After she was accepted into the New York Film Academy though – applying on a whim at her mother’s suggestion – everything changed.
Just a few years later, Ria Patel is emerging as a key actress to look out for in the new decade.
Known for her work in independent films Nice, Fi Aur Me, Trey Pops and Two Paper Nightingales, her most recent venture Bandaid is currently doing the festival rounds. She’s also garnered attention for her role as a homosexual Gujarati girl in the first-ever Gujarati web series Varta re Varta, by award-winning director Jay Parikh.
From India to Australia to the US, Ria has had quite an acting journey. As an Indian raised in Australia, she quickly realised how unique that made her onscreen.
“Film and TV networks in the US are yet to see many Australians from a South Asian background,” she told Indian Link.
Because of this, most of the roles she’s worked on demand an American accent or an Indian accent. Of course, it helps that Ria speaks Hindi and Gujarati fluently.
In fact, she admits that being multilingual has made it easier to switch between accents.
“It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes, during casting and auditions, directors have found me interesting because I am Australian and Indian. As a result, I’ve even landed a few commercials,” Ria explained. “I haven’t had many opportunities to work with my Australian accent yet!”
The young actress credits the rigorous program at the New York Film Academy in helping her train her acting muscles. According to her, one can always go back to school to learn more, but for an actor, the most important requirement is to be in front of the lens as much as possible.
“I like working in America because it is more inclusive, with a growing representation of artists from South Asian backgrounds,” she shared. “It’s a great time to be there because once you get your foot in, many doors can open for an artist, irrespective of their colour.”
Ria moved to the US straight after graduating from high school, so she feels that she does not have enough experience within the film industry in Australia. However, she has noticed that it’s an industry that does not accurately reflect its multicultural reality.
In fact, Ria believes Indians still tend to be depicted in stereotypes like techies, scientists, or nerds.
“The solution is to create our own stories and put them out there,” she said. “When you’re creating your own content, you have control on telling that story and you know you’re getting that perspective out there, which is very important to me. That is why I am so keen on creating my own content.”
Ria is currently back home in Melbourne visiting her family, and working on her own projects during lockdown.
Just like her own heritage and upbringing, it seems she’s keen to share unique stories that reflect all kinds of experiences. A couple of her out-of-the-box projects include the story of a young girl who loves fries, and gets married to a man who follows Jainism. As strict Jains don’t eat root vegetables like potatoes, the bride has to decide if she can give up on her cravings. It’s certainly a quirky storyline, but the simple plot also highlights how women in traditional cultures are expected to sacrifice many things when they get married.
Another upcoming short film is a story of two lesbian Indian lovers who celebrate their first Karva Chauth together. In her quest to create change, actress Ria Patel wishes to explore topics that are generally taboo in Indian milieu like menstruation, female pleasure and mental health.
The actress considers herself lucky and blessed to find interesting projects that she’s passionate about. When that doesn’t happen, she’s already got a plan – to create the content herself!