Ameet Chana: There’s only so many times you can see an Indian wedding on film
Brit-flick Unhallowed Ground released last week to a star-studded premiere. The film, written by Paul Raschid and produced by Aviary films, boasts a young, multicultural cast and a gripping plot with dark twists along the way. We catch up with Unhallowed Ground star Ameet Chana, familiar to you perhaps as Tony in Bend it like Beckham or Adi from Eastenders, to give us the low down on the movie, the British film industry and why he likes dressing smart…
Your latest film Unhallowed Ground is quite different from anything you’ve done before…
Yeah it’s the first time I’ve attempted the horror genre after all these years. In fact, that was one of the things that appealed to me really – it was something I hadn’t done before. But actually, one of the main reasons I decided to do the film was because I found out, after reading the script, that it was written by 21-year-old, Paul Raschid (who’s also in the film). I was blown away by the fact that this film, which has so many twist and turns and psychological gameplay, was written by such a young person.
If nobody else is giving you work, you’ve got to start creating it
Tell us a bit about your character?
I play a guy called Jas, who’s basically one of those typical tech geeks. He knows his way around anything that beeps basically! So the film is set on the final day of term for the students and their headmaster gives them a challenge to patrol the grounds of their school in order to graduate from their CCF training. As this is going on, two men are breaking into the library of the school because it contains first editions from literary greats like Shakespeare and Keats, which they want to steal. I play the sidekick to the muscles character, Will Thorpe and help him break into the library.
What was it like working with such a young cast?
It was great actually and it was another reason why I wanted to get involved. It’s really nice to see such a multicultural cast and race not necessarily have relevance to the plot. I mean, if you go to any school nowadays, you’ll see a mixture of backgrounds, cultures, creeds all in one school. And I thought the way that Paul wasn’t fussed about people’s backgrounds was really nice. For being so young, many of them had a lot of previous experience and came with such ‘A-game’ it kind of kept everyone on their toes, which was great.
How important is it for British Asians to try and break into the film industry?
Whether you’re British Asian or not I think it’s important for young people to just try and fight to keep the British film industry alive – or even unfortunately, resurrect it. The British film industry is in such a bad place in terms of funding, getting things commissioned and seeing something through to release. I think if we don’t get behind young film-makers, writers, directors and actors now, [soon] there will be no British film industry. I’ve been doing it for 25 years now and I just feel like it’s my responsibility to get behind new writers and directors, who need and deserve a break.
You’ve been part of projects that have pioneered the British Asian film industry. Is it easier now for British Asians to break into the industry?
The thing is it’s just a hard industry full stop and then being someone of a BAME background makes it even harder. But the struggle has gotten better over the years; there have been a lot more productions which have BAME actors in them. Granted, some of them aren’t as three dimensional as they should be – some of them still deal with topics that we’ve been dealing with over the last fifty odd years.
I love dressing up smart – I think because I don’t have an office job
How do you think the British industry can encourage more involvement from BAME actors and writers?
Lots of my friends who are black and Asian actors in this country are creating their own work, or work for other people. I went off to do a film course at the New York film Academy and I think that that’s the one thing to do people should be doing. If nobody else is giving you work, you’ve got to start creating it. That’s happening in a big way at the moment. People like Rez Kempton have been involved with Atul Malhotra’s Amar, Akbar & Tony. Also, Jimmy Akingbola has teamed up with Tony Holland, one of the original writers for Eastenders, and they’ve just created a big production company, Triforce networks. It produces TV shows and films for BAME people to get involved in front of and behind the camera.
Do you think nature of BAME productions is changing? For example Unhallowed Ground is completely different; it’s a pure supernatural thriller…
There’s only so many times you can tell the same story and see a huge elaborate Indian wedding in a film. There’s so much space for stories to be told by people of a British Asian background that aren’t about that, that just incorporate actors from different backgrounds. I’ve grown up with black and white kids and I’ve had experiences with them that weren’t racial or cultural, they were just experiences – it was messing about in a park and getting into a fight, for example.
So moving on to fashion, what’s your go to look?
Recently I wore something to The Asian Awards which I really liked – I looked back at photos and think “yeah, you did alright there Chana!” I wore really fitted skinny jeans, a nice fitted shirt with a tie, a waistcoat and a blazer. It wasn’t necessarily coordinated, it was quite separate. I like fusing together different things without being uniform and I love dressing up smart – I think because I don’t have an office job.
What are your wardrobe staples?
Ripped blue Diesel jeans and polo tops – collar up!
Whose sense of style do you most admire?
It’s hard to say. I love the way Saran Kohli from Entouraaj dresses actually! He expresses himself really well when it comes to fashion. And it’s not about labels and things. It’s about taking a pair of loafers and rolled up jeans and putting it together with a smart blazer which he has the skill and talent to cut and design himself. I really like the way he dresses. I’m also a big fan of Ozwald Boateng– I like his style and even got my wedding suit from him.
Unhallowed Ground is now available on DVD and don’t miss Ameet Chana in upcoming BBC drama My Jihad.
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