For the November 2016 edition of Eye on Culture, the Office of International Advisement interviewed Keshav Moodliar, a second year drama student in Juilliard’s Drama Division. Born and raised in India, Keshav moved to the US in fall 2015 to pursue his master’s degree after completing an undergraduate degree from Ramjas College at Delhi University. In addition to a number of theater and directorial credits, Keshav has acted in a short film and several Indian TV commercials.
When did you begin acting and why? What was your first role?
I began acting when I was in the 8th grade! It was one of those completely ‘random life changing’ moments everyone talks about. I was in school walking to class when my friend and I saw a line of students outside the class room. We asked and found out it was a ‘reading audition’ for the annual play. They were doing ‘The Boy Who Fell Into the Book.’ I wanted to get out of there, but my friend was super keen on giving it a shot because the young drama teacher taking the audition was UNBELIEVABLY attractive. It would mean we’d get to talk to her! We auditioned.. I ended up getting the part of ‘The Boy’ .. my friend ended up playing a chess piece.
Audition season is coming up, and as you know, the drama program is highly selective. How would you describe the audition process to prospective Juilliard drama students?
The one thing about the audition process I didn’t realize, is just how liberating it is. The best part about this experience; is that for the most part, if not all the time, there is no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ to do something. It’s just who you are and what you’re working on, on that given day. And that changes every minute, hour and day. The day and eventually the weekend goes by before you know it, so taking it one breath at a time and just enjoying it is so important.
Watch Keshav in the Short Film, The Day He Sleeps
Drama students at Juilliard have very busy schedules. How would you describe a typical day?
Your day starts at 9am with a workout class, led by the unbelievable Darryl Quinton. #BodyByDarryl is what we playfully like to call it. This is followed by a liberal arts class/ or an MFA seminar class. We then have movement classes till about 1230. You have a one hour lunch break, and after that you run for voice and speech classes, followed by Alexander Technique classes. Then from 3 – 6 you have your acting classes where you work on improv or scene study. We then break for dinner for an hour and after that we get into rehearsal from 7 – 10/1030 for the current show we’re working on!
Every day is a different assortment of movement, voice, speech, acting, singing, mask work, and seminar classes where we analyze things going on in the world and our responses to them as artists.
Of all of the roles you have played, what was your favorite and why? What role was the most challenging and why?
Different roles I’ve played challenge me in different ways depending on where I am in the training and what it is I need. I’m playing Mark Antony in Julius Caesar this December, and I’m excited about that because the use of language is something i’m working on at the moment! It’s a fun challenge! The most fun I’ve had with a character was Ray from ‘Red Speedo’ by Lucas Hnath. I like the rhythm of the text and the way Ray thinks and operates. Its a great practice in ‘letting go’ while still being specific and truthful.
In addition to being an actor, you also have experience directing. Do you prefer one over the other? If so, why?
Yes, I directed a fair bit back in India. It’s something I really enjoy doing and wish to pursue more seriously in time. There are certain stories I wish to tell as an artist; and help give a voice to specific circumstances and people who normally aren’t heard. At this point in my life though want to concentrate on my training as an actor, and fortunately everything about this training at school lends itself quite beautifully towards an understanding in being a director.
As an international student, do you think there are certain challenges that your American classmates do not face? What are some of the benefits of being an international actor at Juilliard?
Yes, as an international student a BIG thing is adjusting to New York City. Which can be quite an experience. The pace, the culture, the food, crossing the streets, I mean – everything. Also, just having a different dialect is something I’m aware of, so in voice and speech I have to work and function in a slightly different way. Also, there’s the looming question of getting a work visa after graduating, which is something we think about a lot. That being said, people come from all over the country; so we’re all in the same boat in a fun way. I would say there are any BENEFITS of being an international actor at Juilliard, but I do get to learn about this country and its culture from my beautiful classmates, and I get to show them mine!
When not in class, rehearsing, etc, what do you like to do for fun and/or to relax?
When we’re lucky to get some time off from school, I love getting outside. Be it upstate New York or having a smoothie and napping in Central Park or even if its just getting a quick bowl of Ramen to tickle my soul a little bit. I have family in Sudbury, MA so it is always wonderful going there to spend the occasional long weekend, I’m a big fan of mountains and forest trails, so its nice to get away from all these looming buildings once in a while.
Where in India are you from? Can you describe your hometown to our readers?
I’ve grown up in a lot of places in India, but I’ve spent most of my time in New Delhi. It’s the capitol of the country. Its a busy city full of life and culture. You get people of all religious, regional and economic backgrounds and it’s a city which really toughens you up with time. It’s not necessarily the safest place in the world, so it teaches you to keep your eyes open and your heart generous. It can also get VERY HOT and VERY COLD. So just like life, the weather loves to play games with you.
Other than family, friends, and food, what do you missed most about India?
I miss the smell, the colors the sounds of the traffic. I miss the mountains and the monasteries, I miss the rivers and songs. I do not miss the congested subway, but I’d be lying if I said I did not miss all the strangers that make them. I miss the patience of the country, the time people take to look at each other. Its the season of Diwali right now, so I miss the love which is soaked in everything people do. I also miss the language, hearing Hindi on the streets of NYC immediately makes me smile.
Did you experience any culture shock when you first came to the US? If so, what was the most challenging? Is there anything that you still struggle with?
Yes, culture shock is a real thing. I didn’t believe in it at first, but leaving home is hard. Learning to live in a different way with responses to different sounds is a fun but challenging experience. New York can be a very lonely place sometimes, especially when you first move here – but like everything its a phase, and you get through those patches and hold on to things which make you smile, and learn from things which make you uncomfortable. You never really let go of who you are, you just get to pick up some new stuff. I mentioned before, but crossing the streets here was a whole new experience for me. Thinking in Dollars, Fahrenheit and Miles. The switches being the other way around. The outlets shaped differently. It all adds up in a funny way. But it also becomes home with time.
One of your hobbies is performing social (community) service. What type of service do you take part in?
I love teaching. Working with children is something I’ve done a lot and wish to do more in the future. Especially working with them to find their creative selves. A lot of us are brought up in ways which don’t allow us to explore that side of ourselves, I got lucky to happen to chance upon it. As Kevin Spacey said – we gotta send the elevator back down. I also just love seeing kids happy and smiling, very few things bring me more happiness than a kid with a new toy to play with, a new song which s/he just learned, or a new roof over their head.
Do you have any hidden talents? If so, what are they?
I just learned to do a handstand this summer. I’ve been practicing all day in the corridors of school, so its no longer hidden. I think I also have the ability to talk to cows and dogs.. I’m not entirely sure yet, its first time I’m saying this out loud, but i think it may be true. DEFINITELY cannot speak to monkeys.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
Yikes, 5 or 10 years?! I don’t know which COUNTRY I’m going to be in after 3 years! But in 50 years I hope I have a house on a mountain somewhere 🙂
Watch Keshav act in three TV commercials