By Anjali Nauriyal
This ‘Chhichhora’ is serious and sensible in real life! Saharsh Kumar Shukla as an actor can be termed fanatical. Given the intensity of his personality and the characters that he plays, it is difficult to believe that, at 35 years of age, he has had no serious relationship. One has to accept this admission as true when he narrates how his joint family back in Rae Bareli means the world to him, and it is unimaginable to him to get into any frivolous liaison that can damage their peace of mind and reputation. But love, too, has not passed him by, be certain of that, and it has been the world of theatre first and films later that have kept him love-struck. “I became obsessed with acting and took it on professionally after I saw a play at the Bhartendu Natya Academy in Lucknow,” he discloses. “I was fresh from a government school of a village in UP, when I decided Bollywood is where I wanted to try my destiny. Before that, I had toyed with the idea of becoming a doctor or a civil servant under familial pressure, but both these careers just didn’t appeal to me. I was exposed to theatre in Lucknow where I was doing my graduation. I saw a play at BNA and was smitten by theatre. Immediately, I went to one of the bookshops in Hazratganj, and got hold of a guidebook on acting. Without losing any time, I devoured each and every word of the book there and then, and learnt about top acting institutes the world over, including BNA, NSD and FTII. I next enrolled for a four month acting course at BNA and thus embarked on this incredible journey.” Shukla learnt the nitty-gritty of performing arts during his five-year stint at Lucknow. And, before long, his next destination was FTII, Pune, where he excelled and bagged his first film Knockout with Irrfan Khan. This boosted his morale as an actor and he landed in Mumbai soon thereafter. It is here that a small but significant role came his way when he was offered a character in Hansal Mehta’s ‘Shahid’. But the real game changer for him was the release of his film ‘Highway’, which won him accolades. Talking about his experience of shooting with Alia in Highway, he divulges, “I was edgy doing this role, as it involved a lot of ‘chhuna-chhana’. Through my childhood, my interaction with girls had been minimal. It was only at FTII that I really got to intermingle with girls. Alia understood my predicament and was most accommodating during the shoots. My scenes with Randeep Hooda were more realistic and I actually asked him to slap me for real in one of the scenes. He did exactly that, but my cheeks were swollen and I fell real hard, making him feel really guilty.” Then came Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar that had him in a small role but he was noticed by Vishal Bhardwaj who offered him the role of a makeup artist in ‘Rangoon’, starring Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan and Shahid Kapoor. The role of Popatlal in SRK’s ‘Raees’ consolidated his position in tinsel town. Presently, Shukla is basking in the rave reviews he is receiving for his role as ‘Bevda the Talli’ in the film Chhichhora. Presently shooting his next film ‘Saumya Gnash’ in Uttarakhand, he is next headed to Mathura and Lucknow for his other projects. His fans need to watch this space for more.