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Having done films like Golmaal: Fun Unlimited, Style, Xcuse Me, Bollywood star Sharman Joshi may be construed as synonymous to comedy by many. The fact remains that besides comedy, he has successfully ticked off many genres in his checklist of films. Be it erotic thrillers, horror movies, psychological thrillers or intense movies, Sharman has done it all. Interestingly, Sharman, who’s known for his superb comic timing, debuted in a serious role in an art film Godmother (1999), and he later rose to prominence with thought provoking and critically acclaimed super hit movies like Rang De Basanti and 3 Idiots. The 39-year-old actor, who’s son of Arvind Joshi, a veteran actor of Gujarati theatre, considers theatre (over Bollywood) to be his first love. In an exclusive interview with Nation Next, Sharman Joshi speaks extensively about his ‘first love,’ his admiration for filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani and his excursions in Nagpur.
Ahead of staging his famous (Hindi) play Raju Raja Ram Aur Main for the first time in Nagpur, Sharman Joshi speaks exclusively to Nation Next about the play and more…
You’re staging your play Raju Raja Ram aur Main for the first time in Nagpur. Besides a laughter riot from a comedy king like you, what can Nagpur audience expect from the play?
Haha! You’ve answered the question yourself! The content is unique. All the credit goes to writer-director Kedar Shinde. In terms of content, presentation and entertainment quotient, the play can be compared to any top-end play presented at West End Theatre (London) or Broadway Theatre (New York).
You got back to theatre with Raju Raja…, in which you’re portraying multiple characters. Apparently, it’s a very successful play. Please tell us something about your role and the play.
Raju Raja Ram Aur Main has received a lot of love. It has been staged almost for 2500 times in Marathi. I’m acting in the same play but in Gujarati and Hindi. I portray four different characters in the play. As an actor, the play is extremely challenging and exciting for me. Kedar (Shinde) had written this play for his best buddy (Marathi actor) Bharat Jadhav, but he was kind enough to offer the Gujarati and Hindi version of the play to me.
You say that theatre is ruthless. Have you ever received a harsh reaction from your audience?
Oh ya, oh ya! (Laughs) It’s a nightmare; quite scary, I must say! If things don’t turn out as expected by the audience, it can be quite horrifying and upsetting for an actor. It can knock off an actor’s confidence. Theatre is all about live performances, but that’s good because you can immediately figure out what goes wrong during the act.
You said you felt insecure when you got back to theatre after a gap of 10 years. Why would you say that?
It’s scary when a play (especially a good one) doesn’t work. Like I said earlier, ‘It can be extremely unnerving and you eventually lose all your confidence. You start questioning all the work you’ve done so far.’
Theatre actors usually complain about monotony creeping in their lives, as the same plays get staged several times. But as you say, unlike Bollywood, one can get a live reaction from the audience in theatre. What remains your first love – Bollywood or theatre?
From an actor’s perspective, my fist love is definitely theatre. Theatre doesn’t give you another chance, there’s no retake. The challenges in theatre can’t be compared to those in cinema. Cinema makes your work reach to a larger audience than theatre though. On the day of the release of the film itself, your work reaches lakhs of people. In theatre, you do multiple shows and then your work reaches thousands.
Being a Bollywood actor, was there anything you had to unlearn for theatre?
See, learning and unlearning is a continuous process! When you’re new to the craft, you’re keen to understand it. You discover a lot about it. Then comes a stage, when you’re more comfortable with your craft and you start taking it for granted. That’s when you unlearn some things and come out of that phase of being a little complacent.
From debuting in an art film to getting recognised with comedy films, you haven’t been reluctant in experimenting with your on-screen image and roles. Most of the actors are following this trend today. Is it because of a paradigm shift in filmmaking in Bollywood or the audience is more receptive and mature now?
I think the shift comes from the people who’re creating the cinema. Great filmmakers like Guru Dutt saab and Raj Kapoor saab did extremely unique work, where the subject was away from the then conventional topics and yet there was a lot of entertainment value in their films. Their movies even garnered commercial success at the box office. I feel the audience is always prepared for good cinema. Filmmakers too always want to make good cinema but then you need to have financers and producers, who are willing to put in their money in such good films.
Rajkumar Hirani is soon coming up with a sequel of 3 Idiots, and it would surely be incomplete without you…
I hope there are no such plans where he decides not to cast me in it (Smiles)! I’m so eager to be a part of it. I hope it happens soon!
Rajkumar Hirani, arguably the most successful filmmaker in Bollywood, is the Nagpur poster boy…
Yes, he’s the Nagpur poster boy, who’s extremely successful! He introduced me to the orange burfee in Nagpur. I loved it. I intend to get many packs back home this time from Nagpur.
Rajkumar Hirani is a wonderful human being. We’d come to Nagpur for the promotions of 3 Idiots and that’s when we visited his home. He also gave us a round of Nagpur and showed us some of the spots, where he would hang around in his college days. I’ve seen Nagpur through the eyes of Raju sir.
How is it to work with Hirani?
Expect the unexpected! That’s how it’s working with Rajkumar Hirani, the finest director in the industry. He always comes up with novel ideas. It’s always a challenge. It’s not that if you know him, so your work gets easy. It gets even more challenging.
Hirani has fiddled with the biopic genre with his forthcoming film Sanju. If you were to portray someone from Bollywood in a biopic, who would that be?
It’s such a tough job to do what Ranbir (Kapoor) has done. He’s looking amazing in the film. I would do a biopic on Amitabh Bachchan. Sadly, I’m just 5.9 and a half inches tall! So, on this ground itself, I lose the role (Laughs)! Bachchan saab’s journey has been full of stardom and challenges, and how he rises from those challenges. It’s amazing!
You worked with Rekha in Super Nani. You once said that she inspired you…
I had a lovely time working with her. She’s also fond of me. She would tell me stories of the times she worked actively in movies. She’s a thorough professional and a disciplinarian.
You haven’t spoken much about your personal life. If you were to deconstruct the enigma around Sharman Joshi for our readers, how would you do that?
I don’t want to do that (Laughs)! I wonder what one would find interesting about me because there’s no deep dark secret that I’m holding! I can be quite lazy when I decide to and can be extremely boring when I’m myself.
What’s keeping you busy these days?
I finished working on a couple of films – Kaashi in Search of Ganga (psychological thriller) and Babloo Bachelor (romantic comedy). Both the films are in postproduction and hopefully the films release by the year-end.
Round Table India presents Sharman Joshi's super hit Hindi Comedy Play "Raju Raja Ram aur Main" tomorrow (on June 24 at 4pm at Suresh Bhatt Auditorium) at Nagpur. For booking tickets, click here https://in.bookmyshow.com/plays/raju-raja-ram-aur-main/ET00076882 or cal