Bohemian Rhapsody and me...
Actors' Temple student Meneka Das burst into the international scene in blockbuster Bohemian Rhapsody last year but what inspired her to start acting? Having attended multiple classes over the years at Actors' Temple Meneka feels 'I’m not just saying this but of all the places I do go for classes, it's about the people here everyone is so giving and as actors we have issues, we’re emotional - there is a good energy that people are here to learn and give. That's what makes actors temple special for me.' Below is more on her inspirational journey.
How did you get into acting?
It was a long time ago, I was acting as a kid and I followed that desire and that inspiration and came to London to follow my dream.
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from India specifically the Himalayas and Mountains, it's very beautiful there. It was amazing to grow up there, it was very different from the rest of India, it was quite peaceful so when I now go to Bombay people think it must be easy. So I just say where I grew up was very chilled, you could dream a lot and imagine a lot.
Bohemian Rhapsody - where you intimidated joining such an iconic film?
Actually, it was before my time so I only knew one song of theirs to be honest it was - ‘I want to break free’. My cousin, when I was a kid in India, we used to go on holiday together and she was much older and would make me stand at the door and watch. She would take out a cigarette and put on this music and dance to herself to ‘I want to break free’. So that’s the only song I knew but when I got the part I did more research and you realise you know all the songs like ‘We are the Champions.’ I think If I knew more I would have been a bit more nervous to meet the people. It was quite amazing.
What was the casting process like?
It was interesting, they saw my showreel and then they called me in and then I went in to meet Brian Singer and Brian May and everyone. Then at the time I met the guy playing the Husband and we were given scripts. I talked about my background and how I saw the character, they grill you, I was there quite a while. They were sussing out the chemistry and then I met Rami onstage and the mother/son thing and that was it!
Do you have a funny career moment?
Many - I cannot forget the very first one I was so fresh I was 17 in London and I got a part in a play. I didn’t have a big part but I said i’d do everything so I had these little parts. And then you don’t realise you have dress changes. That was embarrassing because in one I had to be a girl in dress, then I had to become a man so I didn’t have time to change and I had my dress sticking out of my costume, everyone thought that was a comedy moment and every time I came on stage everybody laughed. Then when I took my bow it was my first show in London and I was taking my bow and I realised that everyone had left and I was just at the front of the stage by myself with the audience laughing at me. I wasn’t funny then but it is now. Worse was they had sent me on stage by mistake, and i’d just been into method and Meisner so I got on stage and it wasn’t my scene so I started looking for a cat because I had to give myself purpose, and people thought I was trying to sabotage their scene.
What’s been the most challenging part of your career so far?
I would say Bohemian Rhapsody, it was very challenging, in the beginning I play a 30 year then it goes to 60 year old then 75. Starting with 30 year old I was like this is fine I’ve lived this but then building up to 60 then 75 was tough. I was really nervous to play with the big boys, and a lot of the timings, you have to be there and they are focusing on the big characters but you are still there and you have to pick up your cues and pacing. Plus the body language and voice for her, it stretched me a lot. I was coming to Actors’ Temple for class and then made it about the Meisner, making it all about him in the end because it was about making me love my son - that's all I played in the end.
Do you have a technique or a way you deal with nerves?
Every actor has nerves, we never really get over it. It's also the exciting thing about getting on stage, if you don’t have it then you can’t give it. So I use everything I feel and put it into my role/character then make it about the other person.
What's your favourite role you’ve played?
It’s yet to come!
What brought you to Actors’ Temple?
You know I was looking after training, I felt as an actor you never stop learning. I was looking for a place to go weekly, I came for a taster class and got up and did the repetition which I thought was great and thought this could be something good...I’m not just saying this but of all the places I do go for classes, it's about the people here everyone is so giving and as actors we have issues, we’re emotional - there is a good energy that people are here to learn and give. That's what makes actors temple special for me.
If you weren’t an actors what would you be?
A human rights lawyer.
What motivates you to keep going?
The desire to inspire and never giving up spirit, in other people, in life. I love an underdog story, life is to be lived you only have it once go for it with everything and fight for your dream. You can feel sorry for yourself and disappear, as an actor you have so many rejections but you keep picking up because tomorrow could be that day.
Do you have any advice you would give to your younger self?
Focus, Concentration and keeping your head on your shoulders, there’s a long way to go. You’ve got to have the tenacity to focus long term not short term. Also as an actor, I moved into writing and directing to create roles for myself and other people. That has made a lot of a difference because when i’m not acting I can take all i’ve learned and collaborate with other people and make new work. I’ve done three shorts and I made a feature and i’m working on my second feature with BFI and working in collaboration with Sundance so writing my next shorts.
Would you recommend training at Actors’ Temple?
I did tell somebody, I was working with somebody, an actor on a short and they were looking for a place but didn’t have the money for a full time course. So I said you must go and try the actors temple because they are good, and they were good for me. And you can always come back here - it never stops.
What is next for you?
Since BoRap I’ve had a lot of interest from the US - but I will say I am now much older and wiser so I’ve got the opportunity make my own work and the drive to not to miss out. I want to do the roles I enjoy, I don’t want to make acting a job, every role for me is something to fight for, not just to pay my bills. Making films, telling stories, there are so many stories from my culture that cross over, that means a lot to me. There are a lot of stories I’ve turned down because they don’t have unity or diversity its got to be stories with universal themes that makes the unity of cultures come across for me story telling has become so much stronger.