Interview: Ramon Tikaram - The mane man

As if the steamy scene with the electrician in 'This Life' wasn't enough, now he's getting tantric in his latest film 'Kama Sutra: A Tale Of Love'

The first surprise is to see Ramon Tikaram looking so, well, fully dressed. Bright-green shirt done up to the neck and dark jeans - not a bicep in sight. His latest role has been rather more revealing, with the 31-year-old actor baring his chest with more aplomb than Sharon Stone and Greta Scaachi combined. The second surprise is that he's turned up at all. The day before, he mysteriously failed to show. When he finally arrives he is suitably contrite. His excuse is "personal problems", a subject he is surprisingly open about later.

For now he's happier pondering the pressures of simulating passion on- screen, something that happens a lot in his latest film, Kama Sutra: A Tale Of Love, directed by Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala).

Set in 16th-century India, Tikaram plays Jai Kumar, a court sculptor who falls for a servant girl. One critic has described the film as "red- hot, vindaloo-style, sari-ripping sex". Certainly, Jai and his lover spend a lot of time getting tantric in the dust. Did he have to read the Kama Sutra to get into his role? "No, I didn't," he laughs, pushing back his mane of black hair for about the fifth time in ten minutes. "In fact, it was best not to. As a sculptor, I was kind of innately Kama Sutric; I was meant to be aware of what other women would have wanted," he says in a "Norf" London patter.

The film is sumptuous and, at times, sensual; Merchant Ivory meets Bollywood with added steam. Is he pleased with the film? "Um, yes," he says. "It was quite a painful process and I didn't know how it would turn out. Somebody said the story teeters on the edge of comedy and just saves itself."

The Indian censors have yet to see the funny side. They are outraged by the sexual content and it is uncertain whether the film will be released there. Tikaram can't understand all the fuss. "Considering they have satellite TV, I was surprised by the response. All that Victorian piety and useless repression they inherited. It's nothing to do with India and its deeper culture."

Tikaram's unusual parentage - his mother is from Borneo and his father from Fiji - has ensured him roles as a variety of nationalities. "In my first theatre role I played a Native American. In the next job I was a Palestinian, then a Malay pirate, followed by a Colombian drugs baron."

He leaps cultures again in BBC2's frenetic yuppie soap This Life, in which he plays Ferdie, a Mexican, bisexual, dispatch rider. Fans will know that Ferdie recently invited a visiting electrician into his bedroom to check out more than a dodgy wall socket. A hand goes through the mane again and Tikaram sips his lager thoughtfully. "It's all right to watch these scenes afterwards, but they're very difficult for me to do. It is easier because we're both straight. We know where it is or isn't going to lead. With women, I find it more difficult. I tend to kiss quite truthfully," he says, smiling coquettishly.

Face to face he's much better looking than on TV. His bone structure and eyes (big, charcoal-black) are more striking. You get the impression that he is aware of it - or at least knows how to use it when he wants. Not that this makes him seem affected. In fact, he appears rather nonplussed by success and does not take his work too seriously. "It's kind of nice that it's happening now," he says. "But hopefully I won't be in this game for too long. I love the work but sometimes I think it's all a bit superficial - a bit self-indulgent. Maybe I don't feel like one of them. I see myself as an outsider or an apprentice."

This might have more to do with his background than any lurking insecurity. "Both my parents were from cultures alien to each other, moving to a third culture alien to them both." Tikaram's early life was nomadic. His father was in the army and the family moved all over the world. After seven years at a military school in Dover ("I still have nightmares of a bell ringing at 6am and having to march to breakfast") he got into drama at Kent University, where he studied English. "I felt acting described another world or another me. A sense of uniformity in my life was absent, creating another identity was very important." It was the same for his younger sister, singer-songwriter Tanita Tikaram, who found fame in the late Eighties with her brand of introspective pop. "We both wanted a life that was somewhere else than in high-rise army flats," he says.

Even now, Tikaram isn't as settled as he'd like to be. An acrimonious split with the mother of his two children is clearly a preoccupation. "Professionally it's going great," he says, trying to sound chirpy. "But when you've got kids, things change. It's a different agenda. I can be a really sensitive bugger when it comes to them. It tends to affect my mood - I can't be too happy at any one time."

For now, stability is a flatshare in south London and planning what to do next. There is a possibility of some television drama, but he would also like to do comedy. "I haven't necessarily got any comic ability. But maybe I could play it straight - I'd certainly like to work with comedians." He pauses, then jokes, "But if someone gives me the money, I'll do anything, really."

Who knows, that may even mean keeping his clothes on.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Maintenance Agreement Manager – Subsea Cables

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Geotechnical Director of Engineering

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Senior Renewables Grid / Power Systems Specialist

    £50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Offshore Wind Package Manager

    £50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: T...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices