Sunil Grover is a face we’ve been seeing on television for years now. To most of us he’s the cross-dressing comic from The Kapil Sharma Show. But Grover has been looking for parts in movies that also allow him to show off his other acting talents. Last year, we saw some of that in Vishal Bharadwaj’s Pataakha. But playing Salman Khan’s best friend in Bharat, which opened to massive numbers, is what the actor needed to get people to sit up and notice him. Here he speaks about life after Bharat:
What does it feel like to get up to these staggering box office numbers?
This film has been made with so much love and passion, so when that is acknowledged and rewarded, you feel nice about it. It feels like a different day today than the past two years. It feels like a new year is coming and everyone is wishing me a happy new year.
What are you hoping this film will change for you?
The way people have been seeing me… it will change a little bit of that. How people were seeing me earlier was not bad. But now I think I’ll be playing more realistic characters.
There’s so much in Bharat that’s fantastical. From fighting pirates to surviving earthquakes…. How did you manage to keep your performance relatable, when the situation itself is so out of the ordinary?
Our director Ali Abbas Zafar told us in our brief that everything should be the outcome of the pain – even the humour should be the outcome of the pain. So that was one thread in my mind while doing the film. If you look at the pirate scene, it’s a painful sequence. The characters could have been shot at any time.
But are you taking the performance a notch higher so that you match everything else that’s happening in the scene?
There’s two-three different things which decided the way I performed. One was I was acting with Salman and matching his energy level…I did not want to be doing something completely in a different zone. In some films there’s a hero, then there’s a person who is his friend, and their scenes are meant to be funny. But I felt that these two are going through pain and this is how they’re dealing with it.
Also these people are innocent. For me, Vilayati is smart in his own way. From childhood he was a part of a circus, so he’s street smart because of the kind of life that he has led. These are couple of things I had in mind.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt working with Salman?
That he is such a big superstar but he is in touch with the reality of life. He lives in his farm to be close to nature. He’s hardly inside his AC van. He goes in only when he has to change. We were shooting in Abu Dhabi and he was sitting out in the sun, no matter how hot it was. So he’s in touch with nature, in touch with real people. He’s in touch with people he worked with 25 years back and they’re not necessarily doing well in life, but he doesn’t forget their kindness. Also, there is so much love and connection in his family. He’s such a big man, the whole world loves him. But then when he meets his father, he’s like an ideal son. He respects his father and you don’t feel like a superstar is sitting with his father or his relatives.
Do you remember your first shot with him?
I was nervous. My first scene was alone. Then the song Slow Motion started and I had to do a movement in the song. So that was the first thing I did with him – some dance steps. I was really nervous, but then he made me comfortable. I was trying to hide my nervousness.
As viewers, we have seen you in a certain way for so many years on a TV show. What has it taken you to tell the world that you can do more?
I think this has taken me a lot of time. I wanted to do so many things. Few times, what happens is that destiny has different plans for you. So with me, things have happened unplanned. Whatever I’ve planned, hasn’t happened ever. That is a pattern I’ve been observing.
What is a role that you’re dying to do?
The problem is that there isn’t just one role. I think the roles which have been done, are done. If something comes up which has layers to it, then maybe that is what will attract me. I would be excited to do it. But of course, it should be entertaining.
What are we going to see you in next?
Even I don’t know yet. Nothing’s been signed yet. You’ll see in the newspaper.