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Former Bollywood 'Bad Guy' Promises Change in City Council Race

UPPER EAST SIDE — Long before he was a City Council candidate, he was a Bollywood bad guy.

Hill Krishnan, 37, is one of several locals running for Jessica Lappin's District 5 seat — and perhaps the only candidate with an entertainment background, including a recent commercial for USA television.

"I was tall, so I guess I fit the part," he joked of his Bollywood days during a recent interview. "I was the treacherous guy."

Krishnan, who now works as an adjunct professor at NYU and Yeshiva University, started acting for television in his late teens, when first pursuing undergraduate studies.

At 26, he emigrated from a small village in south India "where there was no running water or bathrooms." He borrowed approximately $1,000 to get to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies in engineering, he said.

Though his stint in showbiz — during which he says he played the villain on "Love Dice," a sitcom Krishnan described as an Indian version of "Friends" — has largely ended, Krishnan insists his days in front of the camera as well as his unique upbringing have prepped him to represent the Upper East Side.

"I'm completely different from them," he said of the other candidates. "I'm a political outsider."

That comment led opponent Ed Hartzog to respond: "A candidate like myself who cares deeply about community issues and has been active in the community is not concerned about 'insider' or 'outsider' labels — only good results."

Krishnan, however, said his candidacy goes beyond labels.

He said he wants to bring a holistic approach to governing that would, for example, care for senior citizens while reforming education.

He proposed an after-school program in which senior citizens could mentor students.

"Senior citizens, in return, feel like they are giving something to society," he said, pointing to his Indian and Asian heritage, which respects the elderly for wisdom regardless of their educational background.  

Indeed, education prompted Krishnan to enter politics in the first place, he said.

Every summer, Krishnan would take time off from university instruction to teach underprivileged children and was routinely taken aback by educational disparities, he said.

"New York City has the biggest education system in the country," he said. "I decided to launch a campaign because of schools."

Education is a cornerstone of what Krishnan has billed as his "5Es" platform, with the other issues focusing on the economy, enrichment, environment and elders.

Krishnan, who has master's degrees in engineering and global affairs, said his study of biometrics and ergonomics can be put to good use with local concerns such as Second Avenue Subway construction and the East 91st Street Marine Transfer station.

He said he would study, for example, carcinogenic, construction-related minerals in the air to see whether there were dangerous levels of noise pollution from subway building. And he vowed to prevent the construction of the MTS while at the same time researching new technology to reduce overall waste levels. 

"The immediate solution is to make sure we don't have a Dumpster in the middle of where people live," he said.

Though Krishnan has been campaigning for approximately a year, he lags behind in fundraising, having $2,565 in his war chest, campaign finance data show.

By comparison, candidate Benjamin Kallos has collected $47,939 and Hartzog has raised $7,953. Campaign finance information is not yet available for Micah Kellner, who recently announced his candidacy for Lappin's seat. Lappin is running for Manhattan borough president.

Krishnan said that he's not worried about the money. Instead, he thinks that canvassing the streets with supporters is enough.

"I'm not a big big fan with money in politics. I'm a big fan of meeting voters," he said. "In the process, we will get more support because people are already joining us."