From the heart

Akshun Abhi

Last year, on February 22, Alok Madasani and Srinivas Kuchibhotla, two young Indian techies in Kansas, US, walked into a pub for a drink. Minutes later, the latter got shot in a racial attack by 51-year-old US Navy veteran Adam Purinton.

As the whole American-Indian community reeled in shock, Akshun Abhi decided to make a film on this tragic incident focusing on the need for reducing crime and gun violence against those perceived to belong to a particular religious community. And the result was his short film, 7 Rounds, in which the 24-year-old plays the main lead. What more, it is slated to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Born and brought up in Delhi, the actor and dancer who received his bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology in Germany and then pursued film-making in Los Angeles, is keen to make more socially relevant films for audiences all over the world. Edited excerpts from a conversation:

Tell us about ‘7 Rounds’...

I must confess that since I have personally faced similar incidents here in the US, I was able to relate to what happened in Kansas and consequently create the story of my film more realistically. The screenplay revolves around instances that showcase the growing fear in the minds of the American people, especially after the travel ban towards immigrants from countries such as Syria, Iran, Yemen and more. Indians, especially, are often mistaken for people from the Middle East or other Muslim countries and hate crimes against them have risen because of this. In my work, I have used the path of storytelling to focus on the daily struggles and problems of immigrants that are often ignored until a tragic incident happens.

Now that the film has been selected to be a part of the Cannes film festival, how does it feel?

I am absolutely delighted about it and already looking forward to being a part of the team led by our director George Savidis that will represent 7 Rounds at Festival de Cannes. We are all looking forward to learning a lot through interactions and critiques from professional and expert film-makers and participants.

How did the film-making/acting bug catch you?

It all began when, at the age of seven, I performed on stage and loved it. On growing up, while my love for acting grew too, I was still not clear about pursuing it professionally, maybe because, coming from a family of working academicians, I was geared towards following the more conventional path. This is what took me to Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, for my undergraduation degree in Biotechnology. There, despite my schedule as a researcher in the labs, my love for the performing arts started surfacing. Soon, I was not just making appearances in the theatre space on the campus, but also teaching dance for various shows, using the performing arts to showcase my own thoughts and emotions.

Was that when you moved to the US to pursue film-making as a career?

Yes, it was after graduating in August 2015 that I decided to follow my heart’s calling and took off for the New York Film Academy in the US to pursue acting with film-making as a focus. And my first production there was a short film called Hakikat-Reality based on a true incident of an untimely death. It was followed by Deceased, 4th Person and Wonders of Love: films dealing with issues such as religion, sexuality and health. It has been my aim to work on the social evils of our society. And yes, also being passionate about dancing, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of various commercial and theatrical roles soon after arriving in Los Angeles, and featured commercially with stalwarts like Trevor Noah and James Franco.

Tell us about your future plans...

I am currently in Los Angeles and will continue with my artistic journey of telling stories through acting and filmmaking. I am also working on the script for a feature film on 7 Rounds to take it to a wider set of viewers worldwide.

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