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The rising star of Mikhail Sen

Born to parents who were both involved in the theatre, Mikhail Sen found himself treading the boards from a very young age – literally, they took him there as a baby. Despite growing up in a theatrical environment, Sen was repeatedly told that he could not make acting a full time career, and took a quick d-tour via university, before returning to drama school and eventually to the stage. Here, he talks through his incredible journey from theatrical infant to becoming the star of the Taj Express. 

Please introduce us to the Taj Express…
The Taj Express is an amazing show. It’s travelled for the last five years. We’ve performed in Russia, Tunisia, the US – we’ve just come of the back of a three month US tour, and that’s where I came on-board the Taj Express. The story was rewritten, the narrative changed, and it’s been a fantastic journey really.

It’s a fully-fledged Bollywood show with amazing dance sequences, that involve dancers from the industry, and they’ve now got live musicians in it as well. It really revolves around a music composer called Shankar, who I play, and he’s young, he’s a new kid on the block, and he needs to prove himself. He lands this big film called Taj Express, which he needs to make his Magnum Opus in a sense. And he looks to A R Rahman as his mentor.

And it’s a piece that works on numerous levels right?
Yes. The audience is transported into the world of the film, which comes alive through the song and the dance sequences. It’s really a typical Bollywood story about a boy who meets a girl, they fall in love and meet in the rain, and they can’t get married so they run away together and discover India. So it really takes the audience on a journey and there are two narratives at play: there is Shankar’s own story and the story of the film. But will it be a happy ending… like every Bollywood film is? When I’m not going to give it away, but you might be surprised!

How did you come to star in such a hugely interesting and hugely innovative show, that fuses multiple elements of entertainment like this?
Well, I sort of grew up doing theatre. Both my parents were in the theatre, so I ended up going to rehearsal from when I was a baby because they couldn’t leave me anywhere else! So theatre very much became a part of who I was quite young, but I was always told that I could never make it a fully time thing, it was always a hobby, like a thing you do on the side. And then I went off and studied history at university, and I realised that wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I took the plunge, went to drama school, I saved up enough money and I went to train at Drama Centre.

It was the best year of my life, I had an amazing time. And out of Drama Centre I did a showcase, Niki approached me and wanted to represent me. I was so grateful – they’re the most wonderful agents I’ve ever had – well, actually they’re also the only agents I’ve ever had! But they’ve really looked after me and I’ve managed to get lots of opportunities through them.

This is a show that has travelled all over the world and received international acclaim. We’ve already seen you plastered all over the US networks and UK press. What do you see yourself doing next in terms of building on this success?
After that I went back to India, did a LOT of work, worked in the theatre, worked with big directors there, and then got picked up for Taj Express. And that’s basically been the journey: it’s been something of a rollercoaster! Because there have been lots of ups, and I’ve been working – touch wood – but I really, really want to be back in London. Base myself here and work internationally because that’s the kind of work I want to do. And I see myself working in TV and film and doing more screenwork, because that’s an area that’s unexplored for me and I really would love to learn more about that craft.