Kavitha Anandasivam always loved performance as a kid. She remembers first telling her brother Ahilan about her dream of being an actress as a child.
“He said he supported me and believed in me, then he asked, ‘What actress do you want to be like?'” Anandasivam tells SBS.
The 17-year-old high school student from Adelaide remembers pausing, stumped and unsure of how to respond. Besides the Bollywood films her Sri-Lankan Australian family watched at home, there was not one actress on Australian television that looked like her she could point to.
“I said, ‘I have no idea’ because there wasn’t anyone I remember seeing (on TV) other than in a Bollywood movie that represented a brown girl.”
“I always had this need to be an actor, but how that was going to happen I wasn’t sure!”
It was for this reason Anandasivam’s acting ambitions remained an afterthought. Her fortunes changed when in 2018 she decided to sign up to South Australian youth arts drama club on a lark. It was here she was spotted by casting agents and invited to audition for the breakout role as Amandip in the SBS show The Hunting.
“It was a complete blessing to get this role and have Ana and Sophie (Ana Kokkinos and Sophie Hyde) as directors – they were incredible women.”
“I didn’t really pursue acting as strongly as I should have partly because I did not really see myself on screen.”
For Anandasivam it was her first time on screen, playing alongside industry veterans Asher Keddie and Richard Roxburgh.
“I wasn’t really well-versed in famous Australian actors but when I saw them act I understood why everyone thought they were amazing. They are absolutely incredible to watch.”
Anandasivam plays Amandip, a high achieving high school student whose life starts to unravel after a nude photo of her is posted online. The leaked photo leads to tensions within her conservative Punjabi family and Amandip becomes the victim of trolling at school. For Anandasivam there are parallels between her on-screen parents and her own family. Like Amandip, she comes from a close-knit South Australian family with one sibling. Like her character, she admits she would balk at talking about sex and dating with her Sri Lankan migrant parents.
“I think because of the the diversity in the entire cast, more people can see themselves on screen - it really reflects the society quite well as it is right now.”
Amandip's journey of overcoming stigma and sexual shame to empowerment, is one Anandasivam enjoyed exploring, as well as the feminist bent of the show. For the millennial digital generation growing up with smart phones, navigating the world of sexting, social media and the internet is di rigeur. But when things go wrong, parents and schools still often placed responsibility on the victim of image-based abuse.
“Playing Dip was a really eye-opening experience because she went from first from a innocent girl to a much more experienced and mature young women and that process was a very emotional one for Dip. It allowed me to develop and explore my own emotional range in acting.”
Anandasivam says she hopes the series - featuring Greek Australian actress Luca Sardelis who plays Zoe, and Yazeed Daher who plays her love interest Nassim – will make diversity a natural part of Australian television and encourage others, like herself who feel there is no room for them in the industry.
“I didn’t really pursue acting as strongly as a I should have partly because I did not really see myself on screen,” she says.
“I think because of the diversity in the entire cast, more people can see themselves on screen - it really reflects the society quite well as it is right now.”
The Hunting premieres on Thursday, August 1 at 8:30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand, and airs over four weeks.