Avi Agarwal first fell in love with the world of film at just four years of age. Growing up in India, his mother used to take a young Agarwal and his sisters to the cinema every week. There were no streaming services, with limited channels on television, so Agarwal eagerly anticipated these trips to the movies. He did have a VCR player where he would watch not only Bollywood movies, but Hollywood as well, such as Home Alone and The Terminator. He knew instinctively, from the first time he can recall watching a movie, that he too wanted to be on the screen someday, promising himself he would become a professional actor. It was a childhood dream that he never wavered from.
Now, Agarwal is a renowned actor, known around the world for his vast contributions to many of his celebrated films, including Loose Ends, Are You My Mother?, Five Stars, and Pieces. The most decorated project of Agarwal’s career however, is last year’s hit Turnover. This award-winning feature film tells the story of café owner, Peter, as he leaves his disgruntled manager, Henry, to take care of business, and he instead hires a crew of misfits. Peter returns to an unrecognizable business, but soon learns the value of camaraderie with the new team.
“The movie has a pleasant, big-hearted soupçon of characters who try to rethink a restaurant with a tasty mix of emotion and eccentricity that gives a nice spotlight to a host of characters. The story is charming, heartwarming and endearing, but with a deep, subtle message that somehow slips in and really gives you something to think about,” says Agarwal. “This film also has some nice representation with there being two bussers with Down’s Syndrome, a Hispanic cook, and a gay, African-American manager. I think the story is very important for the project, since it has a lot of different actors and a wide range of diversity.”
In the movie, Agarwal plays Sanjay, a chef at the creperie café who is in the constant battle of argument with Henry (Riker Lynch), a manager at the restaurant, until one day Sanjay becomes very fed-up and leaves. Sanjay is someone for whom self-respect is important. He is not diplomatic and highly respects his opinion. He won’t let people treat him badly and talk back when being bullied, ultimately leaving his job at the restaurant after working there for around 2 years. This moment is key to the development of the story, and Agarwal was ready to leave his mark on such an important moment in the film.
“I had never played a chef before, so it was a new character for me to explore, which is always
interesting for me as an actor. We had a staged reading before the actual shoot, where we got to meet the entire cast of the film. After the reading, I started seeing the actors who are present in the scenes with me as their characters and used that in my imagination in order to get into the mindset of my character. The choices other actors were making influenced my decisions of my character choices along with having a strong back-story to support those decisions,” Agarwal describes.
Turnover was directed by Linda Palmer, a seasoned Hollywood Director, who gave Agarwal great feedback on his performance. Together, they really created the character of Sanjay, as Agarwal would ask her questions about the character’s past to have a specific backstory to develop. Agarwal aims to always have a clear understanding of his character to dig deeper into his performances.
“I really liked the fact that the movie was directed by Linda Palmer and the Director of Photography was Jennifer Hook. A lot of other crew members on set were women as well. We need more women filmmakers in the industry, so honestly, I was really happy to be a part of a team that is not only encouraging diversity, but empowering women, giving them leading jobs. It was a great feeling to see people achieve their dreams and have fun during the process,” says Agarwal.
Turnover premiered at the famous Regency Theater in Los Angeles on March 8th, 2019, and was an instant hit. It proceeded to win several awards, including Best Family Film and Best Audience Choice at the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema, Best Comedic Feature at the Manhattan Film Festival 2019, Best Feature at the Golden State Film Festival 2019 and the Silver State Film Festival 2019, and more. It is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
“I went to the Chinese theater on Hollywood Boulevard for the screening of Turnover for the Golden State Film Festival. After the screening I had a lot of audience members who came up to me, telling me they loved my performance and I felt really good about my craft and being appreciated by the viewers, and was able to bring joy to people,” says Agarwal.
If you have not yet seen Turnover, be sure to check it out on Amazon Prime. In the meantime, you can also watch Agarwal on TikTok under the handle avi.characters, as he has over 450,000 followers.