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Life of Pi actor Suraj Sharma speaks on breaking into Bollywood from Hollywood

Suraj Sharma in a still from Phillauri
Suraj Sharma in a still from Phillauri

It’s a sunny day in New York, actor Suraj Sharma tells us over the phone. The Delhi boy is spending his time pursuing a course in filmmaking at the Tisch School of the Arts. The countdown to the release of his first Bollywood project, the Anushka Sharma-produced Phillauri, has begun and the anxiety is telling. Sharma, who gained recognition as Pi in Ang Lee’s survival drama, Life of Pi, went on to deliver a heart-wrenching performance as Aayan Ibrahim, part-time lover of dysfunctional CIA agent Carrie Matherson, played by Claire Danes, in Homeland Season 5. Post Phillauri, he has a crossover film called Burn Your Maps coming up for release, where he plays an ambitious filmmaker who accompanies a family to Mongolia on a soul-searching journey.

Edited excerpts from an interview.

What was it like to work on your first full-fledged Bollywood project?
What I realised was that an Indian crew can handle any situation. They know how to deal with any type of panga.

It was also a relaxed set. The bond I shared with Anshai (Lal; director) and Anvita (Dutt; writer) did it. Maybe, it was because we all came from Delhi. It was the most enjoyable time I have had on a set, but I am also nervous.

What did you come away with after being around Anushka Sharma and Diljit Dosanjh?
I’d watch them closely on set and I have picked up a few tricks. Anushka can be completely focused and still possess a non-pressuring attitude. That makes it easier to act. She is also all there in the moment, so it feels as if you aren’t acting around her. Diljit, who I had just one scene with, I noticed, has a rhythm-based reaction to everything. And that’s something I tried to imbibe.

You are in New York for a film course. Do you eventually plan to direct a movie?
I like the idea of being a storyteller. But that said, I think you need a life experience larger than mine to be able to do it. So, right now, I am going to stick to acting. At school here, being in the position I am in, comes with it’s own advantages and disadvantages.

The good thing is that I am already in the system, and a working professional. But then, I see all my classmates, who have the freedom to make mistakes, and develop their craft.

What was Claire Danes really like?
(Laughs) Oh, she was amazing. She is such a strong personality. She had her baby on set, and she would go from being a mother to this person driven to madness in a second. How does one do that? She likes to challenge herself. I think I was blessed to work with her.

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Life of Pi actor Suraj Sharma speaks on breaking into Bollywood from Hollywood