Hollywood, as I am based in Los Angeles. I have two films coming out soon. One of them is called New Year’s Day, and will be out  by the end of this year.

VV: To be honest, either. It has never been better to be South Asian in Hollywood. Films and television shows are being written in order to reflect the way society looks now, and there are some very exciting projects around. But then Bollywood is a huge market, and is really coming into its own. So really, I’m just looking forward to a world of possibilities.

Speedy Singhs is released in nationwide on 30th September 2011.




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