Promoting a film can sometimes be more taxing than actually shooting for it. Ask Sooraj Pancholi. The young debutant, who is now in the midst of a breakneck promotional spree, came a bit under the weather on a day when mainstream media interactions were lined up. But Sooraj, who has weathered many a storm before, took everything in his stride and patiently finished his interviews before calling it a day.
In an exclusive interview with The Indian Express, the soft spoken Sooraj opened up about his film ‘Hero’, his relationship with mentor Salman Khan and late girlfriend Jiah Khan. Excerpts from the conversation.
Ques: One of the most difficult actors to please in the industry, Salman Khan is all praises for you. What is the relationship you share with him today?
Sooraj: We don’t share a father -son relationship. It’s not even a brotherly relation. Had it been so, I would have called him Salman bhai. But I call him Salman sir. I don’t know how to define my relationship with him.
Ques: When and how did you first meet him?
Sooraj: I met Salman sir for the first time on the sets of Ek Tha Tiger. I had gone there to meet Kabir sir(Khan) as I wanted to assist him. Salman Khan knew me as Aditya Pancholi’s son and he asked me as to what I was doing there. I told him about me wanting to assist Kabir sir and he encouraged me.
Ques: Did it ever occur to you then that he would launch you?
Sooraj: Never in my life did I even dream that Salman Khan would launch me.
Ques: How did Hero happen then?
Sooraj: We were shooting for Ek Tha Tiger in Turkey and it was the night of 9th November which also happens to be my birthday. I was fast asleep in my room and at three in the morning Salman sir came and dragged me to his room. He first wished me happy birthday and then said, ‘Sooraj I have a gift for you. I want you to do a film for my production house Salman Khan films. Would you like to do it?’ I said,’Ofcourse sir’. On returning to Mumbai, Salman sir asked to start training and wait for his call. I waited for almost one and half years. Finally, he called one day and said,’Sooraj, I have got a script. It’s a remake of Hero. Are you interested? I said yes and that is how Hero happened.
Ques: Does Salman’s utmost faith and trust in your abilities put additional pressure on your shoulders?
Sooraj: Yes, he has a lot of faith in me and it does put a little pressure but then Salman sir is chilled out. When I go and ask him how to do a scene and how I should prepare myself, he tells me, ‘arre yaar…don’t ask me all these things. Be the way you are in real life. All I want you to do is wear good jeans and make sure it doesn’t slip off your a**.’
Ques: So what do you guys talk about when together?
Sooraj: I and Salman sir mostly talk about sports and bodybuilding. We never discuss films.
Ques: A lot of star kids like Varun Dhawan and Tiger Shroff have made their mark in the industry. How do you view the competition?
Sooraj: I see it as healthy competition. If there is no competition, how will we go ahead? Varun will be a big star in future. Tiger has just set his foot in and he is great as well. In real life, we all are like brothers. I don’t think anyone wants to eat anyone else’s work. There is enough work for everyone here.
Ques: When your name cropped up in the Jiah Khan episode, a huge controversy erupted. Wouldn’t you have rather wished to begin your career with a clean slate?
Sooraj: (Pauses) It was in nobody’s control. People didn’t realise that I had lost someone. I lost my girlfriend (Jiah) who I was seeing for the past few months and I was really upset. But I think it was destiny and it was written in book of life. People ask me what have I learnt from it. I don’t think of it as a lesson because I have not committed any mistake. There is nothing to learn from it. It was in nobody’s control and perhaps was meant to happen.
Ques: What kept you going during that period?
Sooraj: My will power and the fact that I am not guilty. Had I been guilty, then deep inside I would have been broken. But I know what the scenario was and I know that I am not guilty That is what pulled me through.
Ques: What advice did Salman offer you then?
Sooraj: We didn’t talk during that time. The reason I love him so much is because if it hadn’t been for him or his support, I would still be struggling. I wouldn’t have been able to become an actor because this industry throws you away during such times. He hasn’t done that and has kept me close to his heart and I love him for that.
Ques: Are you dating anyone right now?
Sooraj: No I am single and I am looking for someone nice.
Ques: Would you prefer a girl from the industry?
Sooraj: No. I would prefer someone who is not from our industry.
Ques: Why so?
Sooraj: I don’t want to mix my work and personal life. They should be kept separate.
Ques: So tell us, what kind of a girl are you looking for?
Sooraj: Someone simple and dusky but very independent. She should be more busy than me. She should be so busy that I should die to see her.
Sooraj’s debut movie Hero releases on September 11.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines