Actor and stand-up comedian Sunil Grover admits, that he is shy in real life and the characters he plays are more interesting than him! The king of comedy in conversation with Manju Ramanan.
How early on did you know that acting is what you wanted to do?
As a child I would copy my teachers and relatives and everyone would laugh. At every family function, my family would ask me to perform. I didn’t know what I was doing and what made them laugh, I didn’t understand that. Gradually I started copying film stars at school functions because people reacted. Then it was about regular people, their accents and body languages and then people pointed out to me saying that this is acting. I loved making various sounds and behaving like other people – that became my passion. Soon, I did my Masters in Theatre from Chandigarh and wanted to learn a little more about acting and moved to Mumbai. I did small films here and there, voiceovers and then TV. Through the comedy shows, people started knowing me and then I did some movies and some more shows.
Photographs by Daboo Ratnani, assisted by Manisha Ratnani
Styled by Juhi A Ali
HMU Kunal Purohit, Anshul Mishra
Location – Daboo Ratnani studio
Any memories from school and performing onstage?
In school, once I was mimicking one of my teachers in front of the whole class and I didn’t know that the teacher who I was mimicking, had entered the class. He pulled me to the principal’s room and said, “Yeh meri nakal utaar raha tha.” (he was imitating me) The principal, jocularly asked me to perform what I did in class and when I did, he said, “Theek toh kar raha tha.” (He was doing it right) and people burst out laughing. I then cheekily told the principal, that I can imitate you too. That is when he said that, “If you wanted to study in my school, never imitate me in front of me.” (Laughs)
How did you design your characters?
I enjoy the process of getting into a character and achieving his/her mindset. Sometimes these characters are imaginary and sometimes they pop out of your life experiences. I love people and looking at them. It is a sub-conscious effort and the more I like people, I feel that I copy them and their body languages better. People amaze me, their behaviour interests me, you can sense the cities and their professions from their body language and speech changes. Are they stuck up, are they free-minded, how do they behave when they are busy and ignore so many things? Each person has a tempo of talking and how they talk at different occasions is different, where they pause, how dialects change – all of this really excites and entertains me.
How did you meet Jaspal Bhatti and how did he train you?
I was in the first year of college when I met Jaspal Bhatti who was taking auditions for his show. I come from a small town of Mandi Dabwali, that is in the border of Haryana and Chandigarh and Bhatti saab started calling me for his gags and shows. It is was an exciting part of my life to watch how humour is created and how a humorous line is formed. It was my first introduction to crafted humour. He was a master of satire and between his funny anecdotes, was a message to society. It was beautiful learning from him.
What is the toughest thing about comedy that people don’t know?
Comedy is difficult. Someone or the other knows everything you don’t know. Most people think it is natural and comes easy but there is a lot of work that goes behind it. For me, it is a tough art form.
How did you meet your wife?
I met Aarti in Mumbai when she was designing an audio studio.
Fame and the ensuing pressure to perform better? How have you managed it?
Fame is not in your hands and you cannot control it. It happens if it has to. People always think that once you have made it, there is little pressure to perform. No, it is not true. There is always a new pressure to perform when you get a new project – you ponder on what is the new dimension you can give, what is that newness you will bring to the screen etc. The mind has to be calm and focused and it has to be a concentrated effort. Sometimes when you are in the middle of rigorous practice, nature starts giving you the answers. Till then, keep your efforts going. I feel grateful that I can experience so many things being a small-town boy and then moving to a metropolitan city and still doing what I love
Your OTT roles have been very diverse – from Taandav to Sunflower, tell us about the characters and the diversity?
Whenever I watch my work onscreen, I never feel I am the one doing it. For me, it is someone else. I cannot relate with those characters. But I do feel that
my characters are way more superior than me. I am a simple, shy person but when I get into character, I am someone else. When I come out of it, I feel that they are way more superior than me. I have been lucky with the kind of offers that have come my way. When I did Taandav recently, it wasn’t a comical role. All credit to Ali Abbas Zafar who imagined me in that space. Sunflower was a big contrast and I play the simple, honest and innocent guy. Writers write with their own mindsets and as an actor I aim to understand that and make the character my own. Wish I am part of this process for the years to come.
Your film roles have been lauded and appreciated. How did they come about?
I have been lucky with the work that has come to me. Be it Gabbar is Back or a Pataakha, where I could work with Mr Vishal Bharadwaj. My character was naughty and that was the time I wasn’t part of the comedy show. Then Salman Khan’s Bharat came my way. He is an actor I have admired from my growing up years. He is a nice guy and it is a great feeling when a fan shares the screen with his hero.
About future projects
I will be sharing that with you very soon. But I will be taking up different kinds of roles coming my way and I am thrilled. Directors want to experiment today and so do I.
What do you think is your best quality – the reason of your success?
My best quality is – that I love the process of getting into a character. It is like meditation to me and I like to play different kinds of characters in different mediums. I want to experience various journeys. I personally enjoy it and I am thankful that I get to do something I enjoy so much. Pure luck is the reason for my success. I am lucky. to get connected with the audience. I have been lucky with people’s love but I don’t consider myself successful yet because I haven’t been able to play all the characters.
How do you protect your inner space?
I protect my inner space by sleeping (Laughs). I sit alone for some time and keep my sanity intact. I don’t know if I am able to do that correctly. But I do keep a constant check on myself and practice gratitude. Sometimes, you do have gratitude but you feel like you are behaving arrogant.
What are your memories of Dubai?
The kind of love I get in Dubai mesmerizing. People are lovely and they laugh, enjoy and celebrate life with great excitement. I love the audiences of Dubai- the vibe of the city is beautiful. Their warmth and love is amazing. The city teaches you to keep upgrading yourself and keep reinventing yourself.