national Arts Festival Banner

Thursday, September 15, 2011


(Upasana Beharee with Michael Clark in “Best Dramatic Short”)

Former Durban stage and radio actress Upasana Beharee is now living in Los Angeles and carving herself a strong career.

Originally from Pietermaritzburg, she moved to Durban where she quickly gained a reputation as a fine actress on stage and later in the soapie Scandal and guest-starred on the sitcom City Sesla. She also appeared in numerous radio dramas produced by LotusFM.

She recently returned to the LA Shorts Fest, teaming up again with award-winning British director James Brown for the indie comedy short, Best Dramatic Short. The film is about an animated talking Academy Award Oscar statuette (voiced by Byron Marc Newsome) who gives life advice to its owner Jason (Michael Clark), a winner for Best Dramatic Short. However, when Jason’s mischievous ex-girlfriend (Upasana Beharee) enters the picture and lures him with her feminine charms, Oscar’s advice turns this winner into a big loser.

Best Dramatic Short mixes live action and animation and marks the third film Upasana and James have screened at the festival, following Dark Ride also starring Norman Reedus (Boondock Saints which earned a Webby Honoree nod, was shortlisted at Cannes 2011, and won FWA People’s Choice Award 2011) and Stuck In Traffic In Durban.

Upasana and James have a good working relationship. “By working with the same director you build up a synergy where you don’t need to say things, you’re ahead of the game in that respect. But it has its downsides, too,” she quips. “I wouldn’t push a dolly between takes for just any director…let’s put it that way!”

She also starred in the acclaimed short You Can’t Curry Love from director Reid Waterer which earned top awards at the Palm Springs ShortsFest, San Diego LGBT Fest, Fargo LGBT Fest, Philadelphia LGBT Int’l Film Fest, Atlanta LGBT Int’l Film Fest, and Indian Film Festival of Houston. In addition, Upasana starred as the sexy, naughty waitress in the comedy short Naked Sushi which screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Her next production is the new ensemble drama feature Lives of the Saints, written and directed by Chris Rossi. She appears as a young Pakistani mother alongside veteran actor John Lithgow. The film also stars Meg Ryan and 50 Cent.

Upasana worked closely with artSMart editor, Caroline Smart, when the latter was directing LotusFM radio dramas. They recently connected in an email interview which shows that the actress has lost none of her candour and energy.

“Life in the US up until now has been an incredible creative adventure for me,” she says. “I love being a full-time actress, I feel like a kid in a candy store. I eat, sleep and drink acting, movies, and encountering brilliant teachers in various acting methods. I hit the road running the minute I got here. I had three offers from agents after I did a showcase for them the first week I was here. It is vital to have both an agent and manager in LA to get in the door, thankfully I have both. The scariest thing for me initially, being in America’s second biggest city was driving!! Yikes Full on! I have been really lucky to have my love with me. It's not easy being far from my family.”

She maintains that the strongest impression of living and working in Hollywood is that she is not typecast and at least half of her auditions are not race specific, ie – “may the best person win”. This is a refreshing attitude for her as she believes that creativity should know no boundaries unless it's a very specific role. “With this comes incredible responsibility to be the best that you can be and hone your skills to a fine tune,” she adds. “And be very prepared for the opportunities out there. Actually I'm spoilt here - I found myself questioning whether to go see Tom Hanks speak at a select gathering, as I'd seen Halle Berry the week before!”

While looking forward to the premier of Best Dramatic Short on Sunset, she speaks with pride about the projects she has done and what she has learnt from each of them. “I loved spending every second on the FOX lot shooting in a huge studio, and having Oscar winning DP (Benjamin Button) Claudio Miranda shoot my scenes. I can’t wait to step onto the set with John Lithgow, what an acting heavyweight.”

“I'm always looking to the future,” she adds. “I love what I do and I feel truly blessed to be doing what I love. I want to get better and more challenging roles, especially in film. I love the medium. It allows only the truest acting and also it's just plain fun! To friends and fans back home: Push the boundaries, be brave and creative in every thing you do.”

The following is a link of a short, James and Upasana shot in Los Angeles, which premiered in Sunset at the LA film fest and is on its way to distribution.”