Born and raised in the creative urban cauldron that is London, England, actor Amar Chadha-Patel has drawn from this rich multicultural community to inform, inspire, and achieve his dreams. An elegant man, in possession of a sharp intellect, a droll wit, and a passion to engage across the full gamut of artistic mediums, Amar’s star is most definitely on the rise.
Conscious of first impressions and not wanting to be perceived within an Indian stereotype, Amar expressed his individuality early on, choosing to dress extravagantly, deflecting that ignorance. He first honed his performance skills as a member of the band Strong Asian Mothers — a name inspired by the influential women in his family and community — entertaining thousands on the festival circuit. And he has continued to riff with a tight-knit group of fellow innovators throughout his career, all taking great pleasure in each other’s successes.
Perpetually drawn to the artful side of life, Amar has held multiple positions within the creative industry, affording him valuable insights into all aspects of the process. Surviving and thriving as an artist, whilst committing to his path as a self-confessed “born collaborator,” has become a badge of honor. “I think the proudest achievement was just believing in myself as an investment,” he tells us. “Rather than squirreling away a bit of money every month and living a sort of frugal life, I would spend money on a wig for a video, or a silly costume, or a camera, or going out for a drink with someone who might help me collaborate in the future. All these weird things that I used to think I was wasting my money on were actually investments in myself as a creative person.”
With an acting resume that shows a continued upward trajectory, including roles on TV shows ‘Sex Education’, ‘The Windsors’ and more, Amar’s career is about to hit the next level. He earned a principal part in Amazon Prime’s upcoming tennis drama ‘Fifteen-Love’, and has just wrapped Gareth Edwards’ next feature ‘True Love’. But first, Amar can be seen playing one of the leads, the enigmatic thief Boorman, in a life-changing role in the reboot of director Ron Howard’s 1988 cult classic fantasy adventure film ‘Willow’. Howard is an executive producer on the new series, written by Bob Dolman who also penned the original, and produced by Lucasfilm for Disney+.
Amar excels in ingesting, processing, and then utilizing all the stimuli that surrounds him. He has directed award-winning commercials and fashion campaigns for ASOS, The Kooples, All Saints and L’Oreal. And on the other side of the camera for our Mr Feelgood photoshoot, he interpreted our vision then raised the game, delivering with amazing energy, focus, and fun.
So, we’re excited to welcome Amar as our latest ‘Who The F*** Are You?’ profile, answering the 20 questions that get to the heart of who we are. We hope you enjoy the read, Hamish Brown’s beautiful photographs, and the video which can be viewed below, or on our Mr Feelgood TV YouTube channel, with the conversation also available as a podcast on Apple and Spotify.
Who the f*** are you?
Who am I? I don’t know. I think I’m a born collaborator, if we’re going to go existential with it. I’ve always been some form of creative, whether it was making models, collages, puppet shows, or short films. And what I’ve learned over the years of doing what I do is that I just enjoy collaborating with people. My best work, I think, is done with other people. So maybe I’m a facilitator of ideas. Acting is the nicest way to collaborate with someone. You bring someone’s characters to life in a way that they sometimes see, and sometimes don’t see. That’s the beauty of it.
How are you feeling right now?
Right now, I am feeling good. I had a really productive morning. It’s been nice. I’m feeling valued because it’s lovely to be here, and validated. I’ve got an engagement with some friends this afternoon, which is going to be nourishing for the soul. So it could be worse.
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in a mixture of North and East London, with grandparents in West London. There’s a big Punjabi Sikh community in West London, so I would have this tie back to these Punjabi roots when I was there with my grandparents. But I also grew up in Highbury in North London, and Hackney in East London, and that was a much more multicultural upbringing. So it was a very cross-London, multi-cultural upbringing. The best of all worlds, and every cuisine.
What excites you?
That’s a big question. Music. I need a constant soundtrack, and I find that I often emote to myself through music. I make and play music, and I was in a band called Strong Asian Mothers. Me and the lead singer, his mum and my mum were friends, and that’s how we met when we were three or four. Both of them are Asian women, in the ’80s, that were outliers of their kind. So we started this band called Strong Asian Mothers, which was just a big party band. Very rambunctious, enjoyable music. And that’s where I honed some of my performance abilities before I became an actor, just being on stage in front of thousands of people at festivals, and having to entertain them, with music they’d never heard before.
I’m writing a film right now with a friend, and one of the first things we’ve been talking about is a playlist of inspirational music. Then there’s another dystopian project I’m working on, and I’ve been going through dystopian songs. I just think music is a great way to find emotion.
What scares you?
Spiders! I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. This might sound really tragic, but being alone. I think, as a personality, I’m quite an extroverted person. Meaning that I take my strength in being around other people, and I feel like I have the best to offer when I’m with other human beings. So often when I have a lot of alone time, I have to do a lot of work within myself to justify it, and accept that other people are not going to be around. But it can be a little bit scary — that’s my ‘uncomfort zone’, I guess.
What is your proudest achievement?
Oh man, that’s a big question. I’ve been privileged to have some amazing achievements. I’m not going to say being an actor. But I think becoming a fully functional adult, at a point in my life when everyone is supposed to have everything together, is kind of scary. When I look back on it, I left university and I’ve been a freelancer ever since, and dived through multiple different careers and elements of the creative industry. But looking back, I never missed rent, I never found myself in a crisis, I always found work. Sometimes it’s hard to keep going. But I think my proudest achievement was just believing in myself as an investment. Rather than squirreling away a bit of money every month and living a sort of frugal life, I would spend money on a wig for a video, or a silly costume, or a camera, or going out for a drink with someone who might help me collaborate in the future. All these weird things that I used to think I was wasting my money on were actually investments in myself as a creative person. And now that some of those things are coming to fruition, I’m really proud that I believed in myself.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?
One of the hardest things I’ve had to do was apply for a mortgage! That’s a nightmare. No one should have to do that. It’s like a trial by fire!
Who was your greatest mentor and what did they teach you?
I wouldn’t say I’ve had a mentor, but I have had a collection of very influential people in my life that have all taught me a myriad of lessons. Both my grandmothers were widowed relatively young in my life, and were strong matriarchal figures. Same with my mother and my auntie, and I have a stepmother as well who I love deeply, so there were lot of strong female figures that were influential. And a lot of that sort of diaspora Indian mentality is about perseverance for the sake of success rather than because it’s a duty. Those kind of ideas that came from my family are quite important. Then some of my mentors are really just friends of mine. I have a really good friend called Mikey Please, who is now an animator and part of a duo who just made a film called ‘Robin Robin’ for Netflix, which was nominated for an Oscar last year. He’s only a couple of years older than me, we were at university together. Whether he mentored me or not, he’s always been a figure of inspiration. I have lots of friends like that in my group. We’ve all been artists for a long time, some of us are photographers, some of us are directors, some of us are actors, some of us are theater producers. We’ve all just believed in ourselves. Now we’re in our early to mid-30s, and it’s like, ‘We actually did it, guys!’ I often think about university like that. I went to university, got a degree, qualified with a first in production design. And after I left no-one ever asked me what I got for a degree. So, what did I learn in university? I learned some technicality, but really it was the friendships I made.
Who are your fictional and real-life heroes?
Fictional hero; I mean, he’s not really a hero, but I’m obsessed with Captain Nemo from ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’. He’s a bizarre and strange presence who adds so much tension to the story. I also have a deep love for the character Hellboy from the comics. The funny thing about Hellboy for me is that if you look at this weird world, he is a demon who has come to earth, and is a sort of paranormal detective, and he looks like the weird one. But if you read the comics really deeply, you’ll see that everything else in the world is weird, and he’s the only sane one.
Real-life heroes? I think any artist who has persevered through their career. Someone like Joni Mitchell who is an incredible musician and voice of emotion. I’m a huge fan of Joni Mitchell. Jeff Buckley as well. I love musicians. In terms of other actors, I’m a big fan of people like Sam Rockwell, Oscar Isaac, Tilda Swinton. They have these careers that span years and generations, and they play these interesting roles and have managed to do these crazy, interesting things. Irrfan Khan as well, one of my favorite Indian actors. Probably most famously he was in ‘Life of Pi’, but he was also in ‘The Darjeeling Limited’, and that performance hardly has any words, but he’s an absolute hero when it comes to emoting. He makes you cry just watching him.
What is your favorite item of clothing in your wardrobe?
My favorite item of clothing in my wardrobe is this zebra print-esque long jacket that is dark olive green with blue stripes. Everyone is always like, ‘Where did you get it from?’ And it’s from Topshop! It’s interesting. I think ever since I was 16 or 17, and I discovered my identity within myself, I’ve always been someone who dressed loudly and grew my hair out, and had my nails colored. And it was not because I was trying to fit into some sort of subculture. I just felt it very important that I broadcast to people, before they even met me, that there might be more to me than what they assumed about me based on a stereotype. So my loudness of dress and extroversion comes from this fear of being stereotyped just by the color of my skin.
What music did you love age 13, and do you still love it now?
Oh man, age 13, I’m going to go for nu metal. It was Slipknot, Deftones, System of a Down. I grew up on a diet of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin from my dad, and then lots of Motown from my mum. Early Fleetwood Mac as well. But when I was 13, the first thing I got into was heavy rock, and even now that’s the only music I could listen to at the gym. I’ve tried to listen to pumping house, but I just want to hear angry people!
What’s the most inspiring book you’ve ever read?
One that is really inspiring to me, not because of the message but because of its scale and what it tries to achieve, is ‘The Buried Giant‘ by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s this bizarre fiction book set in Arthurian England about this middle-aged couple trying to get to their son. But the metaphor for the Dark Ages is that everyone has this illness where they can’t remember anything long-term, so everyone has this short-term memory. It’s just creepy and eerie and strange. I’ve always been a fan of Celtic, Gaelic, English mythology. I find it surprising when people are like, ‘Eastern ideology is so interesting.’ I think that England has lost a little bit of its connection to its Celtic, Pagan roots. And so Arthurian myths and legends are really interesting to me.
What is a movie that left a lasting impression on you?
‘Jurassic Park’. It’s definitely one of my favorite films of all time. It’s just got everything. It’s a mystery. It’s got horror in it. It’s an action film. It’s got strong female characters. It’s got strong male characters. It’s about a guy trying to be a dad, and really learning what being a dad is.
What is your favorite word or saying?
Well, this is going to sound so pretentious, but one of my favorite words is petrichor. Just a nice word to say. It means what it’s the smell that comes off the earth when it has just rained. I heard another one the other day, which is chrysalism. And that is a word that describes the tranquility of being indoors when it’s raining outside. There aren’t enough words in the English language that sum up emotions. We have loads of words for things. I love words that sum up a whole sentiment.
What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
He wasn’t boring. He died well. He should have known that bomb would’ve gone off!
And finally, a quickfire five favorites….
A vintage orange Volkswagen Beetle. My dad had one.
It was Arsenal but I’m not really a football fan anymore. So [Carlos] Alcaraz, the tennis player. He’s 19. I think of him as a team, all those limbs! He’s amazing.
A slow-cooked sausage pasta from ‘The River Cafe Cookbook‘. Two hours, eight sausages, half a bottle of wine, patience, cream, parmesan, probably a heart attack. But it’s worth it.
Davines OI Oil is what I put in my hair to tame the fiery frizz that is a result of being Indian.
There’s many. I am a big fan of Vivienne Westwood. I love odd cuts. My gift to myself after I wrapped ‘Willow’ was a Vivienne Westwood coat. It was probably the most money I’ve ever spent on anything.
Styling by Tony Cook
Fashion assistance by Diego Lago
Grooming by Nadia Altinbas
Photography assistance by Steve Hardman
Special thanks to Tom Warren at Lock Studios, London