Straight Shooting With Salil Acharya
Posted by Vivek on February 16, 2012 | No Comments
He is one of India’s most popular VJ and RJ. The man has an opinion and is not afraid to express it. However, his is never an emotional outburst, it is one that is backed by research and a logical thought. That’s what makes him different. Here is a VJ who is just as comfortable and informative, talking about Shah Rukh as he is about the Global economy. A conversation with him is refreshing. Refreshing because in Bollywood where everything is make believe and hype, he calls it as he sees it. But this time we don’t ask him his opinion, we ask him about him and the results are just as refreshing and straightforward, as his style:
Journey to VJ/RJ?
Have been here now for 9 years. Had done my graduation from Delhi University and was about to start my MBA, while doing pretty serious theater in college, and a chance meeting with somebody in Nirula’s in Delhi. So there was this audition happening, and without giving it a serious career path lookout and anyway media was not thought as a line of work, which could have been pursued professionally, at that time. So that audition went well. This was also the time of shift, from English to Hindi, in the popular channels, in India. I was one of the first Radio Jockey (“RJ”), in prime time, in Mumbai, to do a show which was going from English to Hindi. Ironically I was not known for my Hindi in Delhi. But I guess Delhi makes your Hindi strong. So they offered me a job in Mumbai, as a RJ and with a pay packet of Rs 35,000 a month. At this time I was also tired of the Delhi Pseudo Social Intellectual circle that I existed in. I needed a fresh start, so there began the journey.
Just to give some perspective here, the very first Hindi film I saw was Shah Rukh Khan’s DEVDAS. I used to watch Remington Steele, Riviera, Bold & Beautiful, had not seen a single Hindi soap ever. But when I came here, it was ok, I realized that people don’t expect you to know everything, I think the audience connects with the fact that there is a bit of vulnerability in you. Things changed real quick thereafter, when I won a modeling contest and then when I got a show on Sony TV, which at its time was one of the biggest shows. Did television for five year. Then sometime later, got a wonderful opportunity to host a Radio show one more time, in 2009, when radio was going through a lot of changes. But all this while I had the backbone of B4U, as a VJ, which allowed me to dabble in other things. They have been wonderful. There were times when I would take an extended break to shoot for a film, but they would continue paying me my salary. Currently also I shoot for them once a week, but B4U has been a brand that I have, and, will continue to associate with, as long as I can.
Back to the roots?
It is a trend that is catching up in Mumbai, of people going back to what got them there in the first place. Currently I dabble in a million things. As long as I am excited or invigorated by the things I am doing it. My day is divided into 4 hours here, 3 hours there, 2 hours there, etc.
Your B4U show is attractive to the audience, since you don’t come across as a typical VJ, you discuss mundane topics also, but that makes it more interesting in a way. Is that a conscious effort? Being non filmi?
I never quite understood the word “filmi.” But what helps me is that I read a lot, I travel a lot. So agree or disagree, the viewers know that he is aware of what he is talking about. When I did enter the typically filmi world, I myself was lost. I just could not have a conversation beyond a certain point. The main conversations would surround the insecurities of the actor. So there I was, considered very pompous at one time, but I refused to be apologetic about it. It is what I do well and am successful at, so why should I be. Also realize I was 24 back then and was making the kind of money that General Managers of company make, after slogging for years. I had bought my first house in 2003. So the finance was very important in making me secure and also contributed to my decision not to be fake, but be myself. My honesty has also irked a lot of fans, like Salman fans, Shah Rukh fans, but that is the secure me out there, that you see and hear. If I had not been myself, I would not have survived this long in the industry, especially given that I would voice my opinion.
Straight shooting in Bollywood ?
I’ve had disagreements the world over. Yes. I’ve had my share of them whether with Bhatt sahib, Ekta, etc. There was a time in 2005, where whatever I touched was not gold, but diamonds. The next three years whatever I touched turned into dust. Suddenly they did not want this yuppie 25 year old taking over. I got into a lot of trouble everywhere. I still do. But I am now running 32 and have also survived a decade in the industry. Suddenly people feel his voice has weight because I’ve been unchanged and stuck to my guns, over the years. The thought disturbs me, cause I am the same person I was a decade ago.
I thought they could have offered you a better character sketch in AWARAPAN?
Understood. What was narrated to me and how it played out, was something totally different. The feel was the same, but the treatment was different. I was told not to work out for this character (I am known for my physique), also was told to tone down my voice, which is many shades deeper. During the action sequence, I was told, you are doing a great job, but that is the hero’s job. So here I was, a 26 year old, and being told you can’t give it your best shot, cause Bollywood is all about the heroes. Of course my response was, why does the hero not up his tempo to build both of us up. At a script level, the dialogue was very solid, but somewhere along the line, and this was even a big blow to the Bhatt camp, since this was one of their most ambitious projects, it did not translate to the screen level. Positively though, I did not think I would be given something like this at that point of time, so overall I got a lot of positive feedback for my role.
Look back and look forward?
I feel successful. Monetarily I have arrived. I have multiple houses, drive the car I want. Materially it is there. I continue to do Radio, have now become involved even in the management. I trade in stocks and I am looking to start a restaurant very shortly. So I live a good life. Television does not excite me much, but am not going to go seeking film roles. If they come to me, like Awarapan did, great, I’ll take them on, if the part is right. This line has it s lack of control scenarios. A friend of mine Vidhyut Jamwal, waited for 12 years to get that role in FORCE and what a performance and what action sequences, but 12 years he had to wait. Now the heroes don’t want to be in the same frame as him. In Bollywood even the main lead does not really have much control. You have a Shahid Kapur, highly rated, brilliant, popular, but somedays an Imran Khan film gets a bigger opening, so the film line, I won’t depend on, but my Radio and B4U, that is growing, exciting and real…..and gives me the success….until that amazing film offer comes along.