Kangana Ranaut’s upcoming film Simran is definitely one of the most-awaited films of the season. While Simran is the story of a young Gujarati girl, who becomes a kleptomaniac, an alcoholic, and a gambler in the US, she also falls in love. And the actor who plays Simran’s love interest in the film is Sohum Shah.
In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Sohum shared his life story and how thrilling it was to share the screen with Kangana Ranaut. Sohum wasn’t hesitant to express his views on the ongoing debate of nepotism, which Kangana started but he did evade from commenting on the Apurva Israni controversy.
Here are some excerpts from our interaction:
How was it sharing screen space with an actor like Kangana Ranaut?
It was a great experience actually. There is just so much to learn from Kangana. I had a lot of fun while shooting too. Especially as an actor, I learned how focused Kangana is in her work. She is very calm on the sets. She focuses all her energies on the scenes we shoot. She prepares a lot. And secondly, I think when you work with a good actor, you learn a lot of things intuitively. You see their reactions, their actions and there are also some things that I can’t point out because I learned them at an intuitive level. Gradually, these things help a lot in molding your craft.
Was it difficult playing the love interest of Kangana’s character, who is a gambler and a kleptomaniac in the film?
See, Kangana’s character is like a little wild and rebellious, on the other hand, mine is a very simple and solved out character who wants to get settled. So, the film is about how these stark opposite characters meet, how their relationship blossoms and also how all this affects Kangana’s character, who is the lead in the film. Talking about my character, he has a particularly realistic charm and simplicity about himself. He is very real. I had to put on weight for playing Sameer. He doesn’t have six pack abs, he wears loose clothes.
We know that Kangana has the ability to pull off a one-woman show. Did you feel any kind of insecurity doing a film with her?
No, not at all. Why will I have insecurities? I already knew the character I was playing. Definitely, Kangana is the main character in the film. And I even found my character very interesting and that is why I signed the film.
Would you like to comment on the script controversy between Kangana and Apurva Asrani?
I guess the producers have already commented on this issue and so, I don’t think I am not the authority to comment on it.
What do you think, should actors venture into writing or producing, for that matter?
I don’t think I can write. Writing is a really tough job. I don’t think I can do that, not right now at least. I am obviously looking for opportunities as an actor, but it’s not like you do something very different as a producer. I produced Ship of Theses because we couldn’t find any other producer. The pressure increases somewhat, but I think I want to focus on acting first.
Considering you are an outsider, did you face any kind of nepotism in Bollywood? What’s your take on talent vs lineage?
Well, like every other industry, it is obviously difficult to enter Bollywood too as an outsider. But it is all the more difficult here in movies, because this is a close-knit and well-established industry. Here, reaching Bombay in itself is a task, many people give up there itself, you leave your family, your work and try to adjust to this new city. And about the second question, I think it should be all talent. Definitely, you have a privilege over me if you belong to a film family. When they make their debut, they are already three steps ahead of us. But there is obviously the fact that they also need talent to survive here. Also, I will like to say that people who belong to industry should also admit that they are getting a privilege over us, they already have an audience for their first film. But there’s also no stress to fit in for outsiders anymore. People appreciate your talent and what you bring to the table. And cinema at a larger scale represents our society, so I think, everybody should be given a fair chance.
So, how did your journey start? Did you always want to be an actor?
No, not at all. Being an actor was a long-lost dream for me. I belong to Gandhinagar, which is a small town on the border of Pakistan, Punjab and Haryana. There used to be only two things there – cricket and Bollywood. I didn’t read any great books in my life. I haven’t watched world cinema or any English movies. I actually got inspired after watching Dilwale Dulhani Le Jayenge and especially Shah Rukh Khan in it. Because DDLJ had a really aspirational value for me. Europe, beer cans, leather jackets, that was a different world altogether for me. Going to Europe was like going to another planet altogether. So that is what inspired me to be an actor. But then I had so many responsibilities, my family wasn’t really well-to-do but I always had this thought in the back of my mind that I will take an opportunity to enter Bollywood if given. So, when I found myself more secure in life, I came to Bombay and did this.
What’s your take on commercial and off-beat cinema?
See, Talwar was a commercial film and it did very well at the box office. And according to the budget Ship of Theses was made, it did decently. I think the line between the two is very thin, there are so many content-driven films that are working so well. So, there is an audience for every kind of film. And I am interested in all of them as an actor.
You debuted in 2009, but have appeared in only five films till now. There seems to be no hurry. Are you very choosy?
No, it’s not like that. There’s nothing like I am choosy or want to do less number of films. But honestly, I think, in the initial stages, you gradually start getting work. It’s like somebody saw my work Ship of Theses and cast me in Talwar, and like Hansal Sir saw my work in Talwar and gave me Simran. So that is how it happens, especially when you are an outsider.