Some of the most interesting films to see at TIFF and VIFF are the independent ventures. Canadian actress Agam Darshi stars in one such indie film, Crimes of Mike Recket, a moody, neo-noir murder mystery.

Actors can be intimidating to talk to once you’ve seen them on screen, but Agam Darshi isn’t like that. Warm, inviting and inquisitive, we chatted about the documentary Miss Representation the last time she was in Vancouver, when she pointed out some of the film’s flaws (that I had overlooked! I played it cool though). But what really put Agam on our radar is her ability to take risks with her projects on and offscreen, as co-director of the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival (VISAFF), and her recent art exhibit, BITS, that featured paintings, object boxes and videos collected over the past two years.

Somewhere between Atlanta, LA and Toronto, Agam answered a few of our questions about working on Crimes of Mike Recket, which opens at TIFF 2012 on September 11, her upcoming projects, and moving beyond race in her acting career.

Jugni Style: The Crimes of Mike Recket is a gritty film that speaks to the darker sides of humanity. Was it a difficult film to be a part of?

Agam: Darker films are always difficult in a way, but also cathartic. I enjoy tapping into that side of me every once in a while.  I think the hardest part of making the film, was that it was very unconventional in the shooting style. It’s a Canadian Indie, so it was a labour of love, filmed whenever the schedule worked. So it actually took almost two years to film. It’s tiring and challenging to re-inhabit a character over a year later, especially when you’re facing darker emotions and situations.

JS: Do you think the film reflects the realities of what is going on in our society (Canadian, US, the world) right now?

Agam: I think so. It’s a film about desperation. About how to survive when your world is falling apart. And I think that is very timely with everything that is happening in the economy. I think Bruce tapped into the global consciousness pretty well with this film.

JS: Tell us about your character, Jasleen.

Agam: I play Jasleen Recket, Mike’s wife. She is a feisty, passionate woman who is trying desperately to keep her world and her life together. She wants badly to have the perfect home and the perfect family, and will go to great lengths to get it. She will buy the image she wants, even if it leads to great difficulties. I loved playing her, because on so many levels she is so different from me. But underneath it all, [Jasleen] is a woman who wants to be validated and loved.

JS: Is it a novelty to play someone who is Indian/South Asian in a film, or do your find that your characters move beyond race?

Agam: I feel really lucky. I feel like I am able to move beyond race with most of my characters. I play women like Kate Freelander in Sanctuary or Breanna in Dan for Mayor. Every so often I am cast as a South Asian woman, which I enjoy doing too. But I think my goal as an actress of color in the Hollywood is to be able to play roles that aren’t specifically South Asian. I want to help break the stereotypes and play characters that usually aren’t offered to South Asian women. I love Sandra Oh. She has a career I really admire, and one that seems to transcend the fact that she is Korean. I love that.

JS: What other projects do you have on the go right now?

Agam: I am working behind the scenes these days. Writing a lot. And about to direct my first film. I wrote a short film about an ageing actress. It’s an experimental piece that I am excited to launch as my directorial debut! I have a feature that I’m writing with a writing partner in the works, and I’m auditioning. I’m excited to see what’s next for me.

Crimes of Mike Recket plays at the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday, September 11 and Thursday, September 13, 2012: see TIFF 2012 show times and ticket information. The film also plays at the Vancouver International Film Festival, September 27 – October 12: see VIFF 2012 show times and ticket information.


Story By: Manjot Bains | Photography: Toronto International Film Festival, Filip Dobasz, Bryan Nykon