Creating Promises With Neel Pillay

“Ma, I found one girl” is something everyone can relate to the character Rueben in the popular movie franchise – Broken Promises. 

I sat down with Neel Pillay who plays the role of Rueben and we spoke all things Broken Promises, Jacob Zuma and Jelly Fish.

Check it all out below….

1.How would you define yourself?

I would say that I am quite an ambitious, driven and focused person. I am always striving to better myself and those around me. I am someone that is also quite ready to help others, and often volunteer my time to organisations needing assistance. But, I would also say that I would define myself as a person with almost a split personality. Whilst many get to see the extroverted actor, who is quite full of energy. By nature, I am actually quite an introvert, preferring to actually spend a lot of quiet time. Guess that comes from being an only child to a single mum.


2. How did you get into acting?

I started acting whilst in primary school, and then had the opportunity to be part of the school play in High School. At the same time, my uncle who was into stage shows asked me to take a role in his stage play, where I actually played the part of Kogie Naidoo’s (Amsugie) husband. I then focused a lot more on my dancing, fusing Bollywood, hip hop and bit of break dancing. I danced with a few groups and also had my own group for a while. With dancing, I still maintained contact with Kogie Naidoo as I danced with her daughter. It was during this period, early in my twenties that Kumaran Naidu approached Kogie to undertake a series for television. Needing a guy to play the husband for Maeshni (Saras), Kogie suggested me, and that is how I started working with Kumaran and movies. I initially did the normal actor thereafter, signing with casting agencies, doing small bits for adverts and international productions, as well as some stints on radio. But I found that opportunities were limited and if I wanted to support myself and a family, then I needed to have a career and kept my entertainment side just as a hobby.


3. Talk to me about the journey of Broken Promises thus far…

I think only the core group of actors involved with Broken Promises from the beginning knows the struggles we went through. It is also for this reason that we know how truly gifted Kumaran Naidu is. We started out of Kumaran’s garage, with 4 of us, Kumaran Naidu, Sathie Moodley, Rajen Moodley and myself, trying to put together all the production support for the movies. I would often be sitting with Kumaran well into the early hours of a morning, listening to music for scenes, and throwing ideas around for scenes. We used a normal store bought camera, and computer mic for shooting. Kumaran fashioned his own lights. And with all that, the vision of Kumaran was unquestionable, he saw things totally different and when we saw the final product, it blew us and indeed the public, away. Since then, Broken Promises has grown from strength to strength, with Kumaran being able to gain access to better equipment, the quality has improved tremendously. The cast has also changed during this time and we have seen the main characters undergo various changes, whilst still maintaining a sense of reality. Broken Promises was definitely the first truly independent film, especially within the Indian community, that made it big. It definitely set the bench mark for many others that followed, and one can see in many productions thereafter, certain similarities to either characters or situations that can be traced back to Broken Promises. And now, with the industry seemingly ready for the next wave, what better time than to bring back the gang.


4. In the movie Broken Promises, we’ve seen that Rueben simply cannot keep his women. Talk to me about your character and how different you’ll are.

Yes, I always associate Reuben with the phrase “ Ma, I found one girl”. And that has been the main storyline for Reuben’s character and how his choice in women have affected the family and those around him. Reuben also comes across as this really nerdy guy, who doesn’t quite know what he wants in life. Always getting himself in the middle situations that he really can’t handle, and then needs others to sort out his problems.

In real life, I guess I am a total opposite of Reuben. I am married and just celebrated my 12 year anniversary. I have 2 wonderful kids, and am extremely grateful to have a great wife that supports my acting. I am the sort that likes having control of where I go in life, and am generally the one that others turn to for guidance and help.

So I am indeed totally different from Reuben, but I guess that is how acting is supposed to be. Far too often, the actors lose their own identity with the character and that is why I guess that many actors, especially internationally, are not able to hold steady relationships or have truly happy lives. I suppose the one major similarity between Reuben and myself would have been our love for our Mother. I wish my own mum was still with me to be able to see all that I have accomplished.


5. What has been the one memory that still makes you giggle about shooting Broken Promises?

There have been many, especially since we always try to have fun on set. But the one that stands out for me, was in filming Broken Promises 1. We were shooting at the house that was the main house in the movie. Myself and Rajen Moodley (who also played Prakash, Natasha’s ex-boyfriend) were standing by a sliding door that lead outside, but was closed because of shooting. Parry (who played my father,Tony) who was not in the scene, walked toward us to go outside. Myself and Rajen moved aside, expecting him to open the door and go out. Parry thought the door was already opened and walked straight into the glass door, leaving a nose print on the glass. If only the camera was rolling.


6. Broken Promises 4 – Ever is set to create havoc in the local industry. Talk to me about your character in this installment.

For this instalment of the franchise, my character undergoes a complete shift in personality. I can’t give too much away as obviously, a lot of what Reuben does, has a ripple effect on those around him, but what I can say is that audiences must expect to see a Reuben like they have not before. And I must say, I am extremely excited to play Reuben in this way as I think it will give audiences a chance to really appreciate the turmoil of the character. Reuben will leave his comfort zone in this instalment, and with that, will move the entire focus into a different direction. Like we spoke about at our production meeting, the Broken Promises franchise is much like Fast and Furious, the core storyline remains the same, but it has evolved to something bigger and better. In this same way, Reuben will look to evolve to be able to cope with life and the pressures around him, but I someone think, as usual, things won’t go exactly as he plans.


7. Your thoughts on the current debacle #ZumaFustFall …

Unfortunately many leaders across the globe, have fallen into what I call the ‘Power Trap’. They no longer look to serve the people that appointed them, but rather show how powerful they have become. And sadly this is the case not only with President Zuma, but many of the other leaders around him. The values that once drove ANC, are no longer there. I don’t believe that we can only look to Jacob Zuma as being at fault, as he is merely part of an organisation, which if the leaders of this organisation were truly just, would do what is right by the people.

I also feel that unfortunately the bouts of civil unrest in the form of service delivery protests has been misplaced. Unless those directly responsible and can effect a change are affected by the protests, nothing will happen. So, why protest in your own community, why burn schools and universities and businesses in your own areas, when it is only you that will suffer. Take your protests to the doors of the decision makers. Let them directly see and feel the impact, then action will happen. I think people must also be quick to realise when leaders are pulling the wool over their eyes and act quicker and decisively. With a simple act of Satyagraha, Mahatma Gandhi was able to change the course of a country, without looking to incite violence. So, people must look beyond the puppets of power hungry leaders, think for themselves and take action, without violence.


8. What makes a good actor?

I believe that a good actor is someone that can become someone they are not, put themselves into a character that they are not, and then be able to bring themselves back to their own personality. I see it with many new actors, they get roles for playing characters that mirror their own character or nature. And then they get taken away when people say how well they did, but can’t understand after that why it is difficult to get more roles. You must also be willing to constantly change, learn, and willing to listen to the advice of others.


9. Your message to aspiring actors out there is…

Before making this your career, understand what it is that truly makes you happy and what it is that you want from this gift of life.  We all need money to survive, but we all don’t need to be stinking rich to be happy. Being a full time actor is very hard, and not glamourous at all. What you may see on camera, magazines and promotions, is nothing what most actors go through. Yes, some do get lucky and make it to be rich and famous. But what you don’t see is how happy those that make it to be rich and famous are. You also don’t see how many thousands fall by the wayside, not really making it. So, my advice is to first understand whether you want acting to be a fun hobby or your career. For many, it will only end up being a fun hobby, but that is not bad either, if they can establish a decent career and keep acting as just a hobby. If you truly want acting to be your career, then you need to understand that you will need to treat it as a career, and work hard at it. Also, be prepared for what life is like in the public eye. You will no longer be able to generally shop, eat and or go anywhere without people looking at you. So, get used to it and learn to handle it as this is the career you have chosen. I personally get annoyed when actors snub fans or rudely tell them to not bother them.


10.  Message to your fans?

Firstly, thank you for all the phenomenal support over these last few years. Secondly, please continue to support good local productions the right way, and by that I mean, don’t support the piracy of local films as that will simply mean that we are not able to give you more. I trust that you will enjoy the next instalment of Broken Promises, and in particular, the change in my own character. The character may cause some to hate him, but I hope fans will see the art behind that, and enjoy the shift in character. Also, fans must not forget that actors or in my case, part time actors, are still normal people and they must not be afraid to approach us should they want to chat. I still get people coming up to me for photos and autographs, but there are many others that will want to come up and talk but as they are scared, they don’t.



          Pinky Promises With Neel


1.      Favourite genre of music?

Old School Pop, Bollywood, Religious/Devotional


2.      Love is…

Family and knowing how to compromise for a better relationship


3.      Famous Rueben pick up line is?

“Hi” Any girl that Reuben says hello to is a potential girlfriend


4.      Favourite series?



5. An hour in a box with scorpions or an hour in a tank of jelly fish?

Tank of jelly fish…There’s just something so peaceful about floating in water, I’m sure the jelly fish will feel it too.
Neel has grown from strength to strength in the local industry and I promise now we get to see him play a character, no-one would see coming.

The Bokem Legacy wishes Neel all the best in his future endeavours 🙂


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