Photography helped the Houston, Texas transplant to come to terms with several losses in his life, including the death of a close friend. As his interest in still images grew, Instagram allowed him to share the work with friends and the world.
“Photography has always been a passion of mine,” Maknojia said. “The ability to freeze a moment and capture tension or joy or sensuality or pain can be powerful. A good photographer knows how to see these things little differently than everyone else.”
His posts quickly shifted from casual selfies and spur-of-the-moment images of his environment to more polished images evoking emotional reactions. He also started putting himself in front of the camera.
Since moving to Los Angeles two years ago, his passion has gone to work for him. In less than a year, Maknojia added model and Instagram influencer, to his growing resume. A short time later, he expanded again, adding actor and executive producer. He is also the founder of Land Ahoy! Films a production company with a mission to consolidate his brand and foster another passion.
“Land Ahoy! is a way for me to support myself, kind of like a partner, but also a way to support others with similar goals,” Maknojia said. “I want the company to be a way for those who feel marginalized to get their voices heard, to get their projects made. I don’t want to look at the color of someone’s skin but at what talents and skills they bring to the table.”
Maknojia has encountered diverse groups of people in Los Angeles, though he feels their stories and their role models often don’t get positive representation in the entertainment industry.
“People are pretty accepting in this community, but I feel there isn’t a strong translation of that acceptance into entertainment,” Maknojia said. “There are still stereotypes. There are some barriers I think we could overcome. In Artifice, for example, my character wasn’t a typical role where the audience would expect an Indian. The same is true for With Interest, How many Indian mobsters have you heard of?
“That’s where I want to go, beyond the stereotype. Those are the sort of opportunities I want to bring to others, both for actors and for audiences. I want to find and create projects where the color of someone’s skin or their race isn’t really the focus. The focus should be on their talent.”
His attempts to circumvent stereotypes and overcome personal hardships helped him develop the tools needed to plot a course to the future he wanted to create.
“I think everyone has certain expectations they have to deal with, the expectations of parents, family and heritage and so on,” Maknojia said. “My parents were pretty chill about my career choices. I have some experience in the business world and that foundation may have influenced their opinion, but they’ve been supportive.”
His current project, a music video with an up-and-coming musician he declined to name, is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As soon as we can safely get back to work, the music video will be my priority,” Maknojia said. “I’m a big fan of his music. I approached him with the idea of working together on a video and our visions matched up pretty well, though some people might think we wouldn’t mesh very well.
“It’s interesting. I can already see the experience of my recent projects influencing my decisions on the music video and other projects in the works. It’s not just film or video or photographs but everything. I’ve learned, even before coming to L.A., that you should always look for the next opportunity. And here, there are so many opportunities lots of people have overlooked.”