He is a man whose initial’s letter is same as ‘Success’ and ‘Sincerity’. He is foreign shore’s latest export to the ‘desi’ silver screen. He goes by the name of Sendhil Ramamurthy, the very name who’s synonymous with the famous American series ‘Heroes’. If the adulations and the compliments for the same are anything to go by, then, boy! You can get a taste of his acting skills in his debut film It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, which has been directed by ace director Gurinder Chadha. Satish Sundaresan of Bollywood Hungama caught up with this man for an exclusive interview and came back rather impressed! Ladies and gentlemen, here’s presenting Sendhil Ramamurthy!
To start with, Sendhil, how did you enter showbiz?
Frankly speaking, I entered showbiz just by fluke. I graduated from the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London but studied medicine in Tufts University, Boston. I always wanted to do theatre, for the simple reason that I never saw anyone like me on TV, either in the UK or the US. Everything else fell at the right place thereon.
Frankly speaking, I entered showbiz just by fluke.
In the initial front itself, you landed up doing the lead role…
Yes I did. I had good success in theatre. The part that I wanted to do, I didn’t get it. But the part that the show’s director wanted me to do, I wasn’t too keen doing that. Since I was already doing theatre, I was very much satisfied. But, I am glad that it all worked out the way it has worked out. As they say, the rest is history!
What’s your family background like? And how did they react when you told them about your plans of entering showbiz?
I had never shown any inclination towards acting since the word go. I don’t know if you will believe it, but we didn’t watch TV at all, be it Hollywood or Bollywood. I was playing tennis all the time. I was so much in awe of the tennis that I used to travel anywhere and everywhere for the love and the passion towards this sport. Ours was a family where academics and tennis reigned supreme! And yes, the decision that I wanted to become an actor did hit my parents, especially my mother, who, after a brief period of time was cool about the whole thing.
Is it true that your agent wanted you to change your name from Sendhil Ramamurthy to something else?
I never really understood that one. I was always wondering as to whom I would be fooling by changing my name to any random name like John Smith and likes. But, I stood firm on my name and told him that I didn’t want to be known as anyone else. That’s why I stuck to my one and original name Sendhil Ramamurthy. After all, it’s the talent that counts. What say!
Very true Sendhil. Now, tell us as to how did the path-breaking and career-making ‘Heroes’ happen?
All that I can say is sheer luck. I was in London and was doing a play. That’s when my USA agent showed me a script for Heroes, and wanted me to audition for the role. I read the script and was shell shocked as it was for a 55 year old man! I was like ‘Hey! You guys caught hold of the wrong guy!’ I ended up doing 6 auditions for this name. I was 30 year old then. As I was auditioning, the show’s creator Tim, was kind of changing the character in his head each time I came in. In the end, he decided to make me the character that he had originally thought of, in the flashback in one of the episodes.
I read the script and was shell shocked as it was for a 55 year old man!
Is it true that Gurinder Chada offered you the role after seeing you in the noted US spy drama ‘Covert Affairs’ opposite Piper Perabo?
It’s not true. I hadn’t even started shooting then. She signed me because of ‘Heroes’. She offered me the part, flew over to London and ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant. That’s when we spoke about It’s A Wonderful Afterlife.
Was Gurinder the first person to have offered you a role? If no, then, what made you sign her film?
I have had offers before. But, Gurinder’s was the offer that I accepted. The reason being that either the roles that were offered to me was not meaty enough, also the roles that I wanted to do, was offered to me while I was shooting for ‘Heroes’. Gurinder’s offer came to me at such a time wherein I could have easily adjusted and accommodated alongwith ‘Heroes’. Else, I just wouldn’t have been able to do even Gurinder’s film. There are lots of films which I lost, only because I was shooting for ‘Heroes’. That doesn’t mean that I blame ‘Heroes’, for the simple fact that, had it not been for ‘Heroes’, I wouldn’t have got these offers either! All that I would want to say that ‘Heroes’ opened many doors for me.
How different are your famous (reel-life) characters Suresh and DS Murthy from the real-life Sendhil?
They are very different from what I am in real life. I am far more laidback than both of the two characters that you mentioned. I am much more chilled out than the both of them.
How was the whole shooting experience of It’s A Wonderful Afterlife?
It was quite fun. We shot in London for 8 weeks. I love London. I have a home in London as its one of the best cities in the world to come home to (quite literally!). So, it was great for me. There were lots of other locations wherein we shot, which also added to the fun.
How has the music of the film come about? Any personal favorites?
The music of the film has been composed by Bally Sagoo. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet him, but I am hoping to meet him soon. He has done the track ‘Staying Alive’, which is also my favourite track. It’s really a track to watch out for! The audiences will surely groove on this one!
My favourite track in the film is ‘Staying Alive’, composed by the ace Bally Sagoo.
How has Gurinder Chadda been as a director?
She is simply perfect. She knows exactly what she wants. You just get to do your own thing. What she likes is that what you can bring to the table so that she can concentrate on the technicalities of directing. If you go way off-track, she will simply bring you back and put you in the right direction. I am so very happy debuting with Gurinder as my director.
If you go way off-track, Gurinder will simply bring you back and pout you in the right direction.
How was your working experience with the Bollywood legend Shabana Azmi?
Our first meeting was very brief. Even though we didn’t have lots to do in the film, we got to know each other off camera. But, overall, Shabana Azmi is truly a living legend of Bollywood!
What are the locations in which the film has been shot in?
Since the whole film is London-based, the entire shoot took place in London itself.
What did you decipher out of Gurinder’s previous films like Bride & Prejudice and Bend It Like Beckham?
Even though I haven’t seen Bride & Prejudice, I only saw Bend It Like Beckham. From what I could decipher was that Gurinder is someone who knows what she wants in life. She does very commercial level films that cater to a global audience in a big way.
You also have been signed by Ekta Kapoor for her next film Shor. Can you tell us more about the film? In terms of your co-stars, story plot etc…
My character is that of an NRI, who comes to Mumbai to set up an NGO. But he ends up getting muscled by the local gangsters and how he deals with it. My storyline is in English with a terrific new actress, Preeti Desai, paired opposite me.
I really admire Ekta Kapoor for the person that she is!
How is it working with Ekta Kapoor?
I wasn’t even aware of the fact that Ekta was involved in the project till about two weeks till I got to Mumbai. The whole project was brought to me by the directors. I wasn’t even aware of Ekta. But, once I met her, I was in awe of her. She is someone who I really admire. She absolutely knows what she wants in life. She was incredibly warm and hospitable; Tusshar Kapoor and Ekta threw a wonderful party, a truly unforgettable one! I really admire Ekta Kapoor for the person that she is!
You have been always called as a ‘South Asian sex symbol’. How does it feel?
Lastly, why, according to you, should the audiences go and watch It’s A Wonderful Afterlife?
It’s always nice to see a light heated pop corn entertainer and switch your brains off. It’s what one would call as a ‘Value For Money’ entertainer.