Following its explosive premieres at this year’s Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals, the New Jersey hip hop drama PATTI CAKE$ is now set to release in U.S. theaters starting next week on August 18 led by cast members Danielle Macdonald and Siddharth Dhananjay. The acclaimed film will open in additional cities the following week and on Labor Day weekend. Born in India and raised in Indonesia, Siddharth is now taking on Hollywood. Variety calls it  “One of the years most endearing discoveries.”–By Zofeen Maqsood

Credit: Danielle Macdonald as "Patti" and Siddharth Dhananjay as "Jeri" in PATTI CAKE$. Photo by Jeong Park.

Credit: Danielle Macdonald as “Patti” and Siddharth Dhananjay as “Jeri” in PATTI CAKE$. Photo by Jeong Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hip-hop movie Patti Cake$ has been gathering rave reviews at important film festivals such as Sundance and Cannes.  Siddharth Dhananjay who debuts in the lovable character of Jheri in the movie is positive that the gritty story of unlikely heroes will leave a mark. He describes himself on Twitter as a ‘Brown boy actor,’ and his story is the stuff many immigrant dreams are made of. Siddharth Dhananjay, a hobby rapper had finished university in America and was toying with his professional options, when he landed himself a cool Hollywood role, without as much as asking for it! Dhananjay who plays Jheri, in movie, has his eyes set firmly on Hollywood right now. But like a good Indian boy, he promises to come back to Bollywood once he’s successful in Hollywood. The 24-year-old, LA based actor chats with Bibi about his surreal journey full of surprise and luck… all in good measure!

Credit: Danielle Macdonald as "Patti" and Siddharth Dhananjay as "Jeri" in PATTI CAKE$. Photo by Jeong Park.

Credit: Danielle Macdonald as “Patti” and Siddharth Dhananjay as “Jeri” in PATTI CAKE$. Photo by Jeong Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The film charts the journey of a white overweight girl — Patti (played by Danielle Macdonald) trying to find a footing in a music industry where people like her are treated as outliers. Are there any parallels that you draw from the movie from your real life too — as a brown boy coming to America, making rap and trying to fit in? Well, I would say there are certainly a lot of parallels.  When I came to the US to study at the university, I had no idea what I am going to do with my life. We did rap because we just enjoyed doing it. It caught attention and motivated us to do more. It was a twist of fate that I landed here. But the good part is just like in the movie in the end what matters is your dreams and what you can achieve not withstanding who you are or where you came from.

You started making parody rap, while still in college. Now this isn’t really an ideal vocation or hobby traditionally adopted by ‘good South Asian boys,’ coming to make a life in America. How did that happen? It was just about a bunch of us friends trying to be funny. We put the video online and didn’t think much until it began getting attention. I would say that it was just some harmless fun. I am glad that it got me this offer.

In one of the opening scenes in the movie an eatery owner refers you as ‘Bollywood.’ Have you in real life experienced such instances of everyday racism in America? The situation in the movie actually shows how sometimes even when everything seems good on the surface you have these moments of subtle insults as an ‘outsider.’ And while you do get your slice of pizza and life goes on, it highlights the warped reminders. In real life though, I would say because I came as a student and was always moving around with American friends may be I didn’t experience it that much. Perhaps now because I have an American accent I may be perceived to be an ‘insider.’

Credit: Danielle Macdonald as "Patti" and Siddharth Dhananjay as "Jeri" in PATTI CAKE$. Photo by Jeong Park.

Credit: Danielle Macdonald as “Patti” and Siddharth Dhananjay as “Jeri” in PATTI CAKE$. Photo by Jeong Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your big Bollywood break has been quite democratic. You got a random email asking if you will essay a role in a Hollywood movie. Millions of immigrants would want to be in your shoes. Was it overwhelming? It was indeed quite democratic and if that wouldn’t have happened my plan was to move back to India and find a job in technical film making process in India. I haven’t had the time to look back and ponder on it, as it has been a whirlwind. But yes I am enjoying every minute of it.

You have spoken about your visa issues. Apparently you still don’t have the O1 visa required for immigrant actors in USA. Does it frustrate you? It is not frustrating but something that is the part and parcel of the game. When you have an Indian passport, you know you have to plan ahead. Visas are complicated processes but having lived with it I am used to it and would never give up my Indian passport for anything in the world.

These are interesting times for South Asians in Hollywood. The token ‘ethnic’ parts being played by actors of color has today has transformed into big-league roles with the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Ali Fazal and Kumail Nanjiani. What does the future look like to you? It is a very optimistic time. The work that has been offered to all these people including Dev Patel and even Deepika Padukone shows that the time when Hollywood just wanted a piece of brown action with a very undefined space is now over. The token diversity is no longer the truth and we need to push it further in the right direction.

What are your future projects. Any Bollywood plans in the future? My biggest project right now is my visa so that I am free to do acting roles in Hollywood. As for Bollywood – one day for sure. May be, I want to be Priyanka Chopra in reverse. I want to kill it here first and then head home to Bollywood!

In the movie you don’t really have a love interest…any romance brewing in real life? Aah.. I wouldn’t want to talk about my relationship status just as of now. I would say, no comments for now.

 

Watch the full theatrical trailer of PATTI CAKE$:

 

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