Surya Sharma (Undekhi) Interview: I think like an actor, not like a hero
Rhea Srivastava -
Actor Surya Sharma has made quite a transition. After working in Kaala Teeka for television, he made his digital debut with Hotstar’s Hostages. An engaging crime thriller, Hostages revolved around the life of a renowned surgeon who is ordered to assassinate the chief minister, in exchange for the survival of her family. In the middle of all of that, he even did some bit roles in movies like Genius (2018) and Veere Di Wedding (2018).
Hostages may have had Surya in a small but pivotal role but it is really Applause Entertainment’s Undekhi which will give him a chance to shine. A thriller that will stream on SonyLIV from 10th July onwards, Undekhi is based on true events. The spine-chilling trailer shows a typical North Indian wedding celebration at a resort in the hills, which is cut short when one of the dancers is mistakenly shot by a member of the wedding party. Surya’s character ‘Rinku,’ however, steps in soon enough to carry on the merriment as if nothing happened. He will be seen in a non-compromising role which is sure to impress.
LetsOTT caught up with the up-and-coming actor to talk about his journey. Excerpts...
Did you always want to be an actor? What has the journey been like?
The first time I acted, I was in the third grade, and I played the role of a soldier. My father always encouraged me, even way into the future, that I should stick to acting with conviction if it is something that I really want to do. It’s because of him that I kept acting in small projects over the years. I was doing theatre during my time at DAV College, Chandigarh. The plan was always to become an actor, but things usually fall into place when they’re meant to. It’s been six years and I’m having a ball.
Was the movement from Chandigarh to Mumbai an easy one?
I’ve had a very different type of struggle than what many other young hopefuls would have experienced. I am grateful that I come from a family and background where I didn’t have to at least struggle for a house. I had a normal home, a normal routine… where I spent most of my day playing sports, going to the gym, working on my acting, and then giving auditions. I did an acting diploma with Barry John’s Acting School. The decision to move to Mumbai wasn’t easy but I have no regrets.
When I gave my first audition here (and perhaps this would work well as advice to future actors to never give up), the casting director asked me where I’m from. When I told him I was from the North (Himachal Pradesh), he asked me if my parents had their own business. When I affirmed, he told me to go back home and help them with their business, instead of wasting his time. He said, ‘you don’t have it in you to make it as an actor.’ That was a real blow for a newcomer. I was so traumatized that I stayed home for weeks. It was only my father’s motivating words that got me back into the game.
While I wasn’t too keen on doing soaps, I knew that television would be a good stepping-stone to get to where I wanted to go. I was even happy doing a bit role in a movie as long as the role had some credibility. Television was a great place to learn about the technical nuances of an actor’s job, post which I was part of the lighting crew for a few plays at Prithvi Theatre. The place I come from, we value all work - no matter how big or small it is.
As you mentioned, you have done smaller roles in some movies. What has the experience taught you?
Veere Di Wedding was important enough to get me noticed by a few more casting directors, not to mention that it was a big movie as well. I had a great experience being part of it because I had such a great rapport with Shashanka Ghosh (director).
I was offered a few more movies after that but I opted out of those projects due to creative differences. Even during Hostages, some filmmakers were pressuring me to join their project but I had given Hotstar my complete commitment and couldn’t leave that mid-way. They threatened me with the fact that it was a big production house. My father has taught me to never fear anything. I stayed on with Hostages due to commitment, and it just happened to work for me.
How did you land Undekhi?
The script for Undekhi was sent to me when I was working on Hostages as well. There was no moment in Rinku’s character arc that I felt like rejecting the role. I knew I had to do it. In every episode, a new layer of his character will be revealed.
Was it difficult to get into Rinku’s character?
Undekhi is set in Manali, mostly. I come from a part of Himachal Pradesh where we speak in the Pahadi dialect, and while the language changes, the tone and style of speaking is pretty close to that. I was determined to get into the character in every way, and I’ve tried my best to do it.
What is your best memory from shooting Undekhi?
I have many great memories of shooting the show. I’ve always dreamt to shoot in my hometown and that my parents could see me on set. Since Undekhi is shot in Manali, my parents came down and that was a proud day for me. Another memorable instance is from a scene that I had to shoot which involved dogs. One of them was a one-month puppy. He just stole my heart. I’ve adopted him and now he lives with my parents.
Both your shows are produced by streaming services - Hostages on Hotstar and Undekhi on Sony LIV. How do you think streaming has affected the way we make and consume content?
These days, the best web series is on par with films in terms of production value. Not to mention, there is a lot of competition when it comes to just getting noticed for actors. The more shows being made, the more opportunities to actors, filmmakers, and technicians. And streaming services allow for more content to be made.
What are the kinds of roles you see yourself trying out in the future?
I don’t think like a ‘hero,’ I think like an actor. I was made a parallel lead in a show and frankly, it was just annoying keeping up with that. I’m open to being a lead but I would only want to do it when it satiates the actor within me, not just for the sake of keeping up appearances. Honestly, that means I’m willing to explore any role.
Who are the filmmakers and actors you want to work with?
It’s my dream to work with Mr Amitabh Bachchan, Mr Manoj Bajpayee and Ms Deepika Padukone. I always wanted to work with Nawaz sir (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and thankfully that happened in Genius (2018).
I really connect with the reality of the romances in Imtiaz Ali’s movies, and Vikramaditya Motwane is also a master at character preparation.
How has the quarantine been treating you? Have you found a way to connect to your fans?
I’ve done a few workshops to hone my skills. Right now, I’m in the middle of a workshop which is on ‘body language.’
I usually use Instagram to connect with my fans, ask them to send me their questions. Unfortunately not too many people ask me about my performances, but mostly about my beard (laughs) and how to groom a similar one. Now I’m going to tell them about my performances.
Actors are an insecure lot. Are you concerned about what happens in the post-corona era?
I don’t think about the future at all. So much is happening in the world and it is difficult to understand. But it is best to remain in the present and do our best now. There are days when I’m scared about little things and on some, about my life. That’s human nature. Just focus on being fruitful and move on.
Do you have any projects in the future?
I’m in the middle of workshops for the next project which is a thriller-drama with a lot of dark humour.