Actor. Writer. Whatever.
Kantayya is, as the title suggests, an actor and a writer, but her face is not plastered all over the tabloids. She is a different kind of actor, a – as she herself admits – less successful one. This lends a unique angle to her quasi-memoir. This is not a story of her rise to the top but rather of her experiences in the middle. This is an aspect of the entertainment industry that is not often explored, and it is fascinating.
Her tales of being an “under five” (lines, that is) on a soap opera and of struggling through a truly awful acting teacher’s class are candid and endearing, and they provide readers with the more commonly experienced but less frequently discussed parts of being an actor. Kantayya tells these stories with a whimsical charm that makes even the hardest parts of the job seem oddly enviable.
While most of the essays sparkle with wit and joy, my favorite piece is a more serious dialogue about race. She talks about her feelings toward stereotyped roles and being an actress of Indian descent in a post-9/11 America. This particular essay is as enjoyable as the rest, but it could also be critically discussed in many a college classroom. Leaning on personal experience, she deftly explores the trickier parts of the race discussion and how it feels to be hired (yay!) but only to play a typecast part (boo).
Tied together by a loose chronology, these stories lack a narrative arc (as Kantayya herself admits). This book is not about a larger traditional story but is rather a multi-angled look at the illogical, ever-present drive to create. The writing is approachable and entertaining, and the topics are varied enough that everyone should be able to find something of interest. Still, there are a few weak spots (a short piece about oversharing on Facebook seems particularly overdone), and I think traditionalists will wonder what the point is. The point is, of course, entertainment, and perhaps a friendly warning to those hoping to make it big in the movie business. In that, Kantayya is certainly successful.
February 25th 2013
Ako Dako Press