Written by Michelle Lagravia, CNN
When Arjun Kamal was 40, he realized he was no longer an aspiring actor in Los Angeles, but rather an on-screen presence.
It was a realization that came after he directed a five-minute video for Instagram about his class for AP U.S. History. The young man, who was the school’s counselor, had been a stay-at-home dad for the last 10 years, having previously worked at a public school.
At first he had no idea he was a big deal and just wanted to give it a shot.
“My family’s mindset is just like: You’re going to do whatever you love and leave it at that,” he explained. “I didn’t realize that you have to be 10 times bigger in LA than you are in SoCal to be big. It was a huge goal of mine, and I just knew that now that I have to make it, and I had to make it, I had to channel that into this.”
During that four-day shoot, Kamal was directed by the film’s lead, Mayur Poonawalla, a former actor of Indian descent. (He says it wasn’t until Mayur asked him, “Arjun do you speak Hindi?” that he realized he was a minority in the Los Angeles area.)
So when Mayur told Kamal he was in love with the movie, Kamal immediately volunteered to be the Hindi voiceover, with the aim of making it something of a franchise.
Six years on, Arjun’s Hindi has made him a reality television star in India. He was later awarded a one-week Indian television shoot.
It happened when Kamal was invited by 20 Indian social media superstars to the Indian Film Festival in Hawaii in 2015. “I got a phone call from Manish Sharma, the chairman of Colors, this network that feeds Hindi TV, and he asked me if I’d like to do some Hindi reality TV here in India,” Kamal told CNN.
“At first I didn’t understand what I was going to be doing, how I was going to make it. But Manish’s cousin Vir Chatterjee, who was then hosting the show ‘Bigg Boss (Kharif ki Badlaam)’, told me, I’m there. I’ll be training you. You’re going to become the new villain.”
“So I signed up and I started taking classes with my friends right away. They were like: ‘Come on in! You’ll be so much better than you were before. You don’t understand what you’re going to do.’”
After he secured the deal and began working alongside Manish and the Bigg Boss crew, Kamal became all-knowing. He was either playing the villain or the protagonist in the show, and whatever the show was casting, Kamal knew.
This gave him an understanding of the nuances that all real, living, breathing Bollywood actors display — “his job is more subtle, and there are more subtleties in Hindi movies than in mainstream Hindi films,” Kamal explained.