Deep End is a coming-of-age culture-clash romance drama about a young Indian woman, living in Durban. Sunitha Patel wants to find her own way in the world, even if it means making waves in her society. The film is directed by Timothy Eubulus and stars Carishma Basday. From landing a role in Les Miserables, she obtained a degree in performing arts and media studies and attended Act Cape Town before signing with Artists One. Known for her roles in 31 Million Reasons and Material, the dynamic and multi-talented starlet was born for the limelight. We caught up with her to find out more about her leading role in Deep End…
How did you come to be involved in Deep End?
I was interviewed by Jayloshni Naidoo for Mela and she happened to mention something about a surfing movie. I said “oh I love the water and would love to surf” and then she looked at me and said “oh my gosh, you’d be perfect”. She introduced me to Eubulus, I auditioned and
he offered me the part the next day.
How did you prepare for the role… and surfing?
Luckily, my husband is an excellent surfer… so he trained me to surf. It was quite tricky as I was shooting other projects. I didn’t have as much time in the water as I would’ve liked and the conditions weren’t always great when I did have the time. But it was really important for me to have the basics down, managing my board in the water, paddling, sitting on my board and popping up.
Surfing isn’t like a dance where you can learn and practice choreography, it takes time for you to get used to the motions, know your body, your board and the ocean, which is also constantly changing. I also watched a lot of surfing movies for inspiration. I did a lot of character work and introspection to develop Suni’s character.
What was it like working opposite Greg Kriek?
Greg is incredible to work with… he’s also just such a nice guy. We didn’t know each other before, but we both have similar approaches to acting and worked together so well. We really gave each other
everything on set and worked really hard on our scenes – really going the extra mile to understand our characters and their relationship and bring it to life. It’s wonderful to work with an actor who’s willing to
give so much.
What was the vibe like on set?
We had such an incredible cast and crew, we all had the best time. We took our jobs seriously but were always up for a laugh, which made every day an absolute blast and made the long, sometimes really tough days just a little bit easier. Our production office was also right on the beach front, which made every day at the “office” seem more like a holiday.
Did you enjoy shooting on Durban’s Golden Mile… are there any stories you’ve taken away?
I love Durban, I love the warm weather, warm water and warm people and could eat curry every day! So it was an absolute joy to shoot on the exquisite Golden Mile.
What do you think is the underlying message of Deep End?
To follow your dreams no matter what. To know that it’s never too late or too early. To be courageous and fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. And that you can be whatever you want to be, the road may not always be easy, but if you can dream it you can do it.
Did being so involved in a surf movie make you want to pursue the sport at all?
I am an absolute water baby – my husband and I often joke that I have mermaid blood. He has encouraged me to in so many ways to pursue my curiosity and love for the ocean. We free dive and swim with sharks and actively seek out holiday destinations with water sports. So yes I now
absolutely love surfing, it’s another way for me to connect to the ocean. If I lived nearer warmer waters I would be out there hunting down the perfect wave every day.
The film has some similar themes to Bend It Like Beckham and Material, which you starred in… what makes it different?
The obvious thing is that the movie centres around surfing, which is unique in many ways. Secondly, Durban is showcased beautifully… almost as a character in the movie.
What would you say you learned from your time shooting Deep End?
That I am capable of so much more than I sometimes give myself credit for. I took on some really big challenges that I was terrified of and I found that I had the ability to choose courage over fear and superseded my own expectations. That was definitely powerful and life-changing, I stepped into my power big time, and that’s something that I will always carry with me.
You’ve led a varied and sprawling career… acting, dancing, presenting, teaching and modelling. How do you find the time to do it all and if you had to pick one, which would it be?
It’s all about balance, and lots of planning! I’m overly organized when it comes to my work schedule and often try to squeeze in more than I should – resulting in long often very rushed days! But if you have a passion for what you do, it honestly rarely feels like work and I’m blessed to be in a position now where I only say yes to the things that serve me positively.
I would definitely choose acting over everything else. I feel called to do this work, to tell stories, bring characters to life and inspire people through that. I feel incredibly alive, connected and centred when I’m on set, it is without a doubt my true calling, my soul work and exactly where I’m meant to be in life.
What sort of film roles are you looking to sink your teeth in going forward?
I would love to play more characters that challenge social norms and aim to break boundaries. I would love to sink my teeth into a deep dark psycho-thriller and maybe even try my hand at a medical drama.