Breaking into creative industries is not an easy feat. So it was an honour that director, producer and scriptwriter Atul Malhotra joined me in the studio on the day of his film release ‘Amar, Akbar and Tony’, and an opportunity to go down memory lane to the success he is today.

Equally as tough to break into is the acting industry. British film and TV actress Laura Aikman also sat on the Zee Companion sofa and talked us through her storyline in the film and the story of her journey as an actress.

‘Amar, Akbar and Tony’ is a British film about three friends living in London. The story spans over ten years of their lives, from finding love to growing through challenging situations. Atul explained the film has a real ‘feel-good factor’ about it.

Atul described the film as a British one, so I wanted to know if he ever fights against the ‘Asian’ in ‘British Asian’. He simply replied it is a British film and Asians are a part of Britain. The film is about three friends, it is not exclusively a story about British Asians. And it is not something he fights against – evident as the film encompasses aspects of Bollywood movies with music being integral to the movie. The music score and songs in the film are written and produced by Rishi Rich.

On this note, Laura also stated that when reading the script she liked that it was about three guys from London. She didn’t look at it as ticking a box and being about multiculturalism.

As many of us know, diversity is a big issue for Asians and minority ethnic groups trying to break into creative industries. I asked if she thought some scripts are too limiting because they are culturally different. She said she has never had an issue with cultural differences because acting is just telling the story of the writer. She judges a script on the story it tells.

Laura told us that the biggest challenge she has faced as an actress is actually getting work! There are a lot of actors and actresses and all trying to get work, so you have to stand out. She suggested standing out by doing the work and not being lazy. Learn audition lines and own the role.

In fact, Laura did just that for her audition for ‘Amar, Akbar and Tony’. Atul explained how she had learnt the lines of the script and owned that one role so that anybody who auditioned after her just didn’t fit the bill.

Atul gave us some top tips for filmmakers too:

  • It is not all glamorous so don’t go into it thinking it will be glamorous
  • Be prepared to work long hours
  • Make contacts and network
  • Develop thick skin
  • Keep at it
  • Develop a skill-set, especially how to use Edit Suite. This will ensure you’ll know exactly what the end product will look like while you are filming.

Laura also suggested writing and developing your own scripts. Many women complain about not being able to find work so sometimes it’s best to write your own script. And mostly, be proud of your contribution to any work you do.

With so much useful advice, I wanted to know more about where they had learnt their pearls of wisdom.

Laura’s father is a stuntman and so she used to join him on set when she was small. When she was 17, she left school and her final year of A Levels to take a job at the BBC. I exclaimed that is a massive deal to just leave your A Levels in final year! But she said it was a job she really wanted and so you couldn’t really rationalise it.

Atul comes from a family who don’t have a background in film-making or the Arts, so he knew his journey would be difficult. While studying Law, he applied for film school to see if he’d get in – which he did. It was more the step of leaving Law to study film that clarified this was the direction he wanted to go in.

His family were more concerned than lacking encouragement. He just had to reassure them. On the inside he knew where he is going but that it is going to be hard.

His film reflects his own life of growing up in West London. He stated that he couldn’t recognise or relate to any of the characters in TV and film, and the Asian characters were not given enough scope. So he hopes he has rectified this in his film.

After a positive and fun chat, we ended the show on a high. I asked both of them ‘what is the best advice you have received?’

Atul: “Stay balanced.” It can be consuming so don’t take things personally and stay grounded.

Laura: “don’t do what you’re good at, do what you love.” She stated: “I’d rather go to work every day and have a great time than go to work every day and hate it but come back rich.”