Filmmaker Chandra Pemmaraju and actor Lavrenti Lopes on “Love, Lies and Seeta,” a crossover romantic comedy recently screened at the IFFI, Goa

American Indian films have come a long way since the days of “Hyderabad Blues”. Finally, it isn't the clash of cultures that's a conflict. In fact, in Chandra Pemmaraju's “Love, Lies and Seeta,” race and culture are irrelevant.

“The Indian characters in “Love, Lies and Seeta” are not limited by their vocation or race,” reveals Lavrenti Lopes, an Indian American actor based out of New York, in an email interview, about the experience of shooting for the romantic comedy that was recently screened at NFDC's Film Bazaar, during the International Film Festival of India, in Goa.

The director of “Love, Lies and Seeta,” Chandra Pemmaraju, hopes to create some buzz before the release. “I am meeting distributors in India as well as the U.S. and the response has been encouraging. It took me two years to make it and now I understand that making the film was the easier part of the job. I have to give enough time for marketing it too,” says the filmmaker.

The only thing that's indie or arthouse about the film is how it was shot. “I wanted to make a feature film on a shoe-string budget, yet with the look and feel of a big scale international commercial film. A film that is entertaining and makes the audience walk out of the theatre with a smile,” Chandra adds.

The ensemble that stars Melanie Kannokada, Lavrenti Lopes, Arjun Gupta, Michael Derek, Leah Kavita and Caroline Korale among other New York-based actors is about three friends who fall for the same girl, Seeta, played by Melanie. Lavrenti Lopes plays Bhavuk, one of the three guys who fall for Seeta.

“An actor's job is not to stand out but to blend in. For me, it is not the length of the role but the substance that is of importance,” says Lopes. “I give every script the same consideration, be it a solo lead or an ensemble film. When Chandra pitched “Love, Lies and Seeta” to me, I immediately fell in love with the character of Bhavuk. I knew exactly how I wanted to play the character. Bhavuk is silly, goofy and truly a fun character. There is no way I could have said no to that.”

A welcome break

“Also, I had just finished filming “Afghan Hound” which was quite a heavy film. So “Love, Lies and Seeta” was a welcome break. Added to that, my closest friend Melanie was offered the role of Seeta. Needless to say filming was a riot,” adds Lopes.

Chandra and Lopes discussed at length how the characters had to be played. “We met several times before we started filming. But once we started shooting, he gave us full liberty to bring the characters to life,” Lopes explains.

More than working with actors, it was raising the finances that turned out to be an uphill task for Chandra who has also produced the film. “I had to knock on many doors and was turned down by many but I was fortunate that family, friends and investors believed in me and helped me raise funds.”

Why does he want to make films? “It's a cliché. I love films, since childhood. I always wanted to become a filmmaker. It used to be a happy event for me, going to a movie with my parents, and discussing it with my siblings growing up. I have a lot of stories to tell. I have just made my first film and I've got a long way to go,” says Chandra.

It's been a struggle of sorts for Lopes too. “The stereotypes in Hollywood still exist. And while there has been an increasing consideration of Indian actors for non-stereotypical roles, it is not to the degree that it should be. More opportunity is not the same as equal opportunity,” admits Lopes. “That said, it is in our qualification as creative people, be it as writers, producers, directors or even actors, to facilitate such a change. “Love, Lies and Seeta” is a perfect example of such an attempt.”

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Sudhish KamathMay 11, 2012