Sudhanshu Pandey, in reality, is a far cry from the dark brooding characters he plays in films. He is suave, soft-spoken and surprises you with his philosophical self now and then. Seated across a low table at one of the five-star hotels in Chennai — he looks relaxed as he scrolls through his Instagram page. “I think I am more comfortable with this than Twitter and Facebook,” he smiles. We discuss 2.0, Tamil cinema, spirituality, Rajinikanth and more.
Excerpts from the conversation:
2.0 is your fourth Tamil film after Billa 2, Meagamann and Indrajith. What made you choose the Rajinikanth starrer?
I never choose any of my projects; they choose me. I have always wanted to act in a Shankar directorial, and when the offer came my way, I grabbed it. Many Bollywood actors were approached for my role, and I am glad I was zeroed in on finally.
How was the experience of working with Shankar?
It was nothing short of fun. He is a visionary. He took so much interest in the looks of my role, and, in fact, ordered special glasses from the US. It used to take an hour-and-a-half for me to get ready for the shooting. Though Shankar sir has been making films for more than two decades, he still wants to do something new. He is extremely passionate about cinema. It’s amazing how he has adapted himself to the needs of the ever-changing film industry. What I like most about Shankar sir is his willingness to give 100 percent in whatever he does. His commitment towards the craft of cinema is unimaginable.
Tell us about Rajinikanth.
Where do I begin? (Laughs). Do I talk about his kindness? Do I talk about his acting prowess? Do I talk about the involvement he shows even in tiniest things? I’m usually not this kind who gets star-struck, but I was completely in awe of Rajini sir when I met him. He is more than a Superstar. Though he has the aura of a dignified old man, he is a child at heart. He is earnest, diligent, a man of few words. I grew up watching Rajini sir’s films — in particular I was a huge fan of Andha Kanoon as a kid. Till this date, I couldn’t believe I got to share screen space with him. On the sets, we bonded over spirituality and Lord Shiva. During the 2.0 shooting, he gifted me a book on the Himalayas, and suggested that I read it. He also talked about how the book changed his life for better.
2.0 was in the making for a long time. The release was postponed multiple times due to post-production issues.
Yes. If you had watched 2.0, you would have understood why it took a lot of time. I am proud to have done this film. We had a great team and all credit should go to the producer and director for the worthy effort.
How was it to work with Akshay Kumar?
My first film in Hindi was with Akshay in 2000. 2.0 is my third film with him. We shot our portions in Delhi. I never knew he was going to be a part of the film when I came on board. He is a brilliant actor — there are no second thoughts about it.
How often do you watch Tamil films?
I wish I had more time in Mumbai to catch Tamil films, but unfortunately, I don’t. To be honest, I watched Billa 2 again. It was fantastic. I am not saying this because I was cast in it. (Grins) Right now, my focus is on the newly started home banner, Raw Stock Productions. I am looking to produce feature films. I also write stories and get them developed to scripts with the help of writers. I have got a fair understanding of what people want to watch.
What else keeps you occupied?
I got my first short film (Bar) released on the digital space a couple of months ago. And I am pretty much open to doing web series. Other alternative platforms including Amazon and Netflix have changed the way the audience consume entertainment. They not only provide you the best content, but also provide value for money. I am all for experimenting.
How do you see yourself in ten years?
I believe I would be more successful as an actor and a producer. Despite the language issues, I can speak dialogues in Tamil with more than 70 per cent accuracy in pronunciation. I would love to do films in Telugu and Malayalam as well.
In Hindi films, you don’t play the villain. But here, you play only the villain. Don’t you think you are being typecast?
God has been kind to me. All my four Tamil films have been different from each other, and I don’t pick similar roles. Villains in Tamil cinema are as important as the hero. Today, if you do a negative character, it is no longer seen as a role for the supporting actor. I strongly feel negative characters have more scope to perform. When the villain is stronger than the hero, the film really works — at least — from what I know.
I enjoy doing such intense roles and the audience seem to like it. Even in 2.0, I am the main villain. You don’t see Akshay Kumar in a ‘human form’. So, it doesn’t count. He is not ‘technically the villain’. (Smiles) Moreover, I like doing films in South because they make my work easier. Be it actors or technicians, they are simple and approachable. You don’t have to go through 10 people to convey something unlike Bollywood.
Do such characters have a special appeal for you?
I don’t know. But essentially, it is about the character appealing to me. As for 2.0, I blindly said ‘yes’, because of Rajinikanth. Such opportunities don’t come by often. Why would anyone say ‘no’ to it?
I am doing a negative role in Prabhudheva’s cop film. I am done shooting my portions. It has an interesting story line. Also, someday, I would love to see myself in a Gautham Menon film. I am in no hurry to make big bucks. I need a sense of satisfaction by doing a film, and that’s how I look at things these days. I believe there is energy out there. What you give is what you get. But yes, Mumbai has made me spiritual.