A National School of Drama pass-out, Annup Sonii has been a small screen favourite with shows like Crime Patrol, Saaya, CID, Shanti, Byomkesh Bakshi and Balika Vadhu among more.
Sonii, who was recently seen in Prassthanam, is also gearing up for Kunal Kohli’s film Ramyug, Netflix show Baahubali: Before The Beginning, AltBalaji’s Test Case 2 and Red Chillies’ film ’83. This, apart from keeping busy with theatre too.
Annup Sonii took some time out to share with us memories about his first professional acting project – Sea Hawks, which aired on Doordarshan (DD Metro) in the late 1990s. The hit show was based on the life of Indian Coast Guard officers.
Here’s what Sonii revealed about Sea Hawks, which was helmed by Article 15 director Anubhav Sinha.
1. How did your first acting project, TV show Sea Hawks, come to you?
After passing out from National School of Drama, I did a couple of things here and there in Delhi. My first project was a very good project called Sea Hawks, which came in between 1997-1998. It was helmed by brilliant writer and director Anubhav Sinha. It was produced by UTV.
In those days, there were no casting directors. I used to kind of approach people for roles. That’s the regular routine every actor does – meeting people and telling them about your work and all that. And what happened was the place where I was staying in, Anubhav Sinha shifted there with his wife for a few days because his house was getting renovated. One of my seniors at National School of Drama told Anubhav that I wanted to meet him. Then he called me and his wife Ratnaa Sinha took my audition in the UTV office. She gave me a few lines and asked me to speak them. I had a small audition.
After the audition, Anubhav and Ratnaa said they wanted to change my look. They said I was very good and tomorrow they wanted to test me with a mustache. I said okay. Then at their place, I tried a few mustaches. After that was done, I started shooting.
In those days, Screen used to have a category for Best Actor in Television. After like four or five episodes were telecast, I was nominated for Best Actor at Screen Awards.
2. What do you remember of your first day on set?
Honestly, I don’t even remember. I remember there was Om Puri in that project. There was Madhavan and he was already very popular because of Banegi Apni Baat. Then there was Simone Singh, Manoj Pahwa who is also a very good and senior actor. I think it went off very well. I think my first scenes were with Niki Aneja and Madhavan which kind of went off well. In those days, it was not like a daily soap. It was like one episode a week. That’s about it. We had ample time. There was no rush. There was no pressure. I remember Anubhav used to write very nice dialogues for me and everybody was like “Anup gets great dialogues”. My character’s name was ACP Kumar. Anubhav said, “I am in love with this character”. I think that was lucky for me because if the writer/director is in love with a particular character that’s like an extra benefit you get. And then Madhavan and I became very good friends. I think then it was easy. Niki was also very good. We all became great friends eventually.
3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
I remember there was a close-up shot. The assistant director gives you a hand as a mark. That hand is a mark for the other actor, say Madhavan, who you are talking to. I had a whole dialogue. And I said each and every word just looking at that hand. I didn’t even blink. Then the chief AD told me that’s not how I performed in the master. I said you told me to look at this hand. He said but when you did the master, you didn’t look at Madhavan all the time. You were talking very naturally. Then I understood I have to perform naturally and the hand is only for reference. These little technical things you learn on the job.
4. And who were your co-stars? How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later?
Rapport is great. Recently we all met at Madhavan’s place and we discussed only one thing. There was one interesting incident. We were shooting in Goa and in those days, we did not have so many flights. That time 99 per cent it was only Air India flying from Bombay to Goa. Madhavan and I were left alone because obviously there was a scarcity of flights. Priority was given to the director, the women or if somebody had some kind of commitment in Bombay. The entire unit left and only me and Madhavan stayed back. From the airport, we went back to the hotel because they told us that there was no flight today. The producer told us the car will pick us tomorrow and we can fly back to Bombay. We can have a good time at the hotel in the meantime. We went back to the hotel. Only two of us were there and we were a bit angry. We thought we will eat a lot and make a fat bill for the producer. We were trying to order everything possible, but then how much can you eat in one go! Whenever we meet or talk, we remember these funny incidents.
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5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what’s that one thing you would like to change or do better?
Obviously, you can better it because you are kind of experienced and can do a lot more. But I feel let’s not go back there because those things were also very pure and innocent. You played it with a lot of honesty. You did not show a lot of intelligence and over-smartness that “I know everything.” It was like the director has given you a vision and you are just trying to implement that vision. But yes, today you tend to think a little more. That time there was nervousness that how your suggestion will be taken or I should not offend anybody while giving suggestion. Today, obviously you talk to your director and discuss things. You go for your readings before the shooting starts, so a lot of discussion is happening. Input is given from all sides to make things better.