Photo by Kevin Clark, IMDB
One thing magazines love to do is call dibs on who will be the new “it girl” in the year or years to come. We at DARPAN Magazine are no different. Sometimes we pick – up and comers, whose careers are destined to take off; occasionally we make incredible calls with near-nobodies who later become A- listers, and sometimes picks fade into oblivion. However, sometimes, you meet multi-talented individuals, who have that elusive spark and you know in some form they will do something incredible in something, even if it is not all encompassing to your article. If I was a betting woman, Sandy Sidhu is destined to make strides in her acting pursuits, if not – then she will succeed in something incredible.
Well who is this Sandy Sidhu? She is a bona fide breakout actress, who happens to be South Asian. Witty (if you know me – you know I appreciate this quality), easy on the eyes, grateful for every opportunity, and above all very optimistic. When I interviewed her, she was buzzing from anticipation to rub shoulders with festival attendees and live the experience of her first TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). If you haven’t heard of Sidhu yet, remember her name. This acting, singing, dancing phenom has her eyes set out to carve out her own niche and contribute to the profession of acting.
Born and raised in Nanaimo, BC – Sidhu was always drawn to the creative. Her first memories are of drawing at the age of three. It wasn’t until she was in high school and her first drama production of “West Side Story” that she found her curiosity for acting was quenchable. She continued acting, singing and dancing at her high school’s annual musicals. “I was filled with passion and drawn to develop my skills.” So she forged on and was guided by her drama teacher and later coached by a professional acting coach in Vancouver.
From here, she moved to Los Angeles and studied at the legendary, Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. “I knew it would be really hard work, I went on tons of auditions, which was a great learning experience.” Sandy took a brief interlude from acting when she entered the spotlight and represented her hometown as the Nanaimo Princess Ambassador from 2003-2004. However, her passion for acting propelled her to do pursue it professionally. “I admit I was really green, I had no idea what I was really supposed to do. I just knew I had to get an agent and get headshots done.”
So what was her first lucky break? Credits for Sidhu include a recurring role in the hit science fiction series “SGU Stargate Universe” as Dr. Mehta, the right-hand girl to veteran actor and star of 80’s blockbuster, ‘La Bamba’, Lou Diamond Phillips. Followed by a Canadian series, “Shattered.” Sidhu has also moved into producing and developing a dramedy television series.
You may be wondering why this actress is jet-setting across Canada to TIFF. Well, Sidhu and other cast and production are gearing up to launch their short film, Afternoon Tea at TIFF. Sidhu plays the role of Priya. The film is best described as a contemporary tale of generational and cultural differences with sensitivity and subtlety. Afternoon Tea follows an Indian grandfather, who has no family left and lives alone secluded from society. Unbeknownst to him, his life will change when a seemingly lost boy comes to his home asking to use his phone. He is unaware that this boy is not whom he appears to be and holds a secret that will change him forever.
The film has been selected for this year’s Shorts Cut Canada Programme at the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival, which is running September 8th – 18th, 2011. Afternoon Tea is among the 40 short films selected. The film has a running time of 13 minutes, was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, and stars the local actress along with other Vancouver talent. “Afternoon Tea is a beautiful, sad, yet inspiring story that provokes self-reflection,” says Sidhu.
With her diversified looks and talent, she has recently booked several commercials and print ads. She noted that she enjoys singing and dancing and wants to delve into learning the art form of classical Indian dance, but her passion remains with acting. “I want to be a part of projects that push boundaries, break stereotypes, and aim to evolve film as an art form is incredibly rewarding.” says Sidhu “I hope that I can create work that an audience will connect to. That’s the ultimate goal.”
We have interviewed many individuals over the years and I always like to ask, “How was this path received by your parents?” Sidhu was quick to answer and reassure me that her parents are supportive and that she is aware that anytime a South Asian steps out of what is considered a normal pursuit there is a chance it will not be well received. She also interjected that the acting industry is a challenging field and without the support of her parents she would have had added stress and most likely would not have pursued it. “I am very lucky to have parents who have accepted my career path. I think they have always known I would end up doing something in the creative field. It definitely was not a surprise.”
I always like to follow up the parent question with how other South Asians receive an individual, who has chosen to do something against the traditional grain. Sidhu quipped in that it’s important that we all support one another. She followed it up with – that in her mind, it is positive and perhaps that is because that is the perspective she has chosen. In a subsequent question, we move into the mainstream success of South Asians in movies and television. Sidhu points out that she has seen a wider acceptance, even on a local Vancouver level for more East Indian or South Asian casting in roles other than stereotypical roles of the past. She believes that because of the ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ of the movie industry garnering commercial success it ripples into the industry and benefits indie actors like herself.
My advice for Sidhu and her TIFF experience was simple – Try to attend some of the festival parties, say hello to Frieda Pinto, and of course enjoy the whole experience, because it will be the first of many to come. On a final note, in between a few giggles and laughs, Sidhu’s answer to my question of her traversing into the world of Bollywood acting – was that acting is universal. In her opinion Bollywood is the height of escapism and is willing to try her hand at it, if an opportunity presented itself; however, being in Vancouver presently, she feels she might be slightly out of touch from that type of acting right now. In my opinion, for now, at least until September 18 – Sidhu is only focused on TIFF – I’m not going to lie, I can’t blame her.