Tuesday 23 January 2018

I was told I'd only play servants, says Sir Ben Kingsley

Sir Ben Kingsley plays a Sikh in his new film
Sir Ben Kingsley plays a Sikh in his new film

Sir Ben Kingsley says he takes great delight in proving people wrong.

The actor, who won an Oscar in 1983 for starring in Gandhi, was born Krishna Bhanji in Yorkshire. His father was Gujarati Indian, while his mother was British.

The 72-year-old said any criticism or discrimination he has faced has only served to spur him on.

"I was told by a very senior director at the Royal Shakespeare company that he felt that I would always play servants, and never play kings and leading men, politicians, leaders of their country," he said, adding with a gesture, "I'm ticking all the boxes here because I've played them all."

The actor is known for starring roles in films including Sexy Beast, Schindler's List and Iron Man 3.

He told the Press Association: "Y ou know, I think the best service somebody can do to me as an individual is tell me what I can't do, and I'll do it.

"I think that if you are aware that people might have limits on your expectations, I think for me personally I've found that exciting and a great spur, because I will always say, 'Oh yes I can'. And I've always found that a joyful experience."

Sir Ben stars as Sikh taxi driver and driving instructor Darwan Singh Tur in Learning To Drive, with Patricia Clarkson playing his student and friend.

The actor said it a huge step forward to have a main character who is a Sikh.

"I 've never seen it at all," he said.

"I don't think I've even seen it on the screen in India, in an Indian film, a leading character who is a Sikh. So for it to be that specific, I thought was a great choice.

"If you want a male silhouette that has the resonance of a warrior, because they do carry knives you know, I mean ceremonially, but a Sikh is always supposed to carry a sword.

"And of course, the warriors are always the gentlest people in the world, because they know about combat."

Sir Ben said the Sikh community had helped him portray the character of Darwan - including advisor Harpreet Singh Toor.

"He put my turban on every morning, again almost in silence, and I learnt so much from him," he said.

"Gracious, unassertive, proud, very secure in their skin. Wonderful people. Yes I learnt a lot from them."

:: Learning to Drive is in UK cinemas now.

Press Association

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