Sharma is a diminutive, softspoken man. He candidly confesses his English is wobbly; he speaks in chaste non-Mumbai Hindi, sans expletives.
With Haraamkhor releasing today, we take a look back at an interview we did with him for our December 2015 issue.
When they say big surprises come in small packages, pay heed. Sharma is a diminutive, softspoken man. He candidly confesses his English is wobbly; he speaks in chaste non-Mumbai Hindi, sans expletives. He says he doesn’t smoke or drink either, so you can’t help but pin the good boy tag on him. Then you watch Haraamkhor, a film about an extramarital affair between a school teacher and his student seen through the eyes of two prepubescent boys, who share casual banter that’s laden with double entendres.
“I got the idea of the story from a news article, and I thought it was an extremely interesting premise,” Sharma says. “I also think that as a society, we are too judgemental about everything. We jump to conclusions too soon, and we rarely think about how our opinions are affecting other people. I did not want to be judgemental with this story, and that is also why I feel that the title of the film is justified. All the characters are doing some sort of haraamkhori. Rather than taking a serious, pontificating attitude, I decided to treat the subject with humour.” How has the journey of the film changed him? He laughs. “There wasn’t much of a journey. We shot the film in 16 days because that is all the time and money we had. But, as a person, I think I have become more zen. I always try to listen and understand the other perspective anyway, but now, I have become even less of a reactionary than earlier.”
Haraamkhor, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Shweta Tripathi, premiered at festivals such as the New York Indian Film Festival and the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, where Siddiqui picked up the best actor award. When the film had its Indian premiere at MAMI, it became an audience favourite; the silver trophy it won for best film was not a surprise.
Much like the recent slew of debutants such as Neeraj Ghaywan and Kanu Behl, Sharma has been mentored by two of the industry’s big daddies. It’s just that his story has a quirkier start. “My father used to teach yoga to Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar saab. After my 12th, I didn’t want to study anymore, and I would try to find odd jobs in film-making, but they would throw me out. So, my dad spoke to Bhardwaj and he asked me to become the production assistant for Blue Umbrella. Neither of them thought I would stick around for more than a few days, but I did, and that made Bhardwaj really happy. Next, I worked with him as an assistant director (AD) on Omkara. One day, Anurag Kashyap came to the sets to meet Bhardwaj, and he offered me a job. I was an AD on No Smoking, the first AD on Dev D and then Kashyap handed over the second unit of Gangs of Wasseypur to me. He trusts people and gives them opportunities which, in turn, infuses you with confidence.”
ON CINEMATIC INFLUENCES: We weren’t allowed to watch films when we were growing up, so I haven’t watched much. I learned mostly from people around me. Now, I am trying to cultivate various styles and techniques.
ON MAINSTREAM BOLLYWOOD: I believe in all kinds of cinema. Big-budget films allow small-budget films to survive. Fish of all sizes should survive at sea. If given an opportunity, I would definitely make a big-budget blockbuster.
THE LAST HINDI FILM YOU LOVED: Kanu Behl’s Titli. I couldn’t stop gushing about it.
ACTORS YOU WANT TO WORK WITH: Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor