Unlike Sunil Shetty who made it a point to be present for his lovely daughter Aathiya’s first day of shooting, Aathiya’s co-star Sooraj Pancholi preferred to do it alone.
“I didn’t want my parents there. And my father (actor Aditya Pancholi) didn’t want to be there to see me start shooting. He thought I’d get self-conscious if he came to watch me. But I had my own reasons for not wanting my parents to see me give my first shot. I want them to watch me in the complete film, not while shooting it. I want to make them proud and happy,” says Sooraj.
Surprisingly there was no nervousness on the first day’s shooting.
Says Sooraj, “We shot at Kala Ghoda. All the butterflies in my stomach disappeared when my director Nikhil Advani said, ‘Action’. It was as if I had come home. All my anxieties vanished.”
Advani started the shooting of Hero with one of the toughest sequences in the film featuring Aathiya, Sooraj and the four theatre actors who play his buddies. The unit now moves to Manali where Sooraj would shoot some heavy-duty action sequences.
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He says shooting has swept away all the pain he went through when in a shocking turn of events, Sooraj’s girlfriend Jiah Khan committed suicide. “Preparing for the shooting of Hero and now actually facing the camera has been therapeutic for me. I feel motivated, almost born-again. My experiences in the past year have been too painful to even share with my parents. I feel pain is something one has to cope with and come to terms with by oneself.”
A month in jail has made Sooraj a stronger person. “All my life I was a loner. At age 14 I left my parent’s home to stay with my grandparents. And when they passed away I lived on my own. I still do. I only have my two dogs for company.”
Sooraj’s director Nikhil Advani says the experience of being thrown into jail has added a substantial emotional quotient to the young actor’s character. In the film Sooraj’s character goes to jail. And Nikhil would be tapping into Sooraj’s experiences to lend a sense of lived-in authenticity to the character’s experiences.
Sooraj seems surprisingly okay with the idea of applying his painful experiences to his role. “I will not only use my experiences I can also provide helpful suggestions on what life is like in there. Imprisonment especially when you know you are innocent is a life-changing experience. I was forced to re-examine my entire life and priorities. Today I know exactly who matter to me.”
Sooraj confesses to being a big fan of his mother Zarina Wahab’s work. “I especially like her in Chit Chor and Gharonda. She is a fantastic actress and an even better mother. She has kept our family together over all these years.’
Though he lives away from them Sooraj is now closer to his family than ever before. “The crisis that I went through has brought us closer together than before. I am closer to my sister now. I have lunch with her almost every day. And we talk a lot more. As for friends, I am not much into socializing. I’ve just one friend Karan Joshi who is not part of the film industry. All through the experiences that I went through he stood by me.”
Sooraj says he doesn’t think about the nightmarish experiences any more. “I’ve not forgotten what I have gone through. I never will. No one can forget this kind of experience. But I’ve put it all in the back of my mind. My entire focus is on building a career, on Hero.”
Pondering over his life Sooraj feels there is no scope for another relationship after Jiah for a very long time.
“Not a day passes by when I don’t think about her,” Sooraj says softly.