The A.V. Club reported last night that Kumar Pallana, the longtime Dallas man best known for his small, scene-stealing parts in director Wes Anderson’s films, has died at age 94.
Pallana led a massively interesting life before hitting the big screen at nearly 80. Born in colonial India, he lived all around the world, and first made a name for himself as an entertainer in America in the 1950s. Back then he was known as Kumar Of India, and his specialty was spinning plates—he even appeared on Captain Kangaroo in 1961. (Other feats included magic, balancing, swordplay, and juggling—you can see him do a handstand in The Royal Tenenbaums.)
Pallana had settled into a relatively quiet life in Dallas as he got older, selling Indian spices and food at his son’s coffee shop. Anderson and the Wilson brothers would frequent Cosmic Cup—to play chess and cards and take pictures, according to Pallana—and eventually they drafted him for bit parts.
Could be that I’ve never laughed harder at anything in a movie than I did when I first saw Pallana’s deadpan reaction, shaking his head, saying “I blew it, man,” as the heist in Bottle Rocket (made in Dallas) comes to a disastrous end.
Above you can see a video about Pallana that was produced several months ago for Dark Rye, an “online magazine” run by Whole Foods Market. It’s made in imitation of the style of a Wes Anderson joint, with Pallana’s son providing the narration. Check out the body the guy was rocking in photographs of him as a young yoga instructor.
Below are great moments of his from Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums. RIP.
UPDATE: A co-working FrontBurnervian points out that Dallas native Owen Wilson, who co-wrote and starred in Wes Anderson’s earliest movies, spoke about Pallana on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night, saying that he was a great guy who’d lived a great life. “We’re going to miss him a lot,” Wilson said. See the clip here (he starts talking about Pallana at about the 1:27 mark, after telling a story about going with Willie Nelson to the DMV.)