Suraj Sharma proved his exceptional acting skills in his debut film Life Of Pi. He is now all set to make his Hindi film debut with Phillauri. In a conversation with Sayali Parab, Sharma talks about his character in the film and what he learnt creatively from Anushka Sharma and Dijlit Dosanjh
What is it about Phillauri that made you do this film?
I read the script and it was fantastic. Anvita ma’am (Anvita Dutt) is a fantastic writer. So there was no doubt that I wanted to do this film from the get-go. My family and I usually discuss a script or a movie before we arrive at a decision. Everybody had a different take on it but they were positive. We did not know who was attached to the film at that point. So after reading the script, I told them I would love to audition for this role.
I came to Mumbai and met Anushka Sharma, Anshai Lal, Anvita Dutt and the rest of the team. You feel that since I am going to do this, I want to have people who I can truly trust, both as people and to also bond creatively. I could feel it with them.
Anshai sir is so cool and I felt as if I knew him even though I did not know him. They taped a few scenes and we also did some workshops. I don’t remember where and how this happened but it just happened. It was so seamless.
You mentioned that you need to bond creatively with the team. When exactly did you realise that you had created that bond?
You cannot make perfect decisions or see the future but you can take a guess and this is what happened with me. Anushka is a great actress and really smart producer. Then we have all these people trusting Anshai sir, with whom I share a different kind of bond, and that’s how you trust them.
The one moment that made me say, yes, I have that bond, is when Anvita ma’am did a table reading where she narrated the entire script. It was the best table reading I have ever been in. Everything made so much more sense, and I just had to say, yes, this is it.
Did the workshop boost the creative bond?
Rapport-building was very important for this film. Between Mehreen and I, it was like we had to know each other all our lives. We had to be extremely close and create a bond and the love between us was beyond romance. This is the stage we had to arrive at and the workshops helped a lot. Mehreen is very chirpy and a fully out-there kind of person. We had a good time. With Anuskha, we didn’t need to rehearse much.
I had no idea about this and had to Google it. I couldn’t believe that this really happens. Later, I realised that this was very common.
What did the director unlock in you as an actor?
I don’t know…maybe comedy. Anshai sir did guide me and told me how to mould my performance for the Bollywood audience. I am like…I’d rather do the internal strive thing, cognitive stuff. But Anshai sir showed me how to cater to a bigger audience.
In the trailer, you are not sharing the screen with Diljit Dosanjh.
Oh, yes, we worked for only, like, 15 minutes. I think it was the most cathartic 15 minutes ever, because we shared only that one moment but that one moment encompassed so much; I don’t understand how that is possible because it is literally one moment. The catharsis I experienced from him was so tremendous that I was, like, wow, I didn’t need anything but this one moment with Diljit.
Unfortunately, I did not get to work with him as much as I wanted to but I did get to watch him work. I tried to understand how he works, his style of performing and how he does things. Anushka and Diljit are so different in both personality and performance style but their chemistry is so mad. It is so strange to see that because they have very different ideas about what they want to do. So I learnt a lot from them.
What did you learn from Diljit and Anushka?
The thing I learnt from Diljit is the ability to use… This is my theory and I don’t know if it’s true but I believe he performs in rhythm. He performs on count and math. It is very interesting. He counts seven footsteps and seven seconds, it is very strange but his face is so natural. He is very much in the moment except that he is doing things in a very specific, purposeful manner. It is both odd and amazing. He is thinking about simple things and it’s working tremendously. That’s what I learned from him… the ability to use rhythm and use it as an emotional trigger.
Truly, what you learn from Anushka is the power of presence in the moment. She is super nice and awesome and also very friendly. I always cracked jokes on the set and she was annoyed but in a good way. But when Anushka is in a performing zone, she keeps her distance from everybody. The importance of that is apparent when you watch the results on screen. It’s insane. When you act with her, it’s so real. She reacted to the slightest change in my facial expressions, which made me react to her even more.
I tried not to think like that. I just want to do good stories and characters. Obviously, I wanted to work in India badly. I wanted to find the right role to get in. I know that there are roles and characters which could have happened but they would have taken away from what I have in the first place. Phillauri gave me that good, middle run as I knew this was a super-big, family entertainer. It’s also offbeat and talks a bit about something that has importance… For example, a female lead role with a strong character. It’s amazing and inspirational.
You come from a very studious background. Where you always interested in acting?
Yes, I was always inclined towards acting. Me, my brother and sister always liked to do natak, in the sense that we did baby plays for our family and relatives. That’s about it.
So you always wanted to become an actor?
Never. I still don’t want to be an actor, it just happened to me.
You are studying too. How do you manage acting?
Yes, I am learning film and I work only during my vacation. I have always been fortunate to find something to do in the holidays.
What’s your future plan?
My plan is to do everything I can do and explore as many genres as possible, and also learn how to act (Laughs).