As I met this 6 ‘lanky, Leonian, an actor, character, producer, script writer and director for a maiden interface, I found him busy with his present assignment of shooting a new Punjabi film as a director in our area.
After exchange of pleasantries, we settled for a talk. To walk the talk, I queried this “product of Hollywood” where he took the first breath of his life, and he informed that he was born in Village Dhugga (Distt. Hoshiarpur (Pb.). His rev. father Sr. Bakhshish Singh Dhugga– a military officer and mother Mrs. Gurwant Kaur, a homemaker, led him to England where he grew and studied up. This Punjabi Putre is a Post Graduate in Industrial Engg. He did Masters in Theatre Arts also to follow his passion.
Nowadays, Films and Television have become, what I like to say, “Microwave Media,” though majority of matured audiences like the stuff which is well prepared in the oven; giving the production a time to simmer on the burner of time to let the juices flowing- and slow-cook to perfection. May be, your nod is with me now, as I venture to write that a script is a film’s recipe. This recipe is just a piece of paper to the novice cook, but even a recipe needs time, beyond an iota of doubt, to be perfected- in deft and well directed hands -before it’s given to the masses for mental consumption and ultimate relaxation. The 4 -decade experience of Kavi Raj, a Hollywood actorturned story -writer and Director is indeed a force to reckon with in the present scenario -ushering in a change.
When I asked, why he chose this passion, this industry, this profession, named Theatre, He stated “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms; the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
To pursue his interests, after completion of education, he moved to Hollywood – the Mecca of film making and opened his own theatre company named Wandering Players’ Theatre Company. The company staged several World and US premieres of plays from India. Western audiences were exposed to the works of Rabindranath Tagore for the first time, in addition to plays like Sakharam Binder and Shakuntala.
This was the first professional South Asian theatre company in the USA. This company staged more than 50 Stage Plays down the lane of time. To date he has acted in more than 250 English Films and TV shows. This humongous effort deserve appreciation from any angle.
He became the first ever South Asian actor to be signed on as a regular in a major TV series, St. Elsewhere. He was a cast member for the first two seasons of the medical drama, and after being let go continued to appear on a recurring basis.
Raz has appeared in over 200 plays, TV shows and films, including guest appearances on The A-Team, M*A*S*H and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the last 10 years he is into the direction field of Film making.
Raz began his career as a filmmaker with The Gold Bracelet, a movie about a Sikh man faced with the realities of post-9/11. Among the enormous work he has done, few of his achievements -as a director -are Ut-infra:
• The Black Prince
• Barefoot warriors
At present he is busy making another Punjabi movie Sarabha- Cry for Freedom.
Passionately, I feel, life is a moving picture, of which everyone is the writer, director, performer, producer and critic also of his own film called life. When I said these words to him, he stated with a long pause, half lost in reminiscing of his past life to date, “If anyone wants to be a good actor or director in films, firstly one has to see life, secondly see movies/theatre, thirdly read literature and at last talk to the masses about their series of experiences. If someone does not follow this path dedicatedly, persistently and consistently, then he/she becomes an average director. An average director directs. A good director leads and follows at the same time; whereas, a great director gives life to a work of art- gives it a heartbeat… a pulse… opens its eyes to the world of viewing.”
True to his name Kavi, being a script writer, himself, births the baby, then a Producer decides to raise the child/ produce the film and sends it off to the school of production. Since- in some cases-he writes the script or screenplay of the play/ drama/ movie[s] etc., then his direction effort becomes near-perfect because he already imagined each shot nicely in his mind while writing the story/screenplay. He even has an image of the artiste who is going to play the particular role; that is why the final product is worth producing.
A film is – or should be – more music based than like a fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings on silver screen. The theme behind the emotion, the meaning, all those things come along as a total package. Normally, an artist does not create, God creates it. But an artiste earns, learns, visualise, assemble or may I venture to say- copy or snip from here, there and everywhere to do justice to the character in mind. While talking to himself/herself an artist keeps telling that: Let me act well, my part; there all the honour lies.
On sports front he is fond of Field Hockey, Football and volleyball. In Field Hockey he was captain of the team in USA at National level. On health front, the secret of his good health is being easy going and preferring healthy food- being health conscious.
When I requested him to articulate about his 40 years tryst with Hollywood industry, he stated, “I really feel satisfied and enjoyed working and living there in succession. Industry is very up to date, competitive and amazing with all the logistics in place.”
When I asked him, after 10 years where he sees himself; humbly he quipped, “Health permitting, I want to do meaningful Cinema in Punjabi, Hindi and English languages at international level to educate/entertain the masses.
With Kavi Raz now finally focussing on Punjabi cinema, we can thoughtfully expect some good stuff down the lane of time. What fascinates me about him the most is that:
We can take Kavi Raj out of theater, but we cannot take theatre out of him.
Let us wish him further success
Prof. Surinder Kochhar (Shaun)
LPN, FCN, M.Com, CAIIB, DIM A freelance writer with 36 Years Exp. A Health Coach of University of Victoria