Rainbow Raani - dramatic, comedic, romantic, naughty
Filming in Guyana wraps up By Neil Marks
April 30, 2006
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Producer Pradeep Samtani, the former Liberty cinema boss, has worked with the biggest of stars, from Amitabh Bachan to Shahrukh Khan, but says he was totally floored by the cast of the movie he agreed to put his money on and to realise the script of his friend, director Mickey Nivelli.
Shooting for the sexy comedy, Rainbow Raani, filmed on location in Guyana, has wrapped up and the main cast sat down with the Sunday Chronicle, opening up about themselves, their characters in the film, and about Guyana.
When Prashant Kumar’s photo was first placed on the cover of the Pepperpot recently, he immediately took home fans. His character is the centre of Rainbow Raani.
The film is Prashant’s first big break. He intends to work to see it reach international acclaim. With the marketing strategy Samtani and Nivelli have in mind, which includes entering the film into major film festivals, he might not have to work so hard.
At 23, and married, Prashant plays the main character in Rainbow Raani. He speaks candidly as he delves into his character.
Acting and entertainment have been his passion, and it tells the story of his character, Raj, or Rakkumar, in the film.
Raj, leads the boy band Rainbows, which has three other members – Jim, Adam and Rodney. The movie is set in Georgetown. Raj sets out to make it big in the world, with the jump start being New York.
When a white girl from America, Jennifer, comes to Guyana to find happiness, opportunity comes knocking at the door.
She becomes good friends with Raj’s girlfriend, Raani, and hence Raj’s ticket to New York. As a token of their friendship, Jennifer agrees to marry Raj and so he ends up in New York with the intention of getting the rest of the band over.
However, a drunken bout lands him in bed with Jennifer and she becomes pregnant, much to the ire of her lesbian lover Rosy, and Raj’s girlfriend back home, Raani.
How does the movie end? Does Jennifer bring the baby forth? What happens to her relationship with Rosy? Will Raj be forgiven? And ultimately, will the Rainbows make it big? Do they come to the realisation that they could make it big in Guyana first and then travel to New York and the world?
All the answers come out in the climax of the film.
Rainbow Raani is Prashant’s first big break.
For most of his life, the only means of exploring the world of entertainment and showcasing his talent was by performing to Hindi-film songs on stage. But at age 17, he told his father of his aspirations to pursue a film career. His father gave the go ahead, but not to attend film school full-time.
“Out of concern, he advised me to attend business school, get a degree, but enroll in as many acting classes as I needed. So in the years I was in college, I did full-time college and part-time acting classes. I sought each and every opportunity to learn more, improve my appearance and confidence, meet people, network, submit myself to casting directors and agents, the whole deal,” he says.
He eventually built up a resume of a few commercials, stage plays and short films. While this was happening, he was in the process of writing a feature film screenplay, basically, to launch myself himself as an actor in mainstream American cinema.
He was also in the process of publishing his first Urdu poetry book.
“… by my third year of college I had only one thing on my mind ... getting out fast and getting to work on my career much smoother. Things got much more difficult after graduating from college. The dream was the same, but it was hard explaining to people why I am unemployed,” he relates.
But in the spring of 2005, he was visiting a senior member of the Non-Resident Indian entertainment community in the US, Mr. Kamal Dandona, who told him about Rainbow Raani and Mickey Nivelli.
There were some hiccups, but he landed the part.
“I had just been given my first big break and nothing can describe the joyous sentiments of my family and I. Mickey ji and I met often, discussed the film, the script, the music, the rest of the cast, and the rage this would create, especially in the West Indian community,” he says.
Then it was down to Guyana for the shoot.
“When I heard the words ‘action” it was a dream come true,” he beams.
Prashant is excited about Rainbow Raani, not for being his break only, but for other reasons - a culturally diverse cast, breathtaking music and the film’s international potential.
He says he enjoyed working in Guyana and was inspired by the country’s potential for growth.
“If the right people in this country make sensible decisions, this country could realise its potential. Every country has problems, but they find a way to overcome it. You have amazing resources, great people, and a fascination with cinema, you have a future,” Prashant concludes.
Manvi Dhoopar, from Canada, but who is now back in her home India, plays the part of Raani.
Raani loves and supports Raj; his dreams are her dreams, and she is prepared to make whatever sacrifices for the sake of that love.
“There is a scene where I have to seduce a woman, that was challenging,” she says.
Manvi says she really enjoyed developing the character of Raani, which is central to the development of the overall theme of the movie.
She has a few films to her credit and says every role had its own challenges. She says she did not find it hard to adjust herself though to the character of an East Indian girl in Guyana.
“I don’t think it matters where Indians grow up; the same value system is deeply ingrained in us. I was born in India, lived in Canada, and now I am back in India and there is not much difference I noticed here,” she adds.
She says because of the shooting schedule, she did not get to see much of the country, but from what she has seen, she says Guyana is much like a “mini India” for her.
Sincee Daniels, a New Yorker, originally from Houston, Texas, had his share of commercials before he landed the role of Rodney in Rainbow Raani.
Possessing a theatre background of musicals and other stage plays, his face was used by Bud Light, Bailey’s Liquor, ford Trucks and other commercials. So he was before the camera, but never a film.
In Rainbow Raani, his character has a problem with women. He is the “player” of the band. Though in love with his girlfriend, Naomi, he sets out on a conquest of sexual gratification in a very manipulative and calculated way.
“I don’t think it is so much the sex, it’s just the conquest of getting the women in bed,” Daniels says of his character. He says Rodney ends up learning the ultimate lesson of life – what you sow, is what you reap.
He says the most difficult scene for him was a part where he was having sex with another woman and his girlfriend catches him in the act. Daniels says the challenge came in switching emotions instantly.
Daniels says his time in Guyana was well spent.
“It was like a vacation, and I got to make a film too,” he laughs.
He says he enjoyed the hospitality of the people and even though he and members of the cast were familiar with news of brutal crimes, he was never fearful for his own safety.
Pascale Piquion became an instant pin up girl when the Chronicle announced her as playing the lead black role in Rainbow Raani. Her stunning looks captivated the public and our Pepperpot front page which she virtually took over became producer Samtani’s wallpaper on his computer.
Pascale’s part in Rainbow Raani is that of Naomi, the love interest of Rodney in the movie.
She plays a back up singer and dancer to the Rainbows, and Rodney incurs her wrath for his cheating ways. She dumps him after catching him in bed with one of his paramours.
“Naomi is a strong passionate character who has to deal with the impulsiveness of a man that she truly loves” she says.
Born in Washington DC to Haitian parents, and raised in Maryland, Pascale feels the West Indies is greatly underrepresented in the entertainment industry and its time that changes.
“What excites me about Rainbow Raani is that it is a great story that everyone can relate to, putting our West Indian culture in the spotlight. I am so grateful to be a part of this production,” she says.
Pascale was introduced to the theatre when she was 15 and was has been hooked ever since. She recently graduated from West Virginia University with a B.F.A in Acting and now resides in New York.
She says apart from shooting Rainbow Raani, she had a great time in Guyana, having had the chance to visit a few “cool” places, like Linden.
Pascale is anxious to see the end product and for the reaction of people to the film. But one thing is for sure, “it can’t be a bad thing.”
Stephaney Bentley’s character, Jennifer, is one who greatly influences the plot. She is the lesbian, who comes to Guyana, becomes close friends with Raani, and agrees to marry Raj as his gateway to America and making the dreams of the Rainbows come true.
However, when she “accidentally” ends up in bed with Raj and becomes pregnant, the drama of the plot explodes, especially so because of her lover, Rosy.
Jennifer is a free-spirited person who is fed up with New York and feels there is more to life, something deeper, somewhere, and so she learns of Guyana and travels to experience the different cultures.
She meets Raani by chance and enters the frame as the Rainbows’ entry to America, at least Raj’s.
Stephaney has starred in three films in Los Angeles, but decided to head to New York for training, and she has just graduated from college.
She said acting is a challenge because films are not shot in sequence and so “one time you might be shooting for a scene that falls at the end of the movie, and next thing you know you’re shooting for a scene that would actually be in the middle or the beginning.”
She says her challenge, or the awkward part for her, was acting as a New Yorker in Guyana.
“So I am in Guyana, but in the movie I’m actually in New York, and so when you have to do lines, like on the phone, that kind of threw me off a bit,” she laughs.
Stephaney says when she was taken to an Amerindian community in Guyana as part of the schedule for Rainbow Raani, it was the first time she would make contact with Amerindians. She was impressed with how contented they seem to be.
“You know that they have wants, but they are not dying to get it to be happy. In New York, for example if you are a waitress, the job I did many times - as this is what most aspiring actors do to make money in between classes - the people you serve don’t think much of you. They don’t think you are happy,” she says.
Laura Smith, originally from Oregon, but now a New Yorker, plays the part of Rosy in Rainbow Raani. She has just graduated from college, and has had a string of theatre performances. This is her first film.
Rosy becomes outraged when her lover, Jennifer, comes back to New York married to Raj, and hell breaks loose when Jennifer ends up being pregnant for Raj.
“Rosy is jealous, she becomes outraged and gets very extreme,” Laura says of her character.
She is in praise of director Mickey Nivelli, who allowed her freedom to play the character.
“He gives you the framework of what he wants and leaves you to execute the role,” she says.
She says she was happy that everyone on the set was very professional about the “few bold scenes” she had to do and it helped her to execute the part.
Laura says her most uneasy experience in Guyana were “the psst, psst, pssst” from men. But when she realised “psst” is also used to get the attention of someone for other reasons than teasing, she breathed a sigh of relief.
Aldous Davidson is the comic in Rainbow Raani. Jim, as he is called in the movie, is the hilarious Chinese drummer boy who creates a ruckus. His part is to bring life to the Rainbows.
He entered Rainbow Raani from a line up of short films and low budget features his friends hooked him up to.
His character is the youngest of the band.
“He is naďve, really like a child. I’m the exact opposite of Rodney who gets his way with the girls; I’m learning about girls,” he says of his character.
“It was a challenge, because I’m not playing myself,” he says.
“My character stays behind and engages in crazy adventures. While he is part of the band and wants to go to New York, Raj is the one who is more determined,” Aldous says.
He warns you won’t see him eating with chopsticks or engaging in any Chinese talk. He says being in Guyana was a very positive experience for him, having never been to South America.
“But coming from New York, the traffic is crazy there and the traffic is crazy here too,” he jokes.
And how could he forget, he learnt to play the drum really well, thanks to a good teacher.
RYAN BODA plays Adam, a member of the Rainbows. From a background of musical theatre performances and a few feature flicks, he landed in Rainbow Raani as the key board player.
“The members of the Rainbows are real friends, and he is in love, secretly, with a member of the band, which causes him a lot of trouble and a lot of pain.”
“A lot of people confide in him. He either talks them into something or talks them out of something, and at other times, he just listens” he says.
The thing Ryan says that “popped” him was kissing his love interest in the film, whom he refuses reveal.
“When you watch a kiss on film, it looks enjoyable, but shooting it is complicated,” he laughs.
Jenna Harris has had more of a vacation in Guyana than anyone else. She has a small part in the film, and so had a lot of time on her hand.
She plays Barbara, one of the girls Rodney comes back to.
“With me, it wasn’t just a one night stand, because he came back,” she says.
While her part is small, she says it’s important to the development of the plot.
Rainbow Raani premiers in Guyana later this year.