Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Bollywood dream realised

Reading Time: 4 minutesSydney actor Sanjay Anand moves beyond the casting couches and industry grouches to land a role in the upcoming film Brothers

Sanjay Anand used to be your regular Sydney CBD man. Dressed in a suit, coffee in hand, a BCom degree in tow, he was happily crunching numbers and riding high on the corporate ladder until he decided to take that flight to Mumbai to tick off one of his life goals. To become an actor in Bollywood.
It’s taken him a bit of slog, but Sanjay has finally made it, with his big-banner film releasing on 14 Aug. Check him out in Dharma Productions’ Brothers, a Bollywood remake of Warriors, starring Akshay Kumar, Sidharth Malhotra, Jackie Shroff and Jacqueline Fernandez.
“Playing the role of a journalist, it was my demeanour, English speaking skills and the right body language that got me that role,” he tells Indian Link.
Bollywood, however, was not exactly a walk in the park.

Mumbai is India’s maximum city – the biggest, fastest and the richest – and is belligerently proud of its vada-pavs! By night, it unleashes the mosquito mafia and in the wee hours of the morning, the azaan blares out of rusty speakers and is at times delivered by tone-deaf individuals.
In the early months, Sanjay lay awake most nights and he knew it was not due to jet lag. The move from Sydney now seemed like a whimsical decision and the whole get-out-of-my-comfort-zone narrative that he had been feeding on, a huge mistake.
The first friend he made in Bombay was another aspirational actor from Nepal, Nikun, who offered him temporary accommodation when he found none of his own.
At first, the fact that the Australian dollar has a higher exchange rate vis-à-vis the rupee offered quite a bit of respite, he admits honestly.
But money can’t buy everything. Especially not accommodation in Mumbai. And it is a tad tough if you happen to be a happily unmarried man and tougher if you are also an struggling actor because the fathers and mothers from most localities worry about “humaarein ghar mein betiyaan hain (we have young daughters at home)” and as an aspiring actor, you are apparently not to be trusted due to your Bollywood fluff, suspicions of hanky-panky and the Page Three parties.

And even if you do manage to appease the holy trinity of roti-kapdamakaan, enter the casting couches and industry grouches waiting for their share of appeasement. They pose a question (with all the sexual innuendoes that can be found) to aspiring actors like Sanjay whether they are a “hard worker” or a “smart worker”. A few even offer advice free of charge while another lists the four types of Bollywood actors: one who is a Bachchan or a Kapoor, that is, belongs to a filmy family; one who is a famous model and has won an international pageant (think Priyanka Chopra and Arjun Rampal); one who is a born-actor (apparently Shahrukh Khan was provided as an example); and the last one is “the smart worker” who can sleep their way to stardom.
In industry parlance, these acts of sexual favours are called “small favours”. So when a small favour was asked of Sanjay, his cheeky sense of humour safeguarded his modesty. “You can’t take them too seriously. Just take it in your stride and laugh out loud on their face. You can take it as a compliment and also thank them,” he suggests. Exhibiting pretence-compassion he adds, “Remember, these casting directors are frustrated actors themselves who didn’t get a break as an actor and are forced to do what they are doing. So try not to be too judgmental or alarmed. Just be amused and walk away.”

Sanjay’s Bollywood journey, for those who might be interested in traversing the same path, involved several cycles of networking, sending his portfolio to casting directors, working on his Hindi diction (mostly through the exchange of cuss words with his roomies), schooling himself in Bollywood dance moves, training with Neeraj Kabi (of Detective Byomkesh Bakshi and Ship of Theseus fame) and tactfully overlooking the egos of industry sharks and treating them more like humans than demigods.
“It’s also important to know which role fits you, your personality and your current level of skills the best.”
As an actor, Sanjay found himself instinctively gravitating towards the school of independent cinema, which has directors like Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Hansal Mehta, Sujoy Ghosh, Ritesh Batra and films like Ugly, Shanghai, Shahid and The Lunch Box under its banner. Dancing and prancing around trees does not sit well with him. He does not want to be a hero. He wants to be an actor.
“There are the entertainers in Bollywood and then there are the artists. There is a place for both but they don’t merge. The artist requires harder work than the entertainer. Artists can do both; they can entertain as well as perform and act while the latter is only a crowd puller.”
The year he spent in Bombay was one of self-discovery and challenging status quos. But for now, he is going to sit back and enjoy his moment in the limelight as Brothers hits the theatres.

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