October 22, 2017

Little Indian British actress wows with big talent

An interview by Vinita Kinra (@VinitaKinra)

Bhavnisha Parmar

Bhavnisha Parmar

Bhavnisha Parmar is a UK born Gujarati actress and performer working on screen, voice over and writing. She entered the industry a little later than most, joining the National Youth Theatre at seventeen. Since then, she has trained at the University of Leeds, Arts Educational School and privately with LA tutor, Jack Waltzer. She is privileged to work with established artists in the acting business, as well as new independent companies from around the world.

A homely girl, Bhavnisha spent most of her childhood growing up with her sister, brother and cousins, who have been said to shape a lot of the work she does. Making the move from Birmingham to London a couple of years ago, Bhavnisha has received a lot of support from the Asian community in her career, especially in her most recent comedy and voice over projects. Her training in the Meisner technique and vast experience in improvisation has allowed The Little Indian to stand tall alongside her peers. Particularly as she continues her journey working in pilots, web series, TV and Film, Bhavnisha is collaborating with artists in the UK as well as the USA and India. A few distinctive characteristics about this actress are her bold personality, her charming wit, and her cute, quirky sense of style. Not to mention her versatility as a creative. A lover of family, food and fitness, Bhavnisha wants to pave the way for the next generation of performers and continue to develop her success all the same.

Vinita Kinra: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Bhavnisha. Tell us about yourself.

Bhavnisha Parmar: Thank you for having me; great to be in conversation. Well, I am a Gujarati girl, born to Kenyan parents in the UK, working as an actress and voice over artist. I also write scripts and reviews for the creative arts. And just a few weeks ago, I started my journey on an original TV comedy with a team of international writers. I am a lover of food, and nothing is more enjoyable than a relaxing Sunday afternoon, surrounded by the whole family and some home-cooked recipes. Or lots, should I say! That being said, if you don’t know where I am, your best bet would be to search the gym. My fitness passion comes not only from the acting discipline, but also from my dancing interests—a keenness to keep fit in new ways. For me, artistic talent is very important as nobody from my family has ventured down this path, and it is exciting to be the first!

Vinita Kinra:  Share with us the story behind your alias, The Little Indian.

Bhavnisha Parmar: Ah, yes. Well, it’s probably what you imagined, anyway. I think for shoot, the camera has had to be lowered because of my height, or because my co-actor has been insanely tall. It went from there, really. And also, whenever a character needed to be used in a more physical scene—picked up and moved around, or fitted in small places—I could do it. I remember, in one rehearsal I came with my suitcase, and it was nearly the same size as me. “Look, it’s The Little Indian” … and so it stuck. I enjoy it though: it’s lovely to have something that people can positively remember you by, and have a laugh about.

Vinita Kinra:  Did you have to convince your family to help you realize your unconventional dream of becoming an actress?

Bhavnisha Parmar:  Completely the opposite, in fact. My parents, my whole family, even extended relatives have been so supportive of what I have wanted to do. Over the last few years, they have been there for me, both physically and emotionally. Acting, with all its rejections and roller coaster turns, is so unpredictable (without sounding like an Oscar speech!), I couldn’t have asked for better people to give me guidance along the way. My family is quite religious and very open-minded, too. The main lesson that we were taught growing up as children was to ask, “Are you happy?” And if the answer was “Yes,” we were encouraged to keep going until we succeeded.

Vinita Kinra:  When you joined drama school, had you decided to make a career out of creativity, or was it only to test the waters?

Bhavnisha Parmar:  Well, I decided to join after I had been to university, where I studied theatre. It was more of a natural progression for me. I felt like I had the academic knowledge and the student experience covered, and was looking to get serious with the practical side of training. I was actively seeking to get respectable practice from tutors who I could trust in the industry to help push my career. That being said, I met so many people and had great experiences there—which I didn’t expect—that it was a wonderful opportunity to open my eyes to new creative skills. This led to me to test the waters for other parts of the acting business. I guess you could say that I knew I wanted to join to get the appropriate training, but actually came out with a lot more.

Vinita Kinra:  What was the best part of working in Darren Has a Breakdown?

Screen shot

Screenshot from Darren Has a Breakdown

Bhavnisha Parmar:  There were so many. The whole shoot was a fantastic experience— working with some of the most talented directors and film operators in London. I would have to say the best part was what viewers didn’t get to see. The outtakes in particular—whether that was actors chewing their lines occasionally, or the old woman who joined our scene with her dog! Acting is so collaborative and nerve-racking, no matter what level you are at, that the most important aspect I hope to take away from the experience is building good friendships and relationships. That was so true for this project, and we are hoping to start shooting very soon for the next few episodes after receiving a good reception in LA. And for me, the humour of this character is something I would love to play in every role. Which woman would not want to shoot down a man on a park bench?

Vinita Kinra:  What do you enjoy most about voice overs?

Bhavnisha Parmar:  Definitely the level of play. Animations, especially, are fantastic to work on, as you will most likely be playing three or four different characters across the span of the project. Right now, I am recording with a new comedy animation, Degree, in which I have played an upper-class news reporter one day, and an Indian school graduate the next. It is also great from an acting point of view to really be able to hone into one skill and one part of your instrument. You become so aware of your vocal range and qualities when you go back to an acting project. And the social outings! Voice artists can become quite isolated when recording, so the meet-ups are especially fun to keep the support and creative juices flowing.

Vinita Kinra: You are a familiar face in commercials and festivals. How different are these experiences from acting?

Bhavnisha Parmar: I guess they are as different as you make them, without sounding too vague. I like to take on roles because of the characters, narratives and people involved in the project. So for me, it is all acting really, with the experience of different collaborations and ways of telling the story. The biggest difference with commercials is most probably the concepts and delivery. They require a more animated style of acting, keeping in mind a mass audience. In that sense, the acting projects can be more personal and you can take ownership of the creative development a little more. My favourite platform at the moment would be indie films in the festival arena. You meet so many different people with such nuanced narratives from all corners of the world. Overall, these projects feel like more of a richer experience.

Vinita Kinra: How much is your native India a part of your overall personality?

Bhavnisha Parmar:  It’s always there. Tradition is deeply embedded in everybody, and really shapes your characteristics and thinking. For me, it’s very positive, as it gives me a perspective that others may not have in a team. Subconsciously, when I am acting, it’s natural for these parts of me to surface. It is probably one of the main reasons why I have chosen to take the roles that I have; I would have felt a strong cultural connection. I am also from a religious background, so that discipline and part of my upbringing is something I like to carry into my decisions. But even small things like the way I dress, the music I enjoy, and the words I use in everyday speech are influenced by my Indian background. It’s not uncommon for me to use a few Indian words when out with friends! And I think in today’s world, it is really about finding the balance of respecting other cultures and preserving your own.

Vinita Kinra: Tell us about your current projects.

Bhavnisha Parmar: At the moment, I have just finished shooting two projects, both based on true stories. One is a short film called She Fell Away, covering the sensitive issue of mental health, releasing later this year. The other is the pilot for a new gritty Asian drama based in the Midlands titled, Guilty Pleasures. Later on this year, we continue filming with the team behind Darren Has A Breakdown, and a comedy web series called Wedding Dates, and also getting the new writing off the ground and produced. As well, there are a few more voice recordings in the pipeline—all very different, but very exciting nonetheless. And who knows with the nature of this industry, it could all change tomorrow. Even more exciting!

Vinita Kinra:  Our readers would like to sample your acting talent. Is there any video or commercial you would like to share with us?

Bhavnisha Parmar: Yes, sure. All my projects that have been completed and released can be found on my website: www.bhavnishaparmar.com and on my Vimeo profile: https://vimeo.com/user8545260. These include both acting and voice samples. Within the next month or so, more will be added to what’s already there. And for updates of current happenings, check out the twitter site and Facebook page, which are also on the website. Hope everybody enjoys and laughs!

Thank you again for inviting me to chat. It has been really enjoyable to answer these questions and spend time with Global Asian Times.

Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. 

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