Known as one of South Africa’s favourite news anchor and bulletin producer on television, Mahendra Raghunath has flipped the script and taken on a new role in the locally produced film, "Deep End," which hits South African cinemas today.
Raghunath plays Naren Patel. A husband and father in a traditional Indian home who is struggling to let go of his orthodox ways.
Patel’s daughter, Sunitha (played by Carishma Basday), is the apple of his eye, but her dreams of becoming a competitive surfer doesn’t sit well with Patel who wants her to get married and forbids her from surfing because “surfing is not acceptable for an Indian girl, of marrying age”.
"It’s a story that people can relate to. There are valuable lessons to be learnt and it will also allow the viewer to assess their own life and dreams," said Raghunath.
Produced by Jacintha de Nobrega and scripted by Eubulus Timothy, the film also stars Greg Kriek as Cory Taylor, Suraya-Rose Santos as Nina, Priya Lutchman as Kalpana and Robin Singh as Madhu.
Although Raghunath played supporting roles in a few local produced series like "High Rollers," "The Lad" and on the film "District 9," he considers this his first major film role.
"I feel on top of the world. It’s wonderful to be able to tap into a larger role. The script is beautifully written and each character has a deep back story which I love," he said.
He said the film also captured Durban so beautifully with a storyline that would resonate with South African audience.
"It also showcases an extreme sport which is something new for local films and hopefully it inspires other filmmakers," said Raghunath.
Hoping for the film's success, Raghunath said it would mean success for his acting career.
"I became a news reader because at the time it was an available option for me and I explored it to its crafts extent. Acting is something I am very interested in doing long term. This role required me to go back to actor training and relearn everything," he said.
Getting into the character of Naren, he said he delved deep into his own life experience to make the character believable.
"I am a father and I can relate to kids. I am also an Indian male who has been through several experiences in my lifetime so I drew inspiration from that,"said Raghunath.
One of the main themes that run through the film is allowing yourself to fulfill your dreams and overcoming your challenges.
"Sunni was a girl of marriageable age, and she’s always lived a sheltered life. She did what was expected of her from her dad, like learn Garba, but she also longed for something more. And she was thrown in the deep end of this extreme sport. It’s about pushing boundaries but also as a parent equipping your child to the best of your ability so they can face these challenges," he said.
Raghunath said the some of the cast in the movie had taught him in university and had been very inspirational in his journey.
He encouraged people to watch the movie saying that it would teach people that they are never to old to dream. It will also allow them to explore their own creativity and maybe even try something new that they’ve been wanting to do,” he said.