For too long Sharman Joshi has buried his talent in supporting roles. In Ferrari Ki Sawaari, he takes the driver’s seat, says Sunaina Kumar
SHARMAN JOSHI has made a career out of playing the lovable, reliable sidekick, often amusing and always a foil to the hero, a Ron Weasley to Harry Potter. His mildness and congeniality lends itself naturally to the role of the trusty comrade, the pal in need (3 Idiots, Rang De Basanti, Life in a Metro, Golmaal: Fun Unlimited). There have been other eminently forgettable movies (Allah Ke Banday, Sorry Bhai!, Hello, Shaadi No 1). In each of these roles, there is a glimpse of an actor wanting more. After 13 years in the industry, that actor gets his opportunity. In this week’s release Ferrari Ki Sawaari, Joshi has the lead.
The 33-year-old is a reluctant talker, that rare actor who doesn’t sell himself. He speaks about the physical transformation he underwent to play the Parsi character, Rusy. He had to gain 10 kilos, his nose was sharpened, eyebrows thickened, and his ears were made to pop out. An inter-generational social comedy, the movie follows Rusy, an RTO office clerk and doting father of a 10-year-old who finds himself in a pickle as he tries to fulfill his son’s dream of playing cricket at Lord’s. The look of the character was easier to nail than the emotional quotient, which he says was extremely challenging. Produced and written by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the movie is helmed by debutant director Rajesh Mapuskar..
This may be the first time in Bollywood that Joshi’s got the chance to step out of his comfort zone. But he has honed his craft for years. The son of Gujarati theatre veteran Arvind Joshi, Sharman started with amateur theatre in college and spent close to seven years on the stage. His most memorable role was that of the deaf character in the Gujarati version of the popular play, All the Best, with 550 shows spread over three years. “Night after night, after playing the same character, monotony is bound to set in. But you train yourself to go back to the basics, to control your emotions as if every performance is the first time.” This, he says, is the most important training in theatre, to not appear over-prepared. His approach to cinema is similar. He prepares for his role, but never to the point of overkill, “to retain a certain scratchiness and innocence in the performance”.
In the three years since 3 Idiots, where he played the endearing Raju Rastogi, a turning point in his career, this is the only movie he signed. Meanwhile, he has mapped out his strategy and learned to wait. “It will take some doing for me to be involved in quality films. The idea is to hang in there and not jump into projects.” He wants to move past some of his wrong picks. This careful consideration may stand him in good stead or could be his undoing. His father believes that patience is a good virtue for an actor, but he should not be as selective. “I always advise him to try out more movies,” says Arvind Joshi. There are plenty of trusty professional sounding boards for Sharman; sister Manasi Joshi Roy is a TV actor and wife Prerna is actor Prem Chopra’s daughter. His next venture is a love story directed by Tanuja Chandra and produced by mentor Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
Boman Irani, who was Joshi’s nemesis in 3 Idiots and plays the grandfather in Ferrari Ki Sawaari says that it is one of the most heartfelt movies in recent times and Joshi is well cast. “He is an actor who goes about carefully arranging his career, and he works on it film after film,” says Irani. If short on offers of substance, the industry has at least been generous in its goodwill. Karan Johar recently said on Twitter that Joshi is “one of the finest actors we have and on the advent of a super film”.
Sunaina Kumar is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.