Born in the UK and raised in the United States, Samrat Chakrabarti was seven years old before he saw an actor on the big screen he could relate to; that was a young Amitabh Bachchan, in Namak Halal. He began watching more Indian cinema, particularly that of fellow Bengali Satyajit Ray, and soon began dreaming of becoming an actor himself. He began performing onstage in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, acted throughout college at Brandeis University, and went on to receive an MFA in Acting from Harvard University. He moved to New York City immediately upon graduation, and, unusually for his line of work, has worked nonstop as a professional actor ever since.
He has appeared on numerous American TV shows, including 30 Rock, In Treatment, Bored to Death, Law & Order, The Sopranos, All My Children and Damages. He has acted in films ranging from Spike Lee’s She Hate Me to Amyn Kaderali’s Kissing Cousins and Joseph Castelo’s The War Within (nominated for an Independent Spirit Award). In recent years he has brought his talents to bear on several international projects, including Manish Acharya’s (we miss you Manish) Lions of Punjab and Joseph Matthew’s Bombay Summer. He was named one of the top six fresh faces to emerge from the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, for his breakout performance as Krishna in Claire McCarthy’s The Waiting City. And in February of this year, he made the winners’ list of the Triangle Media Group’s Global Awards, honoring South Asian achievements in arts and sciences.
As if one illustrious career isn’t enough, Chakrabarti is also an established musician, having won numerous awards for his compositions—including a US CARA for Best Original Pop/Rock Song, for the song “What’s It all About.”
What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever gotten and from whom?
Singer/Artist Bobby Mcferrin, A personal hero of mine. In my college days, I had asked him advice about pursuing the arts. He looked into my eyes and just said, “Always stay authentic. Authencity attracts authencity”. I will never forget that and I strive to be authentic in my art every day.
What do you consider your greatest professional success?
I feel really lucky to be a part of the film THE WAITING CITY. Working with Director Claire McCarthy, accomplished actors Radha Mitchell and Joel Edgerton was a delight. The fact that we shot it fully on location in Kolkata is very special to me. Decades ago, my parents left Kolkata and came to the US, to follow their dreams. Decades later, I went back to their city to follow mine. Full circle.
What do you consider your greatest personal failure?
I can’t do a back flip. I’ve always wanted to. Still do. Maybe someday.
Biography: Miles Davis
Novel: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
Album: Radiohead’s Ok Computer
Song: Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye
Film: Satyajit Ray’s ApurSansar
TV Show: Extras (or any show with Ricky Gervais on it)
Invention: Record Player
Painter: Natvar Bhavsar
Photographer: Nick Niles
Clothing Designer: Saran Kohli (UK)
Athlete: Michael Jordan
Poet: Rabindranath Tagore
What is the strangest number you have programmed into your phone?
Kinda silly, but I have the number of a pizza delivery place that is literally one floor down from where I live. Haven’t called them yet. Haven’t needed to. Easier to walk down and I don’t really like their pizza.
How would you define love?
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?
It would be nice to take all the money that is spent for military weapons and give it to charities or organizations that help sustain life. So we can continue to progress as a civilization and not walk towards self destruction.
Describe your perfect day.
Going back in time: to jam with the Beatles. That would be a perfect day.
List three things you cannot live without.
My Piano, My Camera & My journal. In that order.
Tell us one thing we don’t know about, but we should.
My Grandfather was a Train Conductor by day and a folk singer by night.
What’s your prize possession?
My old beat up Adidas sneakers: Samba Classics. Still a classic.
What’s exciting for you in 2011 – what do we have to look forward to?
There’s at least a string of 4 feature films that I have already shot and that will release in 2011. Among them, I am very excited about a unique film called Murder in the Dark that was produced by the Legendary Chris Wyatt (who produced the cult hit Napoleon Dynamite). Beyond that, there are a few big international projects that I’m in talks with, that would shoot next year. Let’s see. I’m just excited to continue to share my art through the mediums of film, music, and poetry.
If you could have a second career, what would it be?
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