FIVE years ago, actor Suraj Sharma grabbed the attention of cinema lovers worldwide with the Ang Lee-directed Life of Pi, as he struggled to survive on a lifeboat adrift in the middle of an ocean with a tiger for company. The Delhi boy, who found his calling in cinema and joined a filmmaking course at New York University in 2013, will be seen as a confused groom tackling pre-marital jitters as well as a ghost in Anushka Sharma-starrer Phillauri that releases on March 24. Suraj was impressed with the script of Phillauri when Karnesh Sharma, brother of Anushka and co-producer of the film, approached him. The actor shot for the film last year, during a break in his filmmaking course, which, he says, can be quite gruelling. “When I read the script, I loved the character of Kanan that I play in the film. We shot my part in 20 days in Patiala. We lived at the same place and shared the community vibes.
It was lots of fun,” says the 23-year-old. Interestingly, Phillauri is the first mainstream Hindi film that Suraj will be seen in, though he has acted in an Indian film earlier, Prashant Nair-directed Umrika (2015).
Set in Punjab and directed by Anshai Lal, Phillauri is about an NRI Punjabi boy Kanan, who returns to India to get married to his childhood sweetheart. His horoscope says that he is a Manglik and to ward off its effects on his marriage he would need to marry a tree before the “real” wedding.
Post his marriage to the tree, he is trailed by a friendly ghost, Shashi (played by Anushka). “My character is petrified of the impending wedding with his girlfriend as well as the ghost. It is a comical and awkward situation he is trapped in. This leads to light-hearted fun,” he says.
After completing his graduation in three months, Suraj wishes to find some interesting assignments. “I want to act everywhere — including Hollywood and Bollywood — if I find good characters and stories,” he says. The actor feels, apart from mainstream films, there is an underlying sub-culture where lots of interesting work is happening. “So many people, so many stories. India is full of possibilities,” he adds.
Suraj, however, does not have anything lined-up at the moment. “I am reading scripts. After college ends, it is the real world for me. I have to look for work then. I’m young and I want to try out different things,” he says. Apart from acting, he is keen to dabble in writing and direction.
Even after five years, the changes that the success of Life of Pi brought in his life still haven’t sunk in. “There are dreams you dream and then there are dreams you don’t because you don’t even know that something like this can happen,” says the actor, who was discovered by Lee when he had accompanied his brother for the audition of Pi Patel’s role.
Suraj has followed up his appearance as Pi Patel with roles in TV show Homeland, and movies such as Million Dollar Arm and Burn Your Maps. About the stereotyping of Asian actors, he says, “More filmmakers are coming out with proper characters. It is frustrating sometimes, but we have to remain positive,” he adds.