I Didn't Really Think I Would Want to Act: Sooraj Pancholi

“I was 18-19 when I thought I should know something about films\", said the new bollywood debutant Sooraj Pancholi.

Published: 12th September 2015 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th September 2015 11:16 AM   |  A+A-

Unlike fellow debutant Athiya Shetty, Sooraj Pancholi didn’t grow up knowing that he would follow his parents –Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab—into Bollywood. “I was 18-19 when I thought I should know something about films. Sanjay sir (Leela Bhansali) lives in my building, so I asked him if I could work with him. I worked as an assistant director in Guzaarish.”

It was on the sets of the drama, while watching Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan, that Sooraj first thought that maybe Bollywood could be for him. “I thought maybe I can do something in this industry. I didn’t think I’d want to act.”

It all changed when Sooraj met Salman Khan. “It was at Yash Raj Studios. I had gone to meet Kabir Khan sir to ask if I could work on Ek Tha Tiger. When Salman sir got to know who I am, he called and introduced me to Kabir sir. I was the last assistant on the film, so it was my job to call him from his room and that’s when we bonded. He would make me sit with him and talk about working out and sports. We never spoke about films.”

It was on the sets of Ek Tha Tiger that Sooraj knew that he wanted to be an actor. “The life of an actor is just so exciting. The action, the music and dancing… meeting new people and travelling to exotic locations. That’s when I was 100 per cent sure that I wanted to be an actor.”

As luck would have it, Salman noticed something special about him. “He asked me ‘actor banna hai’? Obviously, I said yes,” Sooraj laughs at the memory. Towards the end of the shoot, Sooraj was in Turkey along with the Ek Tha Tiger crew when he got a birthday present that changed his life forever. “On November 9, Salman sir asked if I’ll do a film for Salman Khan Films. Again I said yes.”

Nikhil Advani’s Hero came along only three years after that conversation in Turkey. “I never gave up hope because I was sure that Salman sir will do something for me. I just started preparing… I was doing action, dancing and diction classes. He called me almost two years later after that conversation in Turkey to tell me they had the script. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.”

And, Salman’s advice to the newcomer? “He told me to not act, and just be myself on screen. He also told me to wear good jeans and boots because that’s what makes a hero. Your jeans should always fit your hips, and it should never be falling off. And good boots are just as important.”

While Athiya had her parents on the set for the first day first day of shooting, Sooraj decided not to. “I thought I would get very conscious. They also didn’t want to come. I remember that day so clearly. We were shooting on the streets of Kala Ghoda (in Mumbai) at 6 am. Athiya and I were very nervous. We were on the phone talking to each other the whole night. But when Nikhil sir called action, all the nervousness vanished. It was almost as if we had prepared for that moment our whole life.”

While he was preparing for his big debut, Sooraj was dealing with turmoil in his personal life. His ex-girlfriend Jiah Khan killed herself in 2013 and her mother Rabiya accused Sooraj for abetting her suicide. The actor was taken into custody, but eventually released. The case is still going on in the Bombay High Court. “It was a very tough time for me. I couldn’t have managed without my family’s support. My parents’ unconditional love kept me going. I have to move on.”

Hero releasing this week is a big step towards the future Sooraj has always dreamt of. And the 25-year-old is clear about where he sees his career going. “I want to do commercial films. Let’s be honest… commercial is where the money is. I would want to do arty films like Highway and Badlapur, but my focus will always be commercial films.”


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