Actor Suhail Nayyar is on a roll. After leaving a mark with his powerful performance in Shahid Kapoor-starrer Udta Punjab, he was recently seen in Hotel Mumbai. The film had a world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2018 and received positive reviews for its portrayal of the gruesome terrorist attack at Taj Mahal Hotel, Colaba, Mumbai in 2008.
In an interview with Onmanorama, Suhail stated that he has come a long way and is happy to be part of the industry. Excerpts:
Hotel Mumbai is getting rave reviews for retelling the horrors of real incident. How did you become part of this project?
I was shooting for a web-series at that time and the casting director Trishaan called me for this one and I gave the audition. In a few days, he called me again and told me that I have been short-listed for this role and I need to come for a final audition with the director. I was having a shoot that day but somehow it got cancelled and I went ahead for the final audition in Mumbai. And the director himself finally cast me for the role of Abdulla.
Hotel Mumbai is an Indo-American production. What differences have you felt while working in a mainstream Bollywood film and in a movie like Hotel Mumbai.
It's mainly an Australian American production. A major chunk of the movie was shot in Australia and we were there for 40 days. The level of professionalism is much higher, the atmosphere on the sets is different. There was a week of rehearsals and workshops before we started the shoot.
Hotel Mumbai premiered at Toronto film festival. How was the response there?
It was surreal. It is one of the biggest international festival, was indeed one of the biggest events of a lifetime. We watched the film with a crowd of 11-12 hundred people and after the screening we got a standing ovation. I had never imagined such a thing and it was indeed an exciting affair.
What was your process in approaching this role?
The process was difficult. I remember when the attack happened in Mumbai, I was in Delhi. I came to know all of it watching in news. And such things, we always used to see from a victim's point of view. When we were given the research materials, the reading materials, I just closed my laptop and I was disappointed how things could be like this. I started thinking like a person who is not educated, someone who was right with his ideology. I wasn't thinking like Suhail, I was thinking like Abdulla, the character. We were also made to do a few exercises. During our workshop also, we were talking in Punjabi and fixing slangs and working on our language and gestures. So it was an interesting process.
There is a scene in which I am banging a door and I had to make the people open a door in order to kill them. And I am hurling abuses. At that time, I was so engrossed with the character such that I had to justify it even with regard to the tone. I worked from an actor's point of view and at that course of time I cannot stand up for the right or wrong.
You have worked in movies like Udta Punjab, Commando 2, Hotel Mumbai which depicted raw facets of life...Is there chances of getting typecast?
I don't think of it like that. I have chosen the roles and apparently the roles have chosen me. Like for instance, in Udta Punjab and Commando 2 I have played a Punjabi but both are different from each other. In Hotel Mumbai too I am playing a Punjabi but it's out-and-out a negative character. I love doing such interesting roles that have grey shades.
According to you, how important is box office collection for a movie?
Box office collections are very important for a film for the technicians and the actors involved in it. Because no matter how good your film is, people need to watch the film and that will determine the box office collection. Your producers will make money and eventually, the more the people, the more mouths will be there to talk about your movie and your performance. Provided, we shouldn't compromise on the creative aspect of filmmaking. But we should also see that a film works on the box office. At the end of the day, we are in the movie business. For me it would be 60 percent creative satisfaction and 40 percent box office.
You have joined a long list of Indian actors working in international films. Does that make you any different?
I feel honored to have worked in a Hollywood movie, here and a web series. No matter which language, we need to emote in the best way and I feel lucky to have been a part of the industry.
One advice that you would like to pass on to the aspiring actors out there...
Keep dreaming big and never give up. Whenever I drove from Bombay after a shoot, and if a song is played I used to go back to my times. I remember the little boy who used to cover himself up with a blanket during the cold and would dream of becoming an actor. I used to wonder how I would go to Bombay and will it really work out. And now when I am working here, I get the feeling that this was supposed to happen. If your are persistent and work on it, the dreams will come true.