Life Of Pi’ actor Suraj, who makes his Bollywood debut with ‘Phillauri’, says Lion star is making Hollywood take note of Indians on screen
Dev Patel’s Lion, was nominated for the Oscars Best Picture; (right) Suraj Sharma
While Indian actors generally use their Bollywood outings as a ticket to Hollywood, Suraj Sharma’s career headed in a different direction. After an acclaimed debut in Ang Lee’s ‘Life Of Pi’ (2012), the 24-year-old is now set for his maiden Hindi film — Anushka Sharma’s ‘Phillauri’.
Parallels are being drawn between Suraj, and Indian-American actor Dev Patel’s journey, and the former is delighted about it. “It is a gift since it places me alongside him [Dev]. I hope I at least bag as many roles as he does. I like him as an actor, and love him as a person. We often catch up and talk about movies and life. Just like me, he doesn’t like the idea of fame, and both of us feel the burden of being brown actors [since we are] always typecast,” Suraj says.
Dev’s excellence as an actor, says Suraj, will only enable more Indian-origin artistes bag roles in the West. “From his amazing acting in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (2008) to bagging a Supporting Actor nomination at the Oscars for ‘Lion’ (2016), Dev’s achievements are prestigious for us. They raise our expectations of bagging good roles. Dev has put us all on a pedestal for Hollywood to take note of.”
An array of Indian actors has created waves on the international turf with Priyanka Chopra leading the pack. Yet, brown actors, Suraj feels, continue to face discrimination during auditions. “It’s not racism. It is an ideology so deep-seated that people in Hollywood don’t even realise it. It’s a constant struggle and [we are] often [called to] audition for stereotypical situations,” he adds, and is quick to point out that the growth of independent cinema in India and US is creating a positive change by breaking moulds.
In Anushka’s second production, Suraj will be seen as an NRI, who arrives in Punjab to get married, only to discover that he is a manglik. Ask him if he is superstitious and he responds with a firm no. “But I believe in ghosts! Even though my mind tells me they don’t exist, there is an element of doubt. I have been in some ‘this is not normal’ situations,” he chuckles.