(September 21, 2021) Indian diaspora for the longest time grew up watching people unlike them on the big screen. Representation in the 90s was quite feeble, so much so, that it made a young Ritu Arya notice its sheer nonexistence while watching television at her home in England. It was then that this British Indian decided to be a game changer and become the poster girl of diversity when she grew up. That’s exactly what she did when she landed roles in shows like Sherlock, Doctors, The Umbrella Academy and Red Notice.
The 28-year-old, who fell in love with films and acting at an early age, has now found her footing the world of cinema and television with her outlandish performances. Here’s the story of this Global Indian who fought racism to make her voice heard through her work.
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How Bollywood influenced her to acting
Born to Indian parents in Guildfort, England, Arya grew up in a household with two brothers. Like every Indian family abroad, the Aryas too devoured Bollywood films. It was this love for Hindi films that made Arya seriously consider her future in movies. Seeing Shah Rukh Khan in Darr and Baazigar made this little girl realize that she wanted to be the poster girl of diversity and inclusivity because she never saw South Asians on TV in the UK. This dream of making it big in the world of entertainment kept simmering while she graduated in Astrophysics from the University of Southampton.
A rebel since childhood, Arya often saw the striking inequality that existed in her community, and she kept pushing the boundaries of her expression and freedom. Though her parents did find her weird at times, she found a support system in them when she wanted to try acting and make a career out of it.
The big break
After being trained under the best at Oxford School of Drama, Arya found her footing in the world of entertainment with British soap opera Doctors. The British Indian actress smashed the ball out of the park in her debut and was nominated for British Soap Award for Best Newcomer. While Arya stayed on the show for four years, she expanded her horizon by making an appearance in the popular British crime TV series Sherlock. In 2016, she diversified with sci-fi series Humans that had her play the role of robot Flash.
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While Arya was gaining popularity in the world of television, she exploded on the film circuit with the 2019 rom-com Last Christmas. The film starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding was a major commercial success with a box-office collection of $123.4 million.
The game-changing show
But the biggest opportunity came knocking at her door in the form of an American superhero TV series The Umbrella Academy. Based on the comic book of the same name, it revolved around a dysfunctional family of adopted superhero siblings who reunite to solve the mystery behind their father’s death. To prep for the show, Arya, who played Lila Pitts, read all the comic books to get into the skin of the character, a wild card entry that the fans of the series cannot stop raving about. It’s her quirks and eccentricity in the Netflix show that has catapulted Arya into the league of the best.
Such has been the impact of her stellar performance that Arya was soon roped in for Red Notice, a heist thriller alongside Hollywood action heavyweights like Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. The actress plays an Interpol agent. “It’s such an incredible experience. I’m just so aware of what I can say and what I can’t! I’m so anxious! But it’s so fun, and I feel like I’m learning and growing so much,” she told Elle. Made on a budget of $130 million, the film is Netflix’s biggest investment till date.
Racism made her push boundaries
Arya has become a force to reckon with in the TV and film world but not without her struggle with racism. The British Indian actress, who was bullied at her predominantly white school and was called all sorts of name, has always tried to empower herself to create change. In an interview with the Hindu, she said, “It drives me to push boundaries for women and people of color, to gain further equality by taking up space and having a voice. I try not to complain, rather lead by example. And always, always leading from love and compassion.”
The British Indian actress has finally arrived and how. Arya, who was keen to portray diversity, is taking every step towards her dream and making South Asians proud with strong representation.