UK actor Ronak Patani, who plays the lead in award-winning director Sara Blecher’s new film Mayfair, will be in South Africa from 8 to 12 October to promote the film.

Patani, one of the UK’s brightest, up-and-coming British Asian actors, stars in the role of estranged son Zaid. Fired from his job overseas at a refugee camp, he returns home to Mayfair, Johannesburg, a melting pot of immigrants from across Africa, where his overbearing father Aziz (Rajesh Gopie), a businessman and occasional money launderer, is facing death threats.  ‘Mayfair’ is due for release in South Africa on 26 October 2018.

Patani made his screen debut in the Hollywood remake of Point Break, the 1993 surfer cult classic with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. The young actor has worked opposite top British stars like Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Meera Syal, Sharon D Clarke and Sanjeev Bhaskar. He is also an accomplished poet and recently won the prestigious Roundhouse Poetry Slam, a UK competition for spoken word artists. He performs his poetry throughout the UK, and also produces poetry short films.

“I met Sara Blecher through Rajesh Gopie, who I knew from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, were we were the only two Indians in a university of more than a thousand actors and theatre makers,” says Patani.  “We built a close friendship and Rajesh called me up one day while I was performing in ‘Macbeth’ at the Royal National Theatre, and said he had a director who wanted to meet me. Sara was going to be in London that weekend so we met for a coffee to discuss the script, and that was that.”

Speaking about the role, Patani says he was drawn to it because it had all the hallmarks of an exciting gangster thriller, but with heart and lightness of a family drama. “I see so much of the internal conflict of young Asian men in Zaid,” he adds. “There are many similarities between me and Zaid, and I had to make sure I wasn't just playing myself with a different accent.”

He says that perfecting the Joburg Indian accent was one of the greatest challenges of his role. “I prepared as much as I could but when we got to rehearsals it was terrible, so we went old school. We visited Mayfair, the mosque in Linden, the bakeries in Emmarentia, chatted with guys in shops, and got some chow from the Oriental Plaza. A few days later when we were reading the script with the whole cast, Ilse Klink – who plays Shanaz, my mum – asked me whereabouts in Jozi I was form. Nailed it!”

On working with Blecher and the cast and crew, Patani says they were all lucky to have a director who knows her stuff back to front. “She convinced us about her vision for the film, and then let us all get on with the job, throwing in a few ideas every now and then. On top of that, the crew was officially the hardest working, funniest and talented bunch I've ever worked with. The last day of shooting was a sad one as I had to say goodbye to a lot of incredible artists. I can’t wait to be in Joburg again to see everyone and to promote this authentic gangster drama.”

Mayfair was recently selected for the 62nd BFI London Film festival, which takes place from 10 to 21 October 2018, and will also screen at this year’s Africa in Motion (AiM), an annual African film festival taking place in Scotland, from 26 October to 4 November.


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