New Delhi, Feb 19: He could've made a living out of his passion for acting in his native Mumbai, provided "nepotism" in the Indian film industry hadn't driven him away. Lavrenti Lopes, who is originally from Goa but who now works in Hollywood, says showbiz back home is tougher for an "outsider" like him.
Born and raised in Mumbai, Lopes, whose parents are from Goa, shifted base to New York in 2007 to pursue his dreams. There, life took a dramatic turn for him and he landed roles in "Afghan Hound", "Love, Lies and Seeta" and "Desperate Endeavors".
The alumnus of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute is now set to feature as a solo lead in English language film "The Mad Ones" this year.
"Growing up, I watched an equal amount of Indian movies as Hollywood movies. There's a lot of nepotism in the Indian industry and since I don't come from a film family, I didn't really know the way to get in or the dos and don'ts of the Indian film industry," Lopes told IANS in an email interaction from New York.
"When it comes to the industry in the US, it's very much based on merit. If you were to compare the number of actors in India that come from film families versus America, you'd know what I'm talking about," added the 27-year-old.
It may hold true - be it Bollywood or the film industry down South, a majority of reigning stars have a film lineage and what many rue as "godfathers".
But keeping that aside, Lopes is a "big fan of Indian movies".
"As an actor, I'm also an artist and there's a certain new brand of Indian cinema that has developed in recent years that is very commendable because it's not afraid to break the mould.
"I think Aamir Khan, Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi have been championing this brand of cinema for years through their work, which is why I look up to them," he said.
Lopes briefly followed his career choice in Mumbai as part of the theatre circuit before he flew abroad. His move was also influenced by the dearth of a "a good education system for performing arts in India".
"Education in India is very cheap...Unfortunately, India doesn't have a good education system for performance arts," said the young actor, who was burdened by the cost of his course in New York when he first came here.
There were also work visa hassles apart from the burdens that go with being an actor. But they only made him stronger and more resilient.
"I think these obstacles make you appreciate every accomplishment, no matter how small or big," said Lopes, whose first project was "subHysteria", a Venezuelan feature film.
The decision to shift to New York, he said, was "impulsive", but he treated it like a "learning ground" where when he started actively pursuing work, "it was only obvious to move to Hollywood".
His next project, "The Mad Ones", is a story about three 20-year-old people trying to find meaning in their work and life in the digital age. He plays an Indian named Nitin.
With established Indian actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan now finding space in Hollywood films, Lopes agreed that "there are definitely a lot more opportunities for Indian actors today than even five years ago".
"Years ago, it used to be that the only time you saw an Indian was if there was a cab driver in the scene. That has changed significantly. And part of it is a societal change; and the art, albeit delayed, reflects that.
"Today it is perfectly common to see an inter-racial couple in real life and the art is slowly catching on. It's also great to have more Indians part of the creation process. The director of 'The Mad Ones', Aniruddh Pandit is an Indian-American. And we need more people like him to stir a different thinking," Lopez concluded.
(Nivedita can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)