April  2005




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Nutan Sehgal

"I am what I am because of alternate films" - Sanjay Suri

Back in the nineties he was the archetypal male model who epitomised the profile of today's successful young man - self employed, rich and oozing good taste. Then, in 1997 Sanjay Suri stepped into the world of films with Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi. He gained instant attention with his chocolate-creamy good looks and an easy acting style devoid of any flash and dash. His splendid performances in Filhaal and Pinjar got him noticed. And then came Jhankar Beats which put him right on top of the pile of alternate actors.

Even as Bollywood takes a closer look at him, his new film My Brother Nikhil is generating enthusiastic critical response. The film deals with the trauma of a bright young swimmer whose life and dignity are snatched, when it is discovered he has AIDS. Excerpts from an exclusive interview….

Q: It has taken you almost a decade to become hero material. But you still aren't getting any mainstream films?

A: Themes are changing in the film industry. People are appreciating serious topics and real issues. The commercial success of films like Black and Jhankar Beats proves that beyond a point. In any case I am what I am because of alternate films like Pnjar, Filhaal, Jhankar Beats and now My Brother Nikhil.

Q: What was it that appealed to you in My Brother Nikhil?

A: The storyline appealed to me instantly. It is perhaps the first Indian film that takes a mature look at gay relationships without making a mockery of one’s sexual preferences. It portrays how a happy, close-knit family disintegrates when tragedy strikes. The film takes a grim look at how relationships change when bad times strike.

Q: You have usually been associated with happy-go-lucky roles, so how come you accepted a grim theme like My Brother Nikhil?

A: I thought the theme and the storyline were brilliant and it would stretch me as an actor. Moreover there is nothing dark or grim about the film - it is very non-judgmental and talks straight to the audience and tugs at their heart-strings.

Q: In both Dil Vil Pyar Vyar and Jhankar Beats a conscious tribute is paid to the music of R.D.Burman. Any reason for that?

A: R.D.Burman’s songs are immortal and they fitted perfectly in both the film's sequences. In Dil Vil Pyar Vyar we had Babloo Chakarvarty the arranger of Panchamda make the cover versions of the songs.

Q: Don't you think it was unethical doing two films—Dil Vil Pyar Vyar and Jhankar Beats--- with the same idea?

A: There's nothing unethical about it. The two films were poles apart. Except for the music the scripts were absolutely different. Dil Vil Pyar Vyar was an out and out love story and Jhankar Beats was an arty, newage film. There are no similarities.

Q: Back in the nineties you were a top model. Now you are an actor who has done almost a dozen films. How has that changed your life?

A: I have this great sense of achievement. I have done everything on my own without any godfather to fall back upon. Today I feel I command a certain respect in the industry. I have an identity of my own in Bollywood. There's a bit of me in every film I do.

Q: Doesn't it bother you that many of your films from which you had so much hope have flopped?

A: I don't view my films as flops. Some of them did reasonably well and were appreciated by audiences. Then there was Chandrakat Dwivedi’s Pinjar and Meghna Gulzar's Filhaal which were milestones in my career.

Q: But weren't both of them commercial flops?

A: I think they were very powerful films. They may not have made too much money but they gave me tremendous artistic satisfaction. I benefited immensely from them as an actor.

Q: Don't you think a bad film like Sanjay Gupta’s Plan in which you did a negative role harmed your so carefully cultivated image?

A: There has been no conscious cultivation of an image. But at the same time as an actor I don't want to do the same kind of characters again and again. Just because Shah Rukh Khan has done Devdas doesn't mean he'll only accept or be offered roles of a tragic hero. Similarly I too want to do different roles in different films.

Q: Are there any specific plans?

A: Since I am from Kashmir, sometimes in the future I'd like to make a powerful film on the state. Not the kind that Bollywood makes but a hard-hitting film touching real issues like militancy and terrorism. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Maybe one day, I'll be able to realize my ambition.




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