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Punjabi-blooded Antonio Aakeel is climbing the ladder as one of Britain’s rising young stars

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Antonio Aakeel shines in latest film and bags a lead role in next film co-starring with Johnny Vegas

Antonio Aakeel shines in latest film and bags a lead role in next film co-starring with Johnny Vegas

 

Breaking into the mainstream

British crime drama ‘City of Tiny Lights’, staring Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler or Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Billie Piper (Dr Who), which recently hit the big screen has since received a wave of rave reviews.

In the flick, set in the teeming, multicultural metropolis of modern-day London, a seemingly straightforward missing-person case launches a down-at-heel private eye into a dangerous world of religious fanaticism and political intrigue.

British-born budding Antonio Aakeel, 21, who made his film debut starring alongside the “dada of Indian cinema” Naseeruddin Shah in Bornilla Chatterjee’s ‘The Hungry’ earlier this year simply shines in his role in ‘City of Tiny Lights’.

Antonio knew he wanted to be an actor from an early age, since his first acting break in a school nativity when he was eight years old.

The road to becoming a professional actor isn’t easy though. Antonio explains how a crisis of confidence was one of the biggest hurdles he had to overcome. “There are times when you question what you’re doing,” confesses Antonio.

“Thinking: Am I good enough for this role? Will I get this? The industry is so competitive,” he explains.

“There are so many good people with bundles of energy and enthusiasm trying to do the same thing as me.”

But Antonio’s passion for the job is stronger than any doubts he may have had and has been able to overcome them and pursue his dream – and it’s beginning to pay off.

Antonio bagged his part in ‘City of Tiny Lights’ after a gruelling seven-part audition process.

“Originally I was casted for ‘Young’ Riz Ahmed, so all my screen test was alongside him,” Antonio tells.

“But last minute it changed and they decided I suited ‘Young’ James Floyd - and in hindsight it really works.”

Wolverhampton-born Antonio’s family originates from the Punjab. He says that seldom seeing Asian faces leading in mainstream productions fuels his desire to change the scene.

“Being part of ‘City of Tiny Light’s - working alongside Riz Ahmed and Billie Piper, who gave me bundles of advice, and being part of an inclusive era of cinema feels absolutely fantastic.

“I guess when you’re a kid and say ‘I want to become an actor’ (your family) just answer ‘Yeah, go for it, it’s fine’.  Then, when you’re older and say ‘I want to pursue this as a career’ they can become a little more sceptical.

“It’s not easy, it's very difficult, it’s a lot of work and for what is not a lot of money in the beginning. But my family realised just how passionate I was and saw how invested I was in it and they just supported me.”

His most memorable moment from the start of his career happened while filming the TV show ‘Skins’. Being on set in Bristol, experiencing life behind the scenes, Antonio knew for sure that acting professionally was what he wanted to do with his life.

Working on the movie gave Antonio the chance to work with mega stars like Riz Ahmed and Billie Piper.

“They’re really down to earth people who work really hard,” Antonio said of his co-stars. “It’s a great education to see how they do what they do and how hard they work.”

For Antonio, this is just the start of his career. Now he’s won the lead role in a new movie called ‘Eaten By Lions’, co-starring comedy actor Johnny Vegas.

“I’m about to play a role in a new coming of age drama set in the North, Manchester and Blackpool about young boy in search of his real father - and we start shooting next month," he shares.

The budding star also offered advice to other young actors, wanting to follow his footsteps.

“Go out and do it,” he said. “Make your own stuff. iPhones have great cameras.”

He also recommended taking short courses and attending drama schools for those hoping to make a career of their acting.

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Working with the ‘Dada’ of Indian cinema

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Cast as the only British actor in an Indo-British co-production, a 21-year-old from the Midlands is set to appear in a feature film starring legendary Naseeruddin Shah.

Antonio Aakeel, from Birmingham has this month wrapped up filming ‘The Hungry’ - adapted from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, a feature film debut from Bornila Chatterjee.

 Aakeel who has starred in British TV dramas ‘Skins’, ‘Moving On’ and ‘Doctors’ and films ‘The Line of Freedom’, ‘The Contract’ and ‘City of Tiny Lights’, is thrilled to be working with a talented cast.

“Working with the legendary actor Naseeruddin Shah was a great education for me,” says Aakeel  

“But on the first day I was so nervous acting alongside him I actually forgot my first line," he laughingly recollects.

Starring both stars of eastern and western cinema, the film is a joint production from Film London and Cinestaan and showcases the talents of internationally renowned thespian Naseeruddin Shah.

The 65-year-old godfather of Indian cinema has appeared in over 200 films including ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ alongside Sean Connery, and ‘Monsoon Wedding’, directed by Mira Nair.

Naseeruddin expressed his excitement: “The film is adapted from one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, Titus Adronicus - is not well known, but it’s brilliant.”

Aakeel, who was “incredibly inspired” to work on the Shakespearean project, celebrating four centuries of the playwright says: “I was so attracted to this character that was darker than anything else I’d ever had the opportunity to approach before.

“Working in India was such an interesting experience too.

“I hadn’t been back for over ten years so this was my first experience as an adult in my motherland and the lifestyle there is completely different.

“The film is every bit of a Shakespearean epic. Themes of Love, greed, loss and are all prevalent in his work (and adaptations) 400 years later; And what a great way to commemorate such a legacy.”

The film also stars Neeraj Kabi, Arjun Gupta, Sayani Gupta, Tisca Chopra and Suraj Sharma and will have a cinematic release on Amazon Prime later this year.

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