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The Goat Life transcends language, speaks to everyone: Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis on Prithviraj Sukumaran film

Jimmy Jean-Louis Exclusive Interview: The actor from The Goat Life discusses why he chose a Malayalam film as his first Indian production, among other topics.

This is Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis’ first Indian film, and he has made an interesting choice to make his debut in Malayalam. Jimmy, who lives in France, will appear in Prithviraj Sukumaran’s The Goat Life (Aadujeevitham) as Ibrahim Khadiri, a local who assists Najeeb, the Malayali immigrant worker, on his voyage to Saudi Arabia. Also read Prithviraj Sukumaran’s exclusive interview: We wanted either AR Rahman or Hans Zimmer for The Goat Life.

In this brief interview with the Hindustan Times, Jimmy discusses why he opted to work on filmmaker Blessy’s The Goat Life, working with Prithviraj Sukumaran, and the hurdles he experienced.

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Why did you chose to work on this very distinct Indian film? Were you aware that Indian cinema encompassed more than Bollywood?
You know, from where I stood, every Indian film was a Bollywood production! When this project was presented to me, I had no idea what it was about and had a few queries.

I received the script and then did some investigation into who was behind the film. I recognized that was comparable to a top star in his region and even nationally. And, of course, Najeeb’s narrative was fascinating, as was the fact that he was still alive. I wanted to do it right immediately! Another compelling feature was the opportunity to shoot in Wadi Rum (Jordan) and Timimoun in the Sahara Desert, which was an unforgettable experience. Of course, my journey with this picture was not as long as that of directors Blessy and Prithviraj – it was only a few months.

What was the most difficult aspect of the part and the film in general?
There is one part that perhaps shouldn’t be discussed too much, but it’s the fact that it’s such a different culture (Indian cinema), and I couldn’t really understand what was happening. Most of the time, things were unclear, as if nothing was scripted on paper about what would happen today, tomorrow, or next week. It was incredibly flowing, which was quite tough.

But at the same time, I learned how to remove myself and accept a different method of filmmaking or doing business. We experienced sandstorms, which are difficult to shoot in. Physically, I had to carry Prithviraj in the film, which is achievable but challenging in those setting. I had to study Arabic, too.

You’d collaborated with other international actors from. What are your thoughts on Prithviraj as an actor?
Because I’ve worked in many markets (France, the United States) with a wide range of actors, you know, at this point, I treat an actor as such. So, what do you do when they say action? That is where you can genuinely see an actor without being distracted by the commotion around them. I was amazed by his dedication and professionalism.

He shed 31 kilograms for this part, which was unnecessary given that Prithviraj was already at the pinnacle of his game. So, for an actor to do that, it speaks volumes about him. And for him to film for years in the desert in the harshest conditions, you know you’re dealing with someone who isn’t your standard actor doing the job to be noticed or renowned.

The film industry is a very competitive business, and India is particularly competitive due to the amount of actors available. If somebody makes it to the top, it is because they possess certain characteristics that enable them to do so. I regarded him as a top actor in the same way that I saw Harrison Ford or Bradley Cooper – just performers from different regions.

Do you want to see The Goat Life dubbed into French and released?
I believe it should be dubbed or subtitled in all languages because it is a movie that appeals to everyone. If you are human, you will enjoy this movie. Visually, you don’t always need to use language to grasp what’s going on. It is quite simple to understand and feel the emotional connection. With the strength of distribution that this film has, I believe it should be viewed in as many markets as possible in as many languages.

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