Sohum Shah’s film and character selections as an actor and producer are unique. They have left a long-lasting impression on audiences and critics alike. After Talvar and Tumbbad, the actor has managed to let the spotlight shine on him in the recently released series Maharani. Sohum Shah ensures that he immerses himself in the characters and justifies their conflicts and emotions. In an exclusive interview with financialexpress.com’s Eshita Bhargava, Sohum Shah opens up on his journey as an actor, Maharani season 2, his future projects, and more. Excerpts from the interview:
How was it preparing for the role? Bheema Bharti is a layered character and getting him right is not easy.
I am feeling at the top today. As an artist, it’s like validation when the audience appreciates your work. I had to keep a beard for six months, and put on some weight for Maharani 2 to make the character of Bheema Bharti look real.
In comparison to what happened in the first season, the character has grown and become even more complex in the second season. When Subhash sir narrated the story to me, I realised that this is something that is different about Bheema. He told me that keeping a beard will be a necessity, so I did that for 6 months. I got other work but I did not take that because I was dedicated to Bheema. If an expression goes wrong, the entire fun of playing that character goes away. And Bheema’s character is layered.
Bheema dies in the second season. Do you think there is more he could have added to the story?
No, I don’t think so. It’s a writer’s choice and I feel that every story has an end and a beginning. It was important for Bheema’s character to die so that we can move forward with the story. I feel it was a good surprise, the entire hook was Bheema Bharti’s death and that is why the season got the love it was given. I am very happy with the choices the writers made and the writing got better.
Sohum, you have some good films to your credit like Ship of Theseus, Tumbaad, Talvar, and Simran. You are also a producer and probably you understand films and business better, I wanted to understand what are those things in a script that makes you say yes.
There are demarcations. As an actor, I grew up watching larger-than-life films — I am from a small town. I grew up watching Bollywood films. I want to try everything — comedy, romance, and action. I want to do all kinds of roles. As an actor, I am very greedy and impatient. I want to do all kinds of roles. I became a producer by mistake. Nobody was making Ship of Theseus and Tummbad, so I thought I’ll produce them. It’s not my main profession, so if I want to do something in it, the project should have something special about it.
Which has been your favourite role to play so far?
Vinayak from Tumbbad and Bheema from Maharani. I am from a small town; I have grown up watching films that are larger than life. I am now getting a chance to play a big character, which has dialogues and a story.
Do you credit the OTT platform for the success you are getting?
For sure. Tummbad was released in theatres but it actually received love and appreciation on the OTT platform. Maharani has been getting so much love on OTT. Streaming platforms have made careers, and several people including actors, technicians, writers, and directors have got work because of that. The entire landscape has changed because of OTT. Five years ago, writers never got respect, work, love, and credit. And now, in the OTT space, the most important person is the writer. I respect the writer the most because these are the people who start from scratch. Director gets his vision and the actor has a lot of benefits and brings the tonality to it while the director helps him throughout. The writer cements a story in a dark room and empty paper. OTT has changed the career graph of many people.
On his journey…
When I came to Mumbai, no one believed in me – not even my family. They used to joke about it. Even now, when I have achieved something in life, my family still doubts if I am doing good in acting or not. When they watch Tumbbad, or Ship of Theseus, they didn’t like it even when these are critically acclaimed movies. However, when they watched Maharani 2, they started believing in me. I feel that this is something that one has to go through since I was not a trained actor. I have not done theatre or been to FTII, I just wanted to be an actor. From being a businessman to an actor and producer, it’s been a journey. My Father used to earn less money, I had three sisters, and all I wanted to do was to earn money and make life easy – that was my only dream. When I moved to Bombay, I reached out to a friend of mine who was staying in Juhu. I wanted to understand where PG is, and where acting classes are. I was naive back then; I had thought that I will meet Shah Rukh Khan and I will get the work. I got so intimated as this city made me think how will I survive this since I knew nothing.
Initially, I had thought that I will give 2 years and return back but eventually I realised that I had to learn acting. I had to learn how to talk, interact with media, and whatnot. That was an external journey and there is an internal journey. Since I had come from nowhere and I had no actor friends, Mumbai was an intimidating city for me. The culture and language were different and I used to feel others are superior. For me acting was never bread and butter, it was always about passion and dreams. For many years, I used to question why I am struggling. But Tummbad changed the game for me.
The most struggling part of my journey was not to learn acting but to commit to Bombay.
I wanted to know your perspective to understand why Hindi films are not doing so well at the box office recently.
I think we are not investing in writers. They have the most important work and as a producer, I understand that. If we start investing in writers, the scenario will change. There are no institutes for writers and that’s sad. The screenplay plays a major role as it holds the responsibility to grip the audience’s attention for two hours.
Can you tell me anything about your upcoming series, Dahaad?
It’s a very interesting series. Reema has directed it and Sonakshi Sinha, Vijay Verma, and Gulshan Devaiah are also a part of it. I am playing a cop and I think it will release this year on Amazon Prime.
I am also working on a film by Luv Ranjan. It is a comedy-drama and this is for the first time that the audience will see me playing such a character. I am also planning to make a different film and it will involve just one character and that will make it unusual.
In the future, what kind of stories would you like to tell?
I love to tell every kind of story as long as it’s good. I don’t have a genre. As I have mentioned, I am very greedy and I want to do everything.