Kiran Rai, who plays Anarkali, the lead actor in hit web series by the same name, also edits the episodes. Photo by Baljit Singh.
Behind the scenes of Anarkali
Through the making of two seasons of Anarkali, Rakhi and Kiran learned a ton of lessons.
Their guerrilla-style filmmaking: shooting each episode, spending hours editing it and then uploading the edition on YouTube, though not terribly efficient, was effective.
So, after the success of the first season, Rakhi and Kiran Rai (KayRay) decided on a more organized approach. Instead of flying by the seat of their pants, they shot and edited all of the episodes of season two in advance. Then, they confidently announced a date for the season opener.
Except, few weeks before the D-day, the hard drive crashed.
So, they scrambled, yes, guerrilla style, to meet the deadline. Ah well.
KayRay as Anarkali
Kiran Rai or KayRay has studied film, theatre and television and film making and was doing this and that, when Anarkali catapulted her into the stratosphere of success.
This Bramptonian incidentally also happens to be social media celebrity. Her video blogs (kayray) have more than 1 million views and she has racked up some 37,000 followers on Instagram.
Kiran believes the web series’ success can be traced to its honest narrative. We all know truth has its own unique taste, but telling it needs a bit of chutzpah.
“There was a lack of images and stories in our community about the truth behind brown women’s lives. We told it honestly and that’s why it’s a success,” Kiran says. “Even in Bollywood, the stories are more in the realm of fantasy than a reality. The stories told in Bollywood are not authentic to our experiences…”
“People are hungry and they want more (content that reflects their lives),” she continued. “People that watch Anarkali are not just young women, but men, queer folks and everyone else as well.”
Kiran’s stock as an actor appears to have risen exponentially with the show’s success. People are now offering her roles that have a bit of meat whereas, before, she relied on making her own films and starring in them to show off her versatility.
A trip to L.A. some years ago, convinced Kiran, she should dive into the deep end of acting, instead of dabbling in it.
“There weren’t enough people my age doing it (acting),” she said on why she was hesitant before. “Everyone around me said, acting wasn’t realistic and that I wouldn’t be able to make a livelihood, instead, I should do it as a hobby…”
Once she decided to pursue acting, Kiran signed up at an acting academy in Toronto to learn the trade.
Armed with all her knowledge, she then decided to make short films and start her own YouTube channel – kayray.
So far, this year, Kiran has been trying something new in front of the camera every day as part of her “Never Have I” series.
But, Anarkali has and will continue to have its own special place in her life.
“I have so many similarities with Anarkali,” she says. “Anarkali is a beautiful character who’s trying to find herself and she (like me) lives in a diaspora where two different cultures are constantly clashing. It’s nice to be able to resonate with someone that’s so much like the women around me.”
Kiran often gets ambushed on the streets by hard-core fans demanding she give up her foolish fantasy of getting together with Prince. It’s almost as if they have no clue that the web series is a work of fiction.
“I guess fans want to know why Anarkali is so hesitant to make the right decision (when it comes to her true love),” she said. “I think it’s almost as if they are asking themselves the same question, but through me…”
This is the conclusion of our two-part series.