Actor and producer Venk Potula joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss his role in Four Samosas.
The film follows wanna-be rapper Vinny (played by Venk Potula) as he is dismayed to learn that his favorite ex-girlfriend Rina is planning to marry his smarmy arch-nemesis. Determined to disrupt the wedding as well as fund the dreams of his family and friends, Vinny and his band of neighborhood pals concoct a plan to steal Rina’s dowry jewels from her father’s supermarket safe. But can this motley crew actually pull off a heist?
You can see Four Samosas at the Raindance Film Festival in October – Four Samosas + Q&A – Raindance
You play the lead role in Four Samosas. Can you tell us more about Vinny and how you connected to this character?
There’s an innocent, charming quality to Vinny that I love about him. Reading the script, I resonated with his propulsion to try to do something – anything – to get things going for him. Sometimes, we all feel stuck, and just the simple act of doing something, even if it is a ridiculous heist to stop your ex-girlfriend’s wedding because you’re still kind of in love with her – still counts as something. Yes, he’s a wanna-be rapper and insecure about his voice, but aren’t we all scared to be vulnerable and put ourselves out there? And ultimately, he’s a heartbroken guy! Who hasn’t ever been heartbroken? It makes you do crazy things. I related to that feeling of wanting to try and get someone back.
I’ve heard the film is a comedy with high emotional stakes. How did you find the balance between the two in Vinny?
The challenge with Vinny for me was balancing the comedic tone of the script while still staying true to the character’s emotional depth. On the page, the script reads funny, but at the core of the story is this heartbroken, insecure child-like rapper. It was about always keeping that emotional core intact, even in the zany moments. I had a Spotify playlist going called “Rina,” which is the name of the character Vinny is still in love with that helped me stay grounded in that place. Ravi Kapoor, the writer/director and my co-producing partner, initially gave me some great advice. He said I should never play the joke and that Vinny is essentially a dramatic character stuck in a comedy. That clicked with me.
What excited you most about this script and the opportunity to work on this project?
Working with Ravi, our cast, and our crew was a dream. I remember reading the script for the first time and laughing out loud. The chance to lead a film is one that I never had. Outside of the projects that I would write/direct, and produce, these roles didn’t show up in any audition opportunities. As a darker-skinned South Asian actor, I often get told that ‘too specific’ is to be cast in leading parts. Yet, I’ve always had a feeling in me that I had the potential to be a great leading male actor. I’m so grateful Ravi saw that in me. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Ravi’s putting his faith in me and this project. It was a no-brainer from the minute I read the script.
Can you tell us about your collaboration with director Ravi Kapoor?
I love working with Ravi! I feel fortunate that I got the chance to work with him this close, both as his lead actor and as a co-producing partner. The fact that we can make each other laugh is a real gift. Ravi has a great sense of humor about him, and we joke around often, which makes the more challenging parts of making a film more bearable. As a director, he gave me and the cast the freedom to play and be ourselves. He’s an incredibly easy-going director yet knows precisely what he wants. As an actor, you want to see that in your director, and Ravi delivers on all fronts.
What was the biggest challenge of playing Vinny?
I think because Ravi had written Vinny with me in mind to play the character, the biggest challenge was in discovering how the two of us are different. For me, the key to playing Vinny was in his walk. I walk – or maybe stomp is a better word to describe it – a lot in the film. I was able to unlock Vinny when I found the right shoes. When I slipped on the pair of white high-top Nike airforce one knock-offs, it all just clicked. I spent a lot of time just walking around as Vinny. He carries a lot of tension on his shoulders; his whole personality comes from there. It was also challenging to keep that emotional core going at all times. It’s almost like he might burst into tears at any given moment but chooses not to and covers his emotions up with a façade he puts up. Playing both those elements was a great challenge to tackle.
What type of roles would you love to take on in the coming years?
Comedy-wise, I’d love to be in a 21 Jump Street action-buddy-comedy film. I think that’d be a lot of fun. I’m also a huge fan of Rowan Atkinson-style physical comedy. I grew up loving Rowan Atkinson and Jim Carrey and would love to lean into a solid oddball character who isn’t afraid to be themselves.
And eventually, I’d like to tackle more serious characters and themes within the films I choose. I resonate with underdog stories and characters who are deeply flawed. I’m not afraid to go for it. The way I see it – I have nothing to lose. I’d also love to do more theater. I studied theater classically at UCLA and always resonated with Richard III. I’d love to play that role when the time comes.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
Look – this may sound crazy, but to put it out there – I want to become a role model for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider and had a dream to try something nobody ever thought they could do. I want to keep telling diverse and authentic stories from people who usually never get the chance to have their voices heard. Projects not only celebrate our differences but also reveal our humanity in a way that brings us closer together. I have a film that I’ve co-written about a South Asian music manager who discovers he has a 13-year-old Mexican half-sister he never knew he had who also happens to be an incredible singer. But I’m also thinking big! Listen – whenever they make the South Asian superhero movie, maybe I’d throw on the cape and save the world too. That’d be pretty incredible.
Title photo by Nerris Nevarez-Nassiri
See Four Samosas at Raindance – Four Samosas + Q&A – Raindance
Follow Venk on Instagram – ᴠᴇɴᴋ ᴘᴏᴛᴜʟᴀ (@venkpotula) • Instagram photos and videos
Keep up with Four Samosas on Instagram – Four Samosas | A Heist Film (@foursamosas) • Instagram photos and videos