- He plays Bobby, the younger son of Riz Ahmed, a former marine, who embarks on a journey with his older brother and father, who is trying to protect them from an alien threat.
Aditya Geddada begins the Zoom call with a “namaste.” The 9-year-old star of the recently-released sci-fi cum psychological thriller “Encounter,” is barely visible in the office chair he’s seated in. He’s wearing a gray cardigan and is eager to get the interview started.
“Encounter” is directed by Michael Pearce, who also wrote the screenplay with Joe Barton. The film stars Riz Ahmed, Lucian-River Chauhan, Octavia Spencer and Janina Gavankar. Aditya and Lucian-River are brothers — Bobby and Jay — children of Malik Khan (Ahmed), a former marine. The film follows the two brothers as they embark on a journey with their father, who is trying to protect them from an alien threat.
This is Aditya’s first acting gig. And although he’s just one film old, he has the confidence of a seasoned actor. But in many ways, he’s a typical 9-year-old as well. Throughout our conversation, he’s constantly moving, changing his tone and expressions according to the nature of the questions, he’s almost always animated, and doesn’t hesitate to demonstrate some of the anecdotes he’s narrating. “I became an actor by accident,” the charming Aditya says, narrating the incident when he was first spotted by an agent. It was during a showcase his sister (Pragnya Geddada) was having. Aditya was playing in the lobby and he and the agent chatted briefly. The agent later told Aditya’s mom that he wanted to see Pragnya, but he wanted to see her brother as well. “And that’s how I got my first audition.” But the possibility of him getting cast never occurred to him. “I was like let’s just get it done,” he says. “I mean, who cares if I don’t get cast.”
But then, “on a warm summer’s day,” when the agent called and broke the news to Aditya that he got the part, he was shocked, and so were his parents and his sister. “We all almost fainted.” Thus began his journey to stardom.
Before going to the location for the shoot, Aditya and his co-stars participated in chemistry reads, to check on-screen interaction and compatibility, as well as taking training for the fighting scenes. “The training was good because we had an amazing stunt coordinator who did the stunts for ‘Breaking Bad,’” he explains. The cast bonded as well. “We actually went to Michael’s house (director Michael Pearce), he let us swim a bit, and I and River taught Riz how to play Beyblades.”
When asked about the training, Aditya springs from his chair to demonstrate, and shares some tips he learned from the stunt coordinator. One of them was to fall on the back first, something you see his character Bobby do in the film. In another scene, when Bobby throws his action figure out of the window, and when he runs up the black lava, Aditya reveals that he was wearing knee pads. “It was so cold but somehow I managed it.” Through this and other intense scenes and fight sequences, Aditya seems to be in the flow of things. “I did improv as I love doing my own spin on the character, and the director Michael gave me a lot of freedom to do it,” he says. “My mom had read the script out loud to me several times so I was familiar with the material.”
Aditya’s favorite story of the shoot is related to the cold weather as well. He has a glimmer in his eyes as he recounts it. “This is on the below zero degrees night,” he begins. “So we are freezing our butts off, we are on a mountain top and we had these hot hands taped to our body. And I put so many pads on that I started to fall asleep,” he laughs. “So Riz and River literally had to pile candy in my mouth.” Despite an overdose of candy, Aditya kept falling asleep, and in his true style, he demonstrates the scene on Zoom, reciting his lines, his dozing off, the tired voice — the works. It’s like he’s transported back on the set. Recalling it, Aditya is cracking up and zooming in and out of the scene. He’s clearly living that moment again. “It was really funny and that’s a story I tell a lot,” he concludes.
Aditya has enjoyed his time with Ahmed and Lucian-River. The camaraderie between them is evident in a few off-shoot videos of the three musketeers Ahmed has shared on social media, making Aditya popular on Instagram. In one video we see Aditya singing a Bollywood song; in another we see him goofing around with Ahmed and Lucian-River and confessing his love for candies.
It’s not surprising at all that Aditya describes his time on the set as fun. “We had these amazing locations, we were stuck in the middle of nowhere and we were still in California,” he recalls. They went to Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Mammoth, June Lake and Eagle Mountain “which is a mining town and a ghost town,” which was Aditya’s favorite location. “And working with Riz, I mean, he’s amazing.”
However, before the chemistry reads and training, Aditya had no idea about his co-stars. “When I first heard that Riz is going to play my father, I didn’t know who the heck he was.” His father gradually introduced him to the on-screen dad. Aditya saw “Nightcrawler” and “Sound of Metal.”
But it was not all fun and frolic. Aditya says he got some acting advice from Ahmed as well. “So when we would have a sad scene, Riz would tell me to picture a moment in my life when I was really angry, store that memory in my heart and when I needed that feeling just let it out.” This was helpful in the intense scenes of the film.
Along with learning in sets, there was learning offset too. There was schoolwork, which Aditya never missed on set. He worked with a studio teacher for at least four hours a day. “We shot for four hours and for the other four we studied. So we would bring an iPad or whatever and our teachers would post homework on Google classroom, and we would do it with the studio teacher.”
As the shooting coincided with schools going virtual, Aditya’s father and sister could also join them on locations along with him and his mom. “When I and my mom were out on the set, my dad and my sister would be in the hotel.”
Aditya admits that his stardom and popularity have opened him to the possibility of being an actor and that he’s actively seeking projects. “Before I got my audition, I wanted to be an archeologist,” he says. “So I’m thinking of being an archeologist, an actor and an illustrator; those are the three things I want to do.”
A die-hard fan of Robert Downey Jr., Aditya says he’d love to star in a Marvel movie. “I also want to do ‘Star Wars,’ I like ‘Cobra Kai,’ I like action, mystery, sci-fi, and thriller.” He also loves to play video games, read comics, and novels like Harry Potter, Calvin and Hobbs, Spiderman. He is an avid Bollywood fan as well and admits to having watched Hrithik Roshan’s “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara,” over a hundred times. But he doesn’t see himself acting in a Bollywood film. “I see myself as Don’s sidekick,” he says, referring to the remake of the classic Amitabh Bachchan film starring Shah Rukh Khan.
While acting comes naturally to Aditya, the celebrity status that comes with it makes him uncomfortable. “At school, every day, at least five people come to me and ask for an autograph.,” he says, But as he always does not have paper and pen on him, he tells them he’ll give it another day. “It kind of makes me uncomfortable when people ask me, so sometimes I just don’t do it,” he says. “I am not a celebrity, I am a rising star,” he clarifies. “I just live like a normal kid with his friends and then there’s another side of me which is in the movie world.”