After garnering widespread acclaim for his debut Hollywood film ‘Life Of Pi’ (2012), actor Suraj Sharma became an international star within blink of an eye. He followed it up with the season 4 of the American crime thriller series ‘Homeland’. And now, the carefree and kickass actor is coming up with his first Hindi film, ‘Phillauri’, produced by actress-producer Anushka Sharma. Suraj is quite psyched about his Bollywood debut. In a candid conversation with BizAsia correspondent, Mohnish Singh, Sharma opens up about his experience of working on a Bollywood project, his future plans and what kind of differences and similarities he finds in Bollywood & Hollywood.
A couple of days away from the release of your film ‘Phillauri’, how are you feeling?
I have butterflies all over my stomach. I don’t know how to gauge my own performance. But I am very happy that the audience has given a positive response to the trailer. It’s definitely very scary thing for me as this is the first time I am doing something like this. So butterflies are the perfect word.
How did you bag this role?
It was pretty much of a very straightforward process. The producer came up to me with the script. So I read the script and I found it brilliant. I immediately gave a nod to it. I liked the theme and also the character that I play prompted me to take up this project. So I was like I very much wanted to do this and then he called me to Bombay and that’s how the things were taken forward. I had this kind of inside gut feeling. I play a guy who fears commitment. So my character goes through that. Our generation has the commitment problem and they fear it. I gave my auditions and did a lot of workshops. I got into the skin of the character and gave my best.
So after ‘Phillauri’ would you consider more opportunities in Bollywood?
I want to kind of do both Hollywood and Bollywood. I want to explore as many different genres as possible. But definitely after Phillauri I would love to do a Bollywood film.
What kind of genres and roles would you love to explore?
I would love to do many but for Bollywood films. I just want to do a heavy drama, dark comedy. But I basically want to do everything but more of comedy.
Who is your favorite Bollywood actor?
Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Naseeruddin Shah are spectacular actors. In the younger lot, it’s Ranveer Singh. His energy is unmatchable and is infectious and makes his presence felt.
Who is your favorite director?
It’s Anurag Kashyap and his movie ‘Udta Punjab’ was just spectacular. It requires a lot of bravery to take up such subjects and make something new. Anybody on that lines I generally like them.
You can take a lot from Bollywood and use it there in Hollywood and then you can also take a lot from Hollywood and use it in Bollywood. When the work part is considered, Hollywood is a way more structured compared to Bollywood.
It’s always said that in Hollywood you have to create a certain benchmark. How different it is as an Indian actor to work in Hollywood as the audiences perceive you differently?
When it comes to acting, Hollywood allows you to explore more and gives you much leeway as an actor and a much more successful career. Also, the fans and the performance style are so different. Because the audience is different, the performance is different and so the storyline is different. You can take a lot from Bollywood and use it there in Hollywood and then you can also take a lot from Hollywood and use it in Bollywood. When the work part is considered, Hollywood is a way more structured compared to Bollywood. But in Hollywood they can’t handle problems tactfully whereas in Bollywood they solve it in no time. Also, when it comes to technicalities both are same. It’s just that different cultures tell stories in a different way.
What’s the most clichéd thing about Bollywood?
I feel it is the unreal representation of age in the films. It seems very unreal.
You don’t have a filmy background. How did you get into films?
I never thought of becoming an actor. It just happened. My decision was my family’s decision. My family is kind of more inclined towards academic but my mom has a creative side to her. All three of them my brothers and sister are zoning towards that creative zone. Even when I am choosing my scripts it’s a decision of the whole family.
After getting into Bollywood do you watch Hindi movies more to understand Indian cinema better?
There isn’t anything of that sort. Because I am from film school, they force me into watching Hindi films. But not Bollywood. Being a part of Bollywood production made me more resilient and I start accepting the inevitable with grace. I understand now that it’s fun to choreograph things, emoting emotions, etc. The western influence and the idealization kind of make us forget our roots and our culture.
What are you upcoming projects?
I am doing an independent Hollywood film. Then in Bollywood it’s ‘Phillauri’. I am still in college and have to complete my last 3 months and so any film is after that.
‘Phillauri’ arrives in cinemas this Friday.