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Bollywood is an ever evolving phenomenon. From storytelling to subjects, every aspect of the filmmaking has evolved over the course of its journey. It has bestowed stardom to chosen ones and converted their status from film actors to luminaries but at the same time there were many who came, struggled to find a place but got lost without a trace.
Shahrukh Khan was an owner of a small shop in Delhi before he signed Fauji, Akshay Kumar was a cook in Thailand and Legends like Dilip Kumar used to serve in a canteen before he faced the camera and became the icon of Bollywood. These are the cases that inspire millions of aspiring actors who try their luck in pursuit of fame and money in Bollywood. For the star kids, the tedious process of ‘struggle’ may be unheard of but they only get a readymade launch pad and from thereon they take charge of their careers. They constantly carry the baggage of comparison with their parents, some surpass the legacy like Ranbir Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor whereas some just don’t match up to the standards set by them such as Abhishek Bachchan and Esha Deol.
Among the recent ones are Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt who made a mark with their strong debuts and later on with their consistent performances. But there is one more entrant who is slowly and gradually making his presence felt in Bollywood. Ad-men call him camera’s delight as he changes his expressions like a chameleon. His acting skills were applauded by veterans like Naseeruddin Shah and Shatrughan Sinha. In Germany he caught the eye of Peter Rusmel, the official photographer of the famous series ‘Sex in the City’. From toothpaste to mobile to car, his face has sold almost every brand under the sun. Masala! caught up with model-turned-actor Samarth Shandilya who shared with us how his Bollywood career is shaping up after successful stints at television and modelling.
So when did you realize that you were meant for films?
The acting bug bit me accidently. Back in my college days we used to bunk classes. Somehow roaming out under the sun dint go too well with my complexion so I would sit in the auditorium where every now and then there were theatre preparations going on. I was so hooked to the performances that it got my focus shifted to acting. I was happy doing theatres alongside my graduation when one day Naseeruddin Shah Sir came to watch our performance with Mr Shatrughan Sinha. After the show ended, he said to me that ‘once you finish your studies, do think about acting as a profession seriously’. That short conversation ignited the spark in me and in a way changed my destiny. That reassuring voice echoes in my mind whenever I get second thoughts about my career choice.
So do you still get second thoughts? Or in other words, do you think you made a right choice?
I don’t have any regrets. But this field is too demanding, physically and emotionally both. You have to be in the circuit to get noticed, your PR team should be on their toes, you have to be friends with those who matter and the lobby system here is too hard to crack. But at the same time my modelling assignments played a major role in establishing my credibility. Now that I think of it, my only regret is that I couldn’t do ramp modeling because of my height.
Which genre of acting are you most comfortable with?
I am a very positive person and love to laugh. May be that is why I enjoy comedy a lot. I am a huge fan of Umar Shareef Sahab and I watch all sorts of stage shows to polish my humour. But I also agree with the funda that an actor should never become too comfortable or content with a single genre. In a way that limits the opportunities. As Leonardo DeCaprio says that an actor does two types of films in his career, one to pay his bills and the others to prove his mettle. I want to prove myself in all the genres that Bollywood offers.
You have done almost every major campaign in India. So how did you get the first modelling assignment?
Well I was in Germany to shoot for a documentary called Behke Qadam and luckily Mr. Peter Russel who is the official photographer for Sex in the City series spotted me there. We did a quick audition for Nivea Men. It dint work for me logistically, but back in India those images helped me a lot. Since then I have done over three hundred print ads and numerous television commercials. I was very clear that I dint want to be just another guy in the ad but I wanted to be the guy who ‘sells’ the product. And that gave me a lot of confidence in front of the camera and most of my ads that you see are all improvised.
And then what about your first film Sabki Baje Gi Band ? How did that happen?
Nature Conspired! I did the print shoot for Indian Music Awards and as the awards were promoted by Reliance Big FM, they had placed my huge posters all over the town. That is when RJ Anirudh Chawla, the Love Guru of Radio, who is also the director of my first film ‘ Sabki Baje ki Band’ spotted me. He called me to audition for the role and after few days I was on the sets hearing my very favourite expression ‘Action’.
Your first film ‘Sabki bajay gi band’ did a decent business. What projects are you working on currently?
I just did a short film with Anurag Kashyap. Recently, I have just finished dubbing for Maal Road Dilli. The film has almost reached its completion stage. I play a charmer in the film who is a complete flirt. As flirting comes naturally to me, I dint have to work a lot to play the character. The plot revolves around the room mates and their individual love lives. Its quite a fun ride. I might also do another show on television called Boys. But it is not confirmed yet.
At any point in your struggling days, were you exploited?
Haha, tough one! As they say there is no free lunch or no one invests in you for free. Yes I was asked for some extremely unethical favours which of course coming from a decent background I did not oblige to. Unfortunately it’s the sad and dark side of the glamour world. It’s a complete give and take business, literally.
We see you quite often on Channel V, tell us something about your association?
I have a long association with Channel V. It all started with Gumrah in which I played the lead and then I jumped into that reality show bandwagon called Kidnap and luckily won it. Then I did Saada Haq for them in which I played a villain. I was also a part of another reality show with John Abraham. Its easier for me to relate to the content which Channel V shows. Its young and vibrant and its closer to the taste of today’s generation.
What is the reason of so many visits to Dubai?
My father is a lawyer and he has expanded his work here. We have a house in Dubai as well. So I am here too often. Its like a second home now. I love the nightlife, the way everything is managed here. The law and the city management, the skyline, everything is just outstanding. I am also doing a commercial which is being shot in Duabi. Lets see where life takes me from here.
This stud may be a short guy from Delhi but he is already casting a long shadow. Masala wishes him all the best for his upcoming projects.
Sadiq Saleem is a Dubai-based entertainment journalist. He can be reached at his page fb/sidsaidso.