Interview: Kenny Basumatary's journey from 'Local Kung Fu' to 'Jawan'
Film maker Kenny Basumatary

In the dynamic world of Indian cinema, actor, director, film maker Kenny Basumatary stands as a shining testament to talent and determination. His journey from the regional brilliance of the ‘Local Kung Fu’ series to the grandeur of mainstream Hindi cinema is nothing short of inspiring.

Kenny Basumatary shares his remarkable journey, and also talks about his new movie, ‘Jawan,’ where he acted alongside the famous Shah Rukh Khan.

Looking back through your journey. it has really been an inspiring one. From regional projects like the ‘Local Kung Fu’ series you made it to mainstream Hindi cinema. How did your journey start and when did you land in Mumbai?

Kenny: I always aspired to become an actor since I was in school. Later on, I had plans of getting into the film direction course at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune but since they had the criteria of allowing graduates, I couldn’t pursue the course as I was an engineering dropout (laughs). Eventually I came back to Guwahati and worked as a newsreader for 3 years at a news channel and moved back to Mumbai since I had a flair for acting. There I started auditioning for various brand advertisements, shows, films, series etc. Gradually I got a few projects as a voiceover/ dubbing artists and after some time spent on honing my craft, I got the opportunity to work in various character roles for films. In the year 2013, I made ‘Local Kung Fu’ which was the second Assamese film to have a nationwide release, and was appreciated by many. It has also been dubbed as India’s first Kung Fu Film. This really boosts my confidence and I started directing for successful ventures such as Balaji Telefilms, Savadhan India episodic etc. I was also fortunate to be a part of Hindi feature films such as ‘Shanghai’ (2012), ‘Mary Kom’ (2014), ‘Raag Desh’ (2017), ‘Yaara’ (2020) and the latest blockbuster ‘Jawan’ (2023) with Shah Rukh Khan.  

How did Atlee’s directorial Hindi debut film Jawan happen and what was the experience like collaborating with Shah Rukh Khan and the entire crew throughout the project?

Kenny: Initially, when speaking about the process of securing major roles in films or significant projects, it is essential to undergo 2 to 3 auditions. For example, in the case of ‘Mary Kom,’ I appeared for auditions three times, and for ‘Shanghai’ and ‘Yaara,’ I participated in two auditions. Interestingly, for ‘Jawan,’ I had previously auditioned at the Mukesh Chabra Casting Company. Based on that audition, I was called by the director for the most significant role of my career to date. So, thanks to my previous work, I had the opportunity of a lifetime.

Speaking about the regional projects you had worked on and been a part of, they were quite ahead of their time. Conceptually, they were very much liked and appreciated by the masses due to the popular characters, their dialogues, comic elements, and scenes which are still fresh in our minds even after a decade. So, how did you prepare yourself for such characterisation, and how did you do it for ‘Jawan’?

Kenny: The look of the character was entirely the creation of the make-up team. However, since I have been involved in martial arts and sports since my school days, it helped me bring that agility and life to the character being portrayed on screen. In addition, my involvement in theatrics and plays has also contributed to honing my preparation for this and many other roles I have played on screen.

Speaking of ‘Jawan,’ an action team arrived from South Africa to choreograph a sequence. During the session, they trained us on how to use guns during shots and how to move along with the gun’s frame by frame, focusing on footwork for each shot and the positioning of the equipment. We filmed many action scenes, but not everything made it into the final edit, as there were multiple simultaneous storylines in the film. Nevertheless, we learned a lot, and this was the overall action preparation for my character in the film.

Could you enlighten us about your character role in ‘Jawan’ and share your experience of working with SRK?

Kenny: In the film ‘Jawan,’ my character’s name is Nazir Ahmed, and I played one of the Special Forces commando teammates of Vikram Rathod (Shahrukh Khan’s older version). The film featured many actors, but primarily, my scenes were with Shah Rukh Khan (SRK). During the shoot, I had casual meet-ups with Sanya Malhotra and Priyamani, and it was a very good experience.

Speaking about SRK, we had the opportunity to observe the actor thoroughly, and I must say he is a thorough gentleman and a very intelligent person. Throughout all the scenes, he was very polite and gentle on set, and I never saw him lose his temper during the entire 25-day shoot period. There was just one odd day when there was a lot of chaos and noise on the set, to which he said, “Chillam chilli nahin, sab aaram se kam karo” (Don’t make noise, please work in peace). He used to sit in one place and prepare his dialogues, and when it was time for action, he never goofed up with the dialogue and was perfect in one take. In the span of 25 days, he only took 2-3 retakes, and that’s it. He remembers each of the dialogues that you see on screen, and that’s really an amazing trait of a true megastar.

Can you recall any incident or memorable moment during the shooting of Jawan?

Kenny: On the first day of our shoot, one of the memorable moments was when the first scene we had in the film ‘Jawan’ involved us going to hug Shah Rukh Khan. The four of us, playing commandos, looked at each other with astonishment as it was exactly what was happening. That was unreal and special at the same time. We shot in multiple locations, including Mumbai and Chennai.

What are your upcoming projects in the near future? 

Kenny: ‘Local Kung Fu – 3’ has already begun, and we are planning to release it on Teacher’s Day, which is the 5th of September, 2024. The characters from ‘Local Kung Fu – 1’ will once again come to life in this installment. I have also acted in another Assamese film titled ‘Gulai Sur’, which is from the same team as ‘Kolongpar’ and ‘Critical Couple’. Another project I’m working on is a film titled Jiya, which revolves around a single mother and her encounter with a new person in her life, exploring the relationship that develops between the two. ‘Jiya’ will be my first serious film in Assamese, and I am excited and looking forward to it.

Kenny Basumatary’s journey, from the picturesque landscapes of Assam to the dazzling lights of Bollywood, serves as a testament to the boundless possibilities that await those who follow their passions. His dedication, versatility, and commitment to his craft have propelled him to remarkable heights in the Indian film industry. Through his journey, he not only represents the spirit of regional cinema but also showcases the potential for artists from all corners of the country to make their mark on the grand stage of Bollywood.

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As we eagerly anticipate his upcoming projects, including ‘Local Kung Fu – 3’ and the poignant ‘Jiya,’ we can be certain that Kenny Basumatary’s future endeavors will continue to captivate audiences and leave an indelible mark on the world of cinema. His journey is a testament to the power of dreams, hard work, and the pursuit of excellence, inspiring countless others to chase their aspirations with unwavering determination.

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