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Oakland Star Shine


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The East Bay’s favorite character actor is at it again. Oakland’s own Kumar Pallana is in the cast of director John Turturro’s Romance and Cigarettes, and Pallana joins some impressive company: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Steve Buscemi, and Kate Winslet. Shot in New York, Romance and Cigarettes is part Honeymooners, part Sopranos. Oh yeah, and it’s a musical.

Pallana’s role as a shopkeeper did not require any singing. “I don’t know what the movie will be like—I have not seen it,” says the native of India with a laugh. “But everyone was so nice to work with. I’m looking forward to going to the premiere parties.”

Pallana was most recently featured in Steven Spielberg’s 2004 film, The Terminal. The 85-year-old actor was thrilled to work with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and equally excited to perform his own stunt in a scene in which his character stops a moving plane on an icy runway with a mop bucket. “The crew kept telling me, ‘If you feel uncomfortable, don’t do it.’ I said, ‘What do you mean uncomfortable? Let’s do this!’ After the scene, Steven Spielberg gave me a big hug.”

Although The Terminal wasn’t a major hit in the U.S., Pallana’s appearance helped make the movie a success with Indian audiences.
“A lot of Indian families are buying the DVD,” says Pallana, who appeared on 1950s television shows in the U.S. as the plate spinner, Kumar the Amazing. “Some Indian film lovers have invited me to speak to their groups, which makes me proud."

Romance and Cigarettes opens on August 19.

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