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Tributes are paid to actor Kumar Pallana

Tributes are paid to actor Kumar Pallana

TRIBUTES have been paid to the character actor Kumar Pallana who has passed away at the age of 94.

Mr. Pallana was already in his seventies when he got his big break in the movie business. As a young man in India, he had once tried to become an actor but gave up after failing to get past security at the gates of the studio in Bombay. But his break finally came in the mid-1990s thanks to director Wes Anderson and the actor Owen Wilson.

At the time, Mr. Kumar was teaching yoga and occasionally performing his variety act at his son’s cafe in Dallas. Anderson and Wilson were regular customers at the cafe and they offered Mr. Kumar a part in Bottle Rocket. He ended up playing a bumbling safe cracker in the movie (see below) which helped launch the careers of both Wilson and Anderson.

Mr. Kumar went on to appear in three further movies by the director — Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), opposite Gene Hackman, and The Darjeeling Limited (2007).

Steven Spielberg cast him as the eccentric airport janitor in The Terminal (2004), which starred Tom Hanks. In one memorable scene, Mr. Kumar was given the chance to show-off his juggling skills.

His other movie credits included the 2005 short, Dada Ji (see below), Campus Radio (2011) and Heavy Hands (2012). He had recently been working on Snap Shot, which was still in production at time of his death.

After arriving in the United States in 1946, Mr. Kumar had toured his one-man variety show — involving juggling, magic tricks and even plate spinning (see below) — playing in Las Vegas and other resorts. He later appeared on a number of TV shows, including The Mickey Mouse Club and The Ed Sullivan Show.

At the beginning of the 1950s he did make an attempt to become a movie actor in Hollywood, but ended up only getting walk-on parts, including a brief appearance in Broken Arrow (1950), which starred James Stewart. Reflecting on his experiences Mr. Kumar once said: “Oh sure, I got work, but I played a different sort of Indian”.

He passed away after collapsing at his home in Oakland, California.

To view a clip from Bottle Rocket, which features Mr. Pallana, click here.

To see the trailer for Dada Ji, click here.

To see Mr. Pallana showing off his plate spinning skills, click here.

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