Interview: Actor Samir Stewart on his role in Manan Katohora's 9 ELEVEN, his background and upcoming projects

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Samir StewartWashington DC, May 8, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) Samir Stewart plays a prominent role in Manan Singh Katohora's award-winning Hindi-language feature film "9 eleven" which will premiere at the first Washington DC South Asian Film Festival (DCSAFF) next month. The film is completely shot around DC and is available for watching online via streaming from Databazaar Media. Gurjeet Singh caught up with Samir in Washington DC on a cool overcast spring afternoon and a wide-ranging conversation about Samir's background, acting experience and his role in 9 Eleven and other projects ensued.

Before migrating to the United States in 1992, Mumbai-born Samir Stewart lived in different parts of India. He went to boarding schools (Lawrence School at Sanawar, Lawrence School at Lovedale and The Blue Mountains School in Ooty), and later spent some time in Bangalore. He studied Mass Communications and Information Sciences in India, and studied Financial Economics and International Relations in the US. He is currently an economist with the World Bank.

Samir has taken an active interest in acting from a very young age - right from his days at Blue Mountains he would participate in dormitory shows. A big event those days was watching moving on a color TV once a month, and Samir found himself engrossed in the acting prowess of the actors in films. He still distinctly remembers being particularly influenced by David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Ronald Neame's The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

Samir went on to act on stage in a fair number of stage productions. By age 15, he was acting in dozens of college productions, including Agatha Christie's famous play "Spider's Web", plays by George Bernard Shaw, and even a musical. He also appeared in four episodes in a TV Series "South Parader" on STAR TV in 1993 where he played the only ethical cricketer in an otherwise corrupt team. That series was directed by Mohena Singh, assistant director to Sridhar Kshirsagar of Khandaan and Ghar Jamai fame.

Trailer: 9 ELEVEN

After a break, Samir returned to acting in 2007 with a double role in an English multimedia play screened at the Capitol Theater Film Festival in here in Washington DC. He subsequently appeared in three 48-hour films (The 48-hour film project challenges film-makers to make a movie — write, shoot, edit and score it — in just 48 hours, based on a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre to include in their movie.) As a matter of fact, Samir joins us a day after he finished shooting for another 48-hour film which also will be screened in a week.

In Manan Singh Katohora's "9 Eleven", Samir plays a Mumbai cop who is strong and has an analytical mind and a reasoned approach in the face of confusing and terrible things happening around him. To portray this character, he spent quite some time trying to visualizing and think what a real cop would feel in such a situation. Samir is fairly analytical in real life with a sense of right and wrong, and he personally likes to reason out of challenging situations - attributes that were needed in plenty in his role. Part of his role was also to portray a certain amount of calm and steadfastness while other characters were in various stages of emotional frenzy.

Manan did not reveal the last 10 pages of the script even to his cast members before the last week of shooting. Samir admits to have been wrong in his guess of how the film would end, and Manan's masterstroke of the twist in the tale caught him by as much surprise as the films viewers. The film is a true thriller, where viewers are really kept guessing on what would happen next.

- Article by Supratim Sanyal

Editor's note: Gurjeet Singh is a Financial Analyst by profession and lives in Germantown, Maryland in the Washington DC metro area. A great enthusiast of Indian-American cultural exchanges, Gurjeet is also an avid  music lover. In her free time she dabs in some water color painting and loves to go on long walks. Gurjeet can be reached at guri070555 [at] yahoo [dot] com.