IFC’s quirky heist comedy Four Samosas tells the story of a South Asian American wanna-be rapper in Little India, who plans a robbery in an attempt to win back his ex-girlfriend. This stylized and low-stakes caper centers around Vinny (Venk Potula), a man who is struggling with a lack of ambition after a bad breakup, who, upon learning that his ex is engaged, feels a call to action to disrupt her plans. Along with three friends, he plans to rob a grocery store owned by her father and steal her wedding diamonds. While nothing quite goes according to plan, watching Vinny and his friend’s attempt is nothing short of delightful.
The film is written and directed by Ravi Kapoor (who also plays a small role) and stars Venk Potula (Veep) with a strong ensemble cast of Sonal Shah, Sharmita Bhattacharya, Nirvan Patnaik, Karan Soni, Summer Bishil, and Meera Simha. Four Samosas is Executive Produced by actor and rapper Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project).
Forbes spoke to Potula and Kapoor about how they deal with creative blocks. We also discussed what inspired the theatricality of the film and how the concept originated.
Risa Sarachan: Can you tell about how you got involved with the film?
Venk Potula: When Ravi sent me an early draft of the script, I instantly resonated with the role of Vinny and the offbeat comedic tone of Ravi’s writing. I’ve always loved heist films and connected with the heartbroken rapper trying to hustle his way to get his ex back. When Ravi offered me the role, I was honored but equally surprised when he also asked if I would co-produce the film with him.
In my career, I’ve always produced my own content, from short films to scripted podcasts, so while I was a bit nervous about starring in and producing my first feature film, I also felt ready for the challenge.
Sarachan: Did you relate at all to your character feeling creativity stuck and needing community to help him through? What do you do as an actor when feeling stuck?
Potula: Absolutely. Getting creatively stuck is a natural part of the process, but leaning on community helps provide needed perspective and clarity. If I’m feeling stuck as an actor, it’s usually because I’m in my head or overthinking the scene. I find it best to slow down my breath, feel the air around me, and connect back to the present moment. I’m also a fan of using music to help me sink into character. I created a Spotify playlist for Vinny of what he’d be listening to. In this case, it was a combination of 1980s gangster rap and cheesy 2000s heartbreak songs.
Sarachan: What was your favorite scene to film in Four Samosas?
Potula: I know! Everyone in our cast and our crew was a joy to work with. My favorite scene to film was Vinny’s first scene with his father, the priest character played by Ravi. After working so closely with Ravi through the entire process of producing the film together, I found working one-on-one with one of my role models as an actor was an amazing moment for me.
Sarachan: Did you draw on the performances of any favorite Indian rappers as you prepared for this?
Potula: I’m always inspired by the South Asian rappers in our community doing their thing. I’d like to think ‘Big Boy Vin’ is an original attempt from yours truly, but I’m sure my favorite artists found a way to slip in. People like Tesher, UTK, Raja Kumari, Ali Sethi, Anik Khan, and RMS from New Jersey are all artists I’m a fan of.
Sarachan: I love that this totally altered my concept of what a heist film could look like. Where did you come up with the concept?
Ravi Kapoor: I’d always wanted to do a low-fi quirky heist movie with no guns or car chases or fancy gadgets, and instead hone in on a bunch of amateurs doing a DIY theft, where the physical stakes are low, but the emotional stakes are high. And I’d also wanted to do something set in Artesia, LA’s “Little India,” which has always felt like a world unto itself, and to heighten that world even more. So, it was a bit of a “God. I must be a genius” moment when I decided to put those two together.
Sarachan: I loved the highly-stylized look of the film and the performances. What inspired you with these bold choices?
Kapoor: I find myself drawn to movies where the visuals and the performance style are pushed beyond the natural. I love things with a sense of theatricality, and that exudes something of a circus vibe. I’m always looking for a way to insert some vaudevillian Buster Keaton stylings into my work, and also to celebrate performance itself as something that can be empowering. But basically, nothing gives me more joy than a well-executed emotionally ladened pratfall.
Sarachan: This is such a strong ensemble piece. How did you go about casting it?
Kapoor: We basically didn’t audition at all, and most of the roles were straight offers to people we knew and admired, and had no doubt they’d be nutso brilliant. And I’d written the lead role with Venk in mind knowing he’d kill it, in the best possible way.
Sarachan: What kind of reactions has the film generated?
Potula: Very positive! You know it’s a good sign when the laughs in the theater get collectively louder as the movie goes on. What I’ve really appreciated about the reactions is that it’s being embraced by all communities. Everyone can lock into a different part of the movie, which is true because there are so many elements to the film! I’m always fascinated to hear who everyone’s favorite characters are and why. Each character in the film is unique, and there’s such an ensemble that it’s fun to see who people connect with the most.
Kapoor: What’s been awesome is that the film is being loved by not just South Asian audiences but also anyone that digs an offbeat comedy with a bit of a love story, while getting it all wrapped up in this very unique world of curry houses and Indian grocery stores.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Four Samosas opens December 2nd from IFC Films in theaters and on demand.
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