Interview: Shekhar Suman on 'free man' Sanjay Dutt, bizarre TV and receiving death threats for Padmavati statement

Shekhar Suman is working with Sanjay Dutt in Bhoomi. Here he talks about the regressive content TV is offering, playing a guide and Padmavati controversy

Shekhar Suman is making a comeback with Sanjay Dutt-starrer Bhoomi, after his 2014 Bollywood film Heartless. The film, which is slated for release in August, features him in the character of a guide. The actor, who is more popular for his comedy characters on screen, seemed excited to take up this role which finds its essence in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Talking to InUth over the call, an elated Shekhar mentioned how he is preparing to get the UP accent right for Bhoomi. He said:

I am playing a tourist guide. I and Sanjay are buddies in the film. What I have understood from the script is that my character is a happy-go-lucky guy. So we (he and Sanjay Dutt) go through the ups and downs of life together till something drastic happens to Sanjay’s character and the story moves forward showing how we deal with it. I find my character very confident and flamboyant. I will have to work on what you call that ‘zubaan‘ for my character since he belongs to UP. I am yet to catch on to that peculiar UP style of language. I, in fact, am going to Agra whenever I can, to see if I get to meet a guide like how my character is in Bhoomi.

The film also features Aditi Rao Hydari and Sharad Kelkar in pivotal roles apart from Dutt in the film. Set in the northern belt of country, the film is an emotional revenge drama. But, does it have all the elements that a Sanjay Dutt’s ‘comeback’ should have? A confident Shekhar says, “Yes”. He explained:

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Bhoomi has to be like a perfect film. And I think probably that’s why Sanjay has chosen this film. He has had a lot of offers and if he chose Bhoomi to make a comeback on screen after so many years, it has to have something. This film is definitely going to show Sanjay in a very different light. Now he has off-loaded all the bad experiences of his life and he is a free man. And that will reflect in his performance and his choices of films as well. Not just for Sanjay, but for me as well, Bhoomi is a film to bring me back to the field that I am part of but haven’t explored all.

Shekhar, who has worked in television with shows like Dekh Bhai Dekh, Movers and Shakers, and The Great Indian Laughter Challenge amongst others, says that there’s a huge shift in the film industry today. He happily accepts that while it’s the best time for the industry to grow, it’s the worst for Indian TV currently. Talking about the same, he made a point when he said:

I want to do roles with different shades. All because I genuinely feel that Hindi cinema is going through a huge paradigm shift currently. It has become more liberated and fearless in terms of its content. Today, not one person in the starcast is the hero, but all of us who are part of a film have a substantial part to play in it. Story is the hero. Content is the king today. Actors now have wider range of choice of films. I miss being on TV. I needed a break. I think television has lost its character. It is just floundering now. Earlier, during Dekh Bhai Dekh, Reporters, Discovery of India, people were experimenting on TV. But now, it got a monster called TRPs and ad revenues, people are now creating bizarre things. They are offering regressive things to pander to the people. TV was to celebrate the democratic content. It may look big in terms of its production values but it has shrunk drastically in terms of its content. It has become a bonsai now and films on the other hand have become huge, because they are ready to experiment.

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Shekhar also has an example to justify this. He further said:

So you have a bald hero with Ranveer Singh doing Bajirao (Mastani), which probably 10-15 years back would have been blasphemous. Nobody would have dared to take that route then. Earlier, even when heroes were playing cops in a film, they used to sport long hair because they wanted to like hero first and a cop later. Now, the character has taken over. TV, on the other, has been taken over by web because now that is the medium where the experiments are happening. Nobody now has the time to watch TV. Indian youth is on smartphones to watch universally absorbed content. There’s nothing on TV except 10 dancing shows, 15 singing shows and all of that strangely airing at the same time, promising the same thing. Earlier, there used to be something called appointment television. Audience were aware which show they are following. Now, they have same shots, same people dressed up alike doing the same thing on different channels. Either somebody is mixing some poison in somebody’s food or somebody is hiding behind the door to listen to a conversation secretly and you feel that you are watching the same series on every channel. It’s bizarre and strange.

In a recent interview, he said that Bhoomi is going to decide the next 20 years of his career. When asked whether he has made a strong bet on his career by choosing to do this film, Shekhar nods in yes. He says that at this point in his career, all he wants to do is to be remembered for some good roles. He also mentioned that Bhoomi is the correct path for his career which will decide how long his journey on this path is going to be. In the same interview, he condemned the attacks on Sanjay Leela Bhansali for Padmavati. Now he reveals that he, in fact, got death threats later for his statement.

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Padmavati attack

I received death threats after that statement. I got texts messages and calls where people were threatening me. They wanted me to take back my statement. They asked me to justify what I had said in support of Mr. Bhansali. My statements was not against any community. I had particularly mentioned ‘fringe elements.’ And according to me, people who indulge in unnecessary violence have no rights to be known as Rajputs. The Rajputs are brave people. There lies a respect in their stances. I can never say anything against a community but if people, on the name of a certain community will attack industry, there is no justification for that.

Directed by Omung Kumar and produced by Bhushan Kumar, Bhoomi is slated to hit the screens in August.

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