When I was but a few days old, my parents carried me to their guruji, a revered member of the society. With some ceremony, he gave them my name, which they in turn bestowed upon me. That name was (and still is) Jaiprakash.
It’s a word (a phrase, actually) created from the hindi words; Jai meaning victory, and Prakash meaning light.
I’ve grown up knowing my name to mean Victory of Light. With the help of the Google, I have found other variations of meaning, such as “A Victorious Person Who Gives Light To Everyone”, “Ray Of Victory”, and “Light of Victory”. Rather awesome, right?
When I entered the world of acting in my late 20 / 30s, had secured my second agent, and was starting to get credited roles, I had to consider the implications of my name in a, at that stage, still very dominant White English industry. Despite being African and in Africa, it was suggested that my name was too difficult for the powers that beed and I should consider using the contracted version, Jai, together with my surname, Sewram, as my stage name.
By this stage in my life, I’d grown quite attached to my name and instead opted to split my first name into its components Jai and Prakash. That idea didn’t last long in my head and very quickly I stylised my name as Jai’prakash, thinking that would make it easier for the English speakers to hire me.
But going by one name added even more confusion to an industry that very clearly never heard of Madonna. Prakash very quickly became my surname in the minds of, well, everyone. Maybe I said my name too weirdly for non-Hindi speakers to understand or the idea of a three-syllabled first name (like, you know, Jeremy or Dorothy) was just too complicated for the mental capabilities of those who would write it down. It was sadly not unusual that I had to double check and correct my name on every production, and sometimes multiple times on the same production.
Despite my best efforts, my name continued to mutate, often misspelled in weird ways that made me wonder what drugs everyone was on, and why they were doing them at work. From the “it was a finger slip” Jai Prakesh to the “can’t read your email signature” Jaeprekesh to the “I was very drunk that month” Jaykreparsh.
In the early days, I gave up and settled for what I could get, and so I have been credited on different productions as Jai Sewram, Jai Prakash, or Jai’prakash Sewram. The last name is the one that I decided I needed to drill into the poorly educated heads of the industry, and managed to get stuck. That said, even in 2020, I would still receive callsheets with my name misspelled but, by this stage, close to 20 years in the entertainment, people were more ready to be corrected, even if they didn’t make the effort to get it right the first time.
And that, dear friends, is the story of my obscure miscredited adventures through my years in the performance industry.