To this day, actor and author Olivier Sanjay Lafont ’01 is amazed — and amused — each time someone approaches and calls him “Price Tag,” the nickname of the materialistic character he played in the 2009 Indian blockbuster 3 Idiots.
“I think every single person in India has seen the film at least a dozen times,” said Lafont, whose supporting role in the award-winning, coming-of-age comedy has proven to be a career changer. “And internationally, [even] people like Steven Spielberg and Jackie Chan said they’ve seen it — to know that is so much fun,” Lafont said.
The French-born Lafont is one of the best-known faces in Indian advertising (TV and print), and is also known for his screenplays and film work.
But he’s most proud of his new novel, Warrior, based on his passion for Indian mythology, fantasy, and Hollywood epics. The book’s hero is demigod Saam, son of Shiva, the god of destruction. Saam has just days to save the world from ending. Published by Penguin (India), the book has received rave reviews.
“I’d love for it to be made into a movie,” said Lafont. “It has that kind of visual impact — it rains blood and lizards and frogs — and the story is universal, about a hero with a broken family, who’s in love with a mortal and has issues with his father.”
Lafont, 35, became interested in writing soon after he arrived in India at age 7 from France. (The family moved so his historian father, Dr. Jean-Marie Lafont, could continue his research into the Indian subcontinent.) Olivier and his two brothers attended the American Embassy School in Delhi. “I had to learn English pretty quickly, so that’s where my fascination with words and language and structuring information began,” he explained.
Then, at age 13, he fell in love with acting. He was drawn to TV and films, plus, he found that acting works well with writing. “When I write, I find myself enacting the scenes and characters in my head,” said Lafont. “And when I act, I structure the scene like I’m a writer. The two feed into each other.”
Lafont was a theater and English literature major at Colgate. He appeared in a variety of plays and musicals and learned stagecraft skills — including costume and scene design — that he still uses today. (His brothers, Jean-François ’96 and Xavier ’08, also attended Colgate.)
The multilingual Lafont — he speaks English, French, Spanish, and taught himself Hindi — returned to Delhi after graduation, to be close to family and try his hand in the emerging modern Indian film industry. “There was such massive potential. I felt as a writer and actor, I could do something new and original in India.” Lafont wrote several scripts, moved to Mumbai, where the Hindi film industry is strongest, and wrote Hari Om, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2004 and went on to win awards at film festivals worldwide.
Lafont is currently working on several scripts that he’d like to act in, and looking for a producer to make a film for one he’s written. He’s also seeing where Warrior will take him, whether it’s film, TV, or another medium.
At some point soon, he’d love to return to the United States and work. He noted: “I think I have stories that America will like.”
— Anne Stein