When Prashantt Guptha and his wife Mansi returned to Manhasset this summer from Mumbai, India, he explained that the relocation was necessary for his family.
During his 15 years in India, he appeared in over 12 films, two web series, four short films and several commercials. Yet he said a “ray of hope” awoke when he and his wife agreed on the move despite once hesitating to return.
“In Mumbai, I reached a point of extreme anger over the pollution and infrastructure, the education system and overall feeling small on my full potential,” said Guptha. “I felt New York would break the shackles and allow me to explore multiple facets of my life, eventually land my wife a deserving job once she has her working papers in a few months and place my kids in a beautiful academic community. And was I right or what? What an amazing community to be a part of.”
Guptha’s father, Kedar, first came to New York in 1974 in search of the American dream. The next year he would found Quintessence Jewelry Corp., which is now based in Great Neck Plaza.
Guptha, whose real name is Prashant Kumar Gupta, was born on May 27, 1982, in Queens. He decided he wanted to be a movie star during his senior year of high school and enrolled in his first acting class.
“As supportive as my father had been of my cinematic pursuits, he advised me to attend a business college as a backup plan as opposed to a performance and theatrical university,” he said. “Frankly, I treated my college years as a formality to get a degree in finance, which in those days seemed like the safe and standard thing to study along with accounting.”
Every week he would complete his classes in three days and spend the other two weekdays attending acting workshops. He also met his now wife, who is from Mumbai, at Baruch College during this time.
“We continued to live in Manhasset and moved to Mumbai in 2007 with our firstborn in hand so I could start the pursuit of my Bollywood Dreams,” said Guptha. “Meanwhile, my wife played every role from homemaker, raising two kids, a certified teacher, a dessert chef and HR consultant. Truly a multi-talented lady.”
After relocating, he landed his first break with a cameo appearance in a film produced by Rajshri Productions. What followed was several tough years.
But he eventually landed a role in “Neerja” (2016), which was produced by 20th Century Fox’s Indian division. Guptha said the film gave him exposure and that despite his brief role it was crucial to the story.
“A brief part in a huge film will do you more good than a lead role in a film that may never see the light of day,” he said about the experience.
Following “Neerja,” he appeared in several other projects. These included “The Tashkent Files,” a Disney web series called “Special Ops” and his self-described biggest hit, a recent web series called “Aashram.”
But the film closest to his heart is “A New Christmas” (2019), his first and so far only international film. He explained that the English feature film arose from a desire to establish a presence in the West and tell an ethnic Christmas story.
“In 2018, my producer partner, Rashaana Shah, and I met to discuss an ultra-low-budget feature film that we absolutely had to make,” said Guptha. “We knew we couldn’t exceed $150,000, I would be the lead, we’d shoot in New York and we had to complete it in 12 days.”
Guptha plays Kabir, a lonely medical student in New York who is estranged from his wife and mourning the death of his mother. When he meets Kioni, a charming Kenyan film student, she persuades him to show her the city’s Christmas decorations. This leads him to rediscover the magic of the holiday season and reclaim his life.
They shot the film at the Manhasset LIRR station, on the train, at his home and at an Airbnb in Glen Cove and Manhattan.
“This film is dearest to my heart because I’ve always loved Christmas and holiday movies,” said Guptha. “And now I was the star and producer of one.”
When the final copy was completed, he sold it to a Los Angeles-based distribution company. The film became eligible for a New York State tax credit and was accepted to over 15 film festivals. One can watch it on Amazon Prime.
Guptha is now looking to complete more films under his company Mulberry Films. He also wants to work with the Nassau County Film Commission to bring more Bollywood projects to his new home.
“I’d love to see South Asians like myself rise in mainstream entertainment, be it news, media, theatre, commercials, film or TV,” he said. “In fact, I feel so loyally attached to Manhasset that I dream of seeing it as a popular shooting location and all of Long Island growing in terms of its fame and presence across America. I, for one, would love to be a torchbearer of that.”