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An Interview with Kumar Pallana

Kumar Pallana is a man of many talents. With a career spanning decades, he has been an actor, acrobat, philosopher and a master of the Indian martial art of kalaripayattu.

He is most widely known for his acting roles in Wes Anderson films such as “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”, and “The Darjeeling Limited”. I recently had the honor of interviewing him and was struck by his warmth, wit, and wisdom.

He shared stories of his long, storied career, his time in Hollywood, and the importance of staying true to yourself. His insight and humor made the conversation a delightful one and I am pleased to share with you a glimpse into the life of Kumar Pallana.

Overview of Pallana’s Career

Kumar was born in 1943 in the coastal village of Ullal, located in the state of Karnataka, India. After graduating from high school, he received a degree in fine arts from a university in New Delhi.

He soon thereafter began working at the Rajkamal Kalaripayattu Academy in Mysore, where he remained for 13 years. During this time, he also worked as an acrobat and performer.

During one of his performances, he was discovered by the director of the Indian Theatre who invited him to join the Indian National Theatre.

Kumar then moved to Bombay and became a lead actor in several films produced by the legendary filmmaker Guru Dutt, one of Bollywood’s greatest directors.

He starred in numerous Bollywood films throughout the 1970s, including “Namkeen” (1974), “Doorwaan” (1975), and “Ek Phool To Aisi” (1975).

His Transition to Hollywood

In the 1980s, Kumar was invited to New York to appear in a production of “The Mahabharata” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He remained in the United States, where he continued to act in Bollywood productions and in Hollywood films.

He appeared in films such as “The Freshman” (1990), “City Slickers II” (1994), and “The Ghost and the Darkness” (1996). In the 2000s, he began getting roles in films directed by Wes Anderson. In “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001), he played the role of a hotel manager.

In “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004), he played the part of a scientist. In “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007), he was featured as a train station master.

What It Was Like Working With Wes Anderson

Kumar has worked with Anderson on a few films throughout his career, and he recounted a funny story about working on “The Darjeeling Limited”. He was filming a scene where he was supposed to act as though he was very sick.

To create this effect on the film set, he ate a big bowl of chili peppers. He ended up getting so sick that he had to be taken to the hospital. He got better and then went back to the set to finish the scene, but he had to do it sitting down.

After the scene was finished, he had to be taken back to the hospital to get the chili peppers removed from his system. This anecdote illustrates the sort of creative atmosphere in which Anderson likes to work.

Kumar said that Anderson is very hands-off and doesn’t micromanage his actors. He likes to let his actors do their own thing and improvise, which is a very comfortable environment for Kumar, who has always been a big fan of improv.

In fact, he thinks improv is important for everybody to practice, regardless of what profession you’re in.

What He Learned From His Hollywood Experience

One of the biggest lessons Kumar learned from his time in Hollywood was that it’s important to know who you are. He said that many people in the film industry are very insecure and anxious about the future.

They are constantly worried about what people think of them, what will happen to their careers, and so on. He said that it’s important to have a little bit of confidence in yourself and know who you are.

That way you’re not going to get caught up in all that craziness. He recalled an instance when he was on the set of a film and the crew was talking about how they were going to lose their jobs once the film was done filming.

He said that he felt bad for them and tried to comfort them by telling them that they shouldn’t worry because they were great at what they did. He said that they didn’t even understand what he was trying to tell them because they were so caught up in their own insecurities.

Advice for Aspiring Actors

Kumar gave a great piece of advice for aspiring actors. He said that actors should work really hard and really know their craft. He said that actors should also be really patient.

He said that it can take a long time to get a big break, so actors have to be ready to wait for that break to come. Kumar also said that actors should be a sponge, always ready to learn new things.

He said that when he got his first big break in Hollywood, many of his fellow actors were upset about it because they had been working for a long time and it hadn’t happened for them yet.

Kumar said those people were being silly because they should be excited for anybody who gets a break like that. He said that he was excited for his fellow actors, but they were upset and sulky.

Kumar said that those people should have just been happy and ready to learn from him. He said that actors should always be ready to learn and take in as much knowledge as they can from the people around them.

His Thoughts on the Importance of Staying True to Yourself

Kumar said that he’s been very lucky with his career because he has always stayed true to himself. He said that if you try to be somebody that you’re not, you’re going to mess things up and make a fool of yourself.

He said that people who thrive in the film industry are the ones who are themselves and don’t care what anybody thinks about them. He said that you have to have confidence in yourself and be comfortable with who you are.

You have to be okay with being different from everybody else and not trying to be like everybody else. He said that this comes from having self-respect, which is one of the most important things in life.

His Philosophy on Life

Kumar said that he has found that the best way to be happy is to not listen to what other people are saying. He said that people are always judging one another and trying to put each other down.

He said that people try to put him down by saying he’s old or that he doesn’t act well anymore. He said that he doesn’t let that get to him because he knows that they’re just jealous of him.

Kumar said that he has tried to live his life the way he wants to, not the way other people want him to. He said that many of his fellow actors and friends tried to tell him how to do things and give him advice, but he just ignored them and did his own thing.

He said that he feels that people have a tendency to try to control other people’s lives, and that’s not a good thing. He said that people should just let other people live their lives the way they want to.

How He Maintains a Positive Outlook

One of the most important things for Kumar to maintain a positive outlook has been the practice of yoga. He has been meditating and doing yoga for the past 50 years, and he said that it has really helped him out.

He also said that he’s found a lot of refuge in music. He said that he listens to a lot of John Lennon and Beatles music, as he loves how positive their music is. He said that he listens to this music every day to help stay positive and happy.

Kumar said that he has found great solace in music throughout his life. He said that it has helped him be comfortable with himself and not worry about what other people think about him.

He said that music has also helped him cope with the craziness and insanity of the world we live in.

Closing Thoughts

Kumar Pallana is a man of many talents. With a career spanning decades, he has been an actor, acrobat, philosopher and a master of the Indian martial art of kalaripayattu. He is most widely known for his acting.

 

One of the biggest lessons Kumar learned from his time in Hollywood was that it’s important to know who you are. He said that many people in the film industry are very insecure and anxious about the future.

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