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Shiv Datta and Alyssa Sharma talk to Rosy Moorhead about landing lead roles in Naachle London
In a scene that could have come straight out of Bollywood, two teenagers sit at home, chewing their nails, waiting for the phone call that could change their lives. But the weeks of waiting are worth it - both win parts in Naachle London, the first Bollywood-style film ever to be made entirely in Britain with a British cast and crew.
"I was ecstatic when I heard," says 15-year-old GCSE pupil Shiv Datta, who lives in Pinner and goes to school in Elstree. "I’d been waiting for over a month so there was a lot of expectation building up."
His 19-year-old co-star Alyssa Sharma, from Harrow, agrees: "It was the best thing that had ever happened. The waiting was nerve-wracking but I was so excited when I heard."
Naachle London, which means Dance London, marks the launch of an exciting new genre in British film-making - Bollybrit. Alyssa explains: "It’s all completely British, but the core story of the film is Bollywood style - everybody speaks Hindi in it and it’s got the dramatic style of Bollywood."
Directed by Neville Raschid, the man behind indie Brit flicks Ealing Comedy and Lost Dogs, Naachle London is a feel-good romantic comedy drama that centres around two single, Asian parents in West London. They meet and fall in love when their children attend a Bollywood dance class in preparation for a competition at the London Mela, the largest open-air Asian music and cultural festival in Europe. Alyssa plays Krishna, the daughter of the male lead, and Shiv plays Navin, her main rival in the dance competition. As well as being your typical boy-meets-girl, world conspires to keep boy and girl apart, true love prevails narrative, the film also deals with contemporary issues facing British Asians today - the recession, interracial relationships, the stigma attached to divorcees in Asian communities, and self-esteem and acceptance issues facing modern teenagers.
It was both Shiv and Alyssa’s first time in a feature film but both have a long background in dance and a lifelong love of Bollywood films. Shiv, who has been dancing since he was six, is a member of the Sapnay School of Dance, which recently reached the semi-finals of Sky TV’s Got To Dance competition. Working on the film made him realise he wants to pursue a career in singing, dancing and acting.
"It gave me a real taste of what I want to do. I got to know how things work on set, and how particular everybody is on set! There were a lot of other kids there so it was really fun. Some bits were really glamorous and others were a bit harder work."
Alyssa, who is currently studying for a business degree at Loughborough University, has been a dancer with the Jay Kumar Dance Asia Group in Hayes since she was nine, after learning traditional Indian dancing, Kathak, in India, where she was born. Before leaving to go to university, she gave dance lessons in Harrow and Wembley and is looking to continue running classes up in Loughborough.
"If more film opportunities come along and they suit me..." she muses. "But ideally I’d like to run my own business, my own dance classes - that would be amazing."
Naachle London is showing at Cineworld, Odeon, Vue, Showcase and Empire cinemas across the UK now. Check www.naachlelondonmovie.com for details of your nearest screening.