The courage to face challenges by stepping out of a secure ambience and translating one’s dreams into reality is what makes life more meaningful and worthy of appreciation. It is only by plunging into the depths of the more competitive and complex world that we realize our potential and discover our limitations. At times, pleasant surprises greet us with the revelation that we can do much more than what we imagined or least expected. As T.S. Eliot rightly remarked, “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” Raja Deka’s journey from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles is a case in point. It is the impressive story of a young man who follows his heart to live his passion and unravel the artistic talents ingrained in his genes.
Born in New Orleans to Geeta and Madhab Deka, Raja grew up in Sugarland, Texas which he calls “the best place on this Earth, hands down”! Raja has the talents, unparalleled commitment, sincerity, determination, and focus that help him in his adventure. But most of all, it has always been the blessings of his departed parents that have guided him through the smooth and rough edges of the terrain. He graduated from Baylor University with a degree in Computer Science and chose a career where he supported NASA’s flight operations for several years. He was later recruited by the federal government to support US embassies worldwide. The turning point came in 2010 after Raja had a conversation with his father who encouraged and inspired him to pursue his interest in acting, promising him all the moral and emotional support in his endeavor. Raja’s father passed away a few days after the conversation, and this incident made him all the more determined to follow his dreams and carry out his father’s wishes. Raja left a promising career and embarked on a route to explore new horizons, enrich his creative instincts, and carve a niche in Hollywood’s acting platform.
Raja made his acting debut as Sonny in “Grease the Musical” at the Pasadena Little Theater. Other interesting film and television projects that followed the way were “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”, Emmy Award winning “Homeland”, “Arrested Development”, “Easy Money”, “Time Refugees”, “Signals II” “Meltdown Pot”, “Jeepney”, “Laws of the Streets”, and “Alter Ego’s Rule”. His theatrical appearances include “The Nightingale” and “Gazebo”. The roles are varied, but the common index is the prowess of an actor who shows tremendous promise and talent. Coupled with his acting talents, Raja is blessed to have the moves of an accomplished dancer. Since childhood, he has always had a passion for dancing and embraces a wide range of dance forms which include Assamese folk, pop, hip-hop, freestyle, bhangra, salsa, and fusion.
The film and television performances of Raja Deka acquaint us with an actor, but it is in the much acclaimed award winning documentary “Going Home Again” (Winner of Best Documentary Short, Los Angeles Cinema, Festival of Hollywood 2013; Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival Official Selection, 2013) where we see the real person removed from the celluloid world, a dutiful son honoring the values that his father and mother would have always wanted him to live by. Reverence for his parents and elders and respect for his roots and the soil of his forefathers find expression in this mesmerizing creation set in Assam, India, the homeland of his parents.
“Going Home Again” beautifully traces Raja’s journey from Hollywood to his father’s village. This must-see 12-minute film finely captures the nuances of his quest for spiritual healing and the mission he undertakes to fulfill his father’s unfulfilled wishes. We see Raja immersing the ashes of his father in the majestic river Brahmaputra and finding his way home to his father’s birth place Sarthebari. With minor references to Assam’s tea gardens and the bell metal industry and glimpses of a family wedding that Raja attends, the film primarily focuses on how he achieves spiritual growth by being one with the community in which his father grew up as a child and where his forefathers lived. Raja offers prayers for his father’s soul and honors his wish by organizing a feast feeding 300 villagers. The sense of oneness and happiness he experiences after feeding the villagers engulfs his entire self. The visit renews his hopes, and he obtains spiritual bliss.
Harmoniously blended with Raja’s artistic faculties is his fine human sensitivity that speaks of an individual grounded with the right set of values. Issac Newton had said :”If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This philosophy holds true for Raja who has learned the value of giving to others from his mother and has inherited from his father the determination and undying will to achieve the goal when he believes in something. So what does he have to say about acting and life in general? Raja speaks out candidly!
1. What is the best part you like about acting?
At any given moment, we get to create a new world and tell stories where magic happens at moments you would never expect. That life you create has the potential to shake up the masses and instill powerful messages forever. Entertainment is a beautiful medium through which we can do a lot of great things for the world.
2. Of the various roles you have played so far which do you like the best or is closest to your heart?
I played Picasso in his early days and that is closest to my heart because of all I learned he went through in his life. His life was full of sacrifice, love, passion, guilt, determination, and I will always remember all I experienced when I had the honor of playing him.
3. You are trained in martial arts: American Karate, Chinese Kenpo, Shaolin Kung Fu? How much have you been able to incorporate these skills in your acting assignments?
I haven’t had to use it much, but with recent audition requirements, I believe that will change in the near future.
4. “Going Home Again” is an awesome documentary. At any point do you have any plans of making another one focusing on customs and traditions in Assam?
Thank you so much. “Going Home Again” is an honor, to have such a gift within the family now. The filmmaker has expressed interest in returning to Assam to film, and I am sure we will make that happen. Assam is too precious of a gem to be left alone globally.
5. What is your message for the youths who love films and acting?
Do it for the love and if it makes your soul smile. It’s a lifetime full of commitment, perseverance, undying belief, and a selflessness towards the benefit of the story. Regardless of the path you choose, it’s essential to be positive, open-minded, and realize you are a student for life, evolving and growing with every experience. Go get what is truly yours. “There’s only one of you in this world” (Mom and Dad’s words to me at an early age)
6. Besides acting and dancing what is your most favorite pastime?
Traveling the globe with family.
7. One last question: If you were given a magic wand and you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?
To instill in every world leader the power of contributing to “Our Human Life” for the benefit of generations to come. The power is always within what you can do for others and that your work for humanity will be felt far after you are gone from this world. With this new outlook, attitudes and priorities towards say, malnutrition and medical research, for example, will change everywhere.
An inspiring quote from Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner mused about the impossibility of swimming to new horizons unless one had the courage to lose sight of the shore. Here is Raja who had looked beyond the shore and had so courageously and confidently moved on to follow his heart, to pursue his dreams and make them happen. Raja’s theory of life is that everyday is a beautiful gift. He abides by the values instilled in him by his parents at a very tender age. He believes that he has a responsibility to his own happiness and to humanity and feels that if he can achieve these two goals, he can make his mom and dad happy. May he soar to even greater heights, and may we continue to hear his stories of success. Best wishes, Raja!
The following is a link to the video Going Home Again