SUSHANT SINGH – “YOU DON’T HAVE THE FIRE TO BE AN ACTOR.”
Posted by barkha on May 13, 2012 | No Comments
The words of his guru, Ebrahim Alkazi, resonated loud and clear, in 1994, to a young man standing on career crossroads and looking for advice. At that moment, in that instance that young man gave way to Sushant Singh, one of the finest and versatile actors to grace the screen in India. From his first electrifying performance, as the antagonist in RGV’s JUNGLE, an actor had arrived. Here we talk to Sushant:
When the credits roll at the beginning of a film and your name appears, there is an air of surprise for the audience as to which kind of role you will be enacting in the film…the complete actor?
Yes I would like to take credit for that. One thing I was very sure of when I came to this industry was, I refused to be given a fixed tag. They do that to actors all the time here and I have fought hard to keep myself out of any pigeon hole or image. So what happens with a set image is that you get an actor with a set image, example a villain, so you spend no time in establishing him in the story, which I think takes away from the actor and the audience experience. Also in that case a certain fixed number of emotions and expressions are expected from him and which you will deliver and go. So the director is actually banking on the actor in such scenarios, as opposed to it being the other way around. Hence the kind of roles I chose, it was very conscious that I did not want to keep repeating myself. Post JUNGLE, I kept away for a while from playing the traditional negative or any role that might have even a slight resemblance to something I may have done in the past. That patience of not repeating myself despite being around 13-14 years in the industry, is now paying off and as you said there is an air of surprise when my name rolls in the credits.
So how come in films and in acting, in the first place?
I can look back and say it was destined, but that is more a “looking back” which we all do. The honest answer is, I don’t know at which point in time, but growing up in UP, we used to have this Ramlila playing every year and in between the Ramlila, they used to have skits and presenters. During one such Ramlila I was pushed on the stage by my cousins, i was 4 years old. Why was I pushed, I don’t know, maybe they saw something in me. But I did quite well once I was on stage. Nobody in my immediate family is from a film background. Why and where I inherited these creative genes and talent, I don’t know but along the way I kept meeting people who recognized this talent in me and encouraged me else I wouldn’t have known that I had the talent for acting. Then in college, in Delhi, I met my acting guru, Ebrahim Alkazi. Till then I was not sure, whether I want to be an actor. It was something I enjoyed but I was more of a writer and a painter. I approached Mr Alkazi, after I had been with him for 2 years, he was giving me lead roles in plays, honing me as an actor. I told him that I wanted to show him my poems and my paintings and wanted his opinion. He asked me to bring my work, which I did, but he did not look at it. All he asked me, “what is it you want to be?” I responded that I would like to continue doing theater, but that theater does not pay the bills. He responded that he did not think that I could become an actor, he did not see the fire in me. That was the only instigation I needed. That was the day I decided that the only thing I would pursue is acting. That was in the middle of 1994. So here I am!
Your view on whether the landscape for movies, this whole independent movement, is it really changing things in Mumbai?
From the time I came, yes, there is a change, no doubt about that. It is still dependent on the star system, which I think is true for cinema world over, irrespective of whether the star can act or not. Yes, what is changing is that now despite the star, they are also looking at a solid story. Even the big corporates appear convinced that merely a star, does not mean much, when the story is not present. It is in transition for actors such as myself. I would not say it has drastically opened up. Age of formula films is over. Now, compared to ten years back, there is much more scope for new talent, for films without stars and I would give it another 4-5 years for a real difference to emerge.
Theater, films or television, your preference purely as an actor?
Theater and films on an equal footing then television.
We have not seen you in many international projects, given your desire to be a complete actor and your command of the English and
Hindi language, you would be a perfect choice?
I have not received any substantial offers, but the day the right one comes along, I would definitely go for it.
You are more than just an actor, do we see a potential director here?
The foundation is being laid, but am still a few years away from stepping into those shoes. Right now it is purely acting.