Talk of veterans in the Indian entertainment industry, Shishir Sharma’s name figures high on the list as one of the finest actors in the country. Be it theatre, films or television, Sharma has been a noted face, having acted in numerous television programmes, movies and ads apart from theatre. Some of his most significant works include movies like Bombay Boys, Fanaa, Sarkar Raj, Manjunath, Mary Kom, Talvar and Dangal, besides television shows such as Swabhimaan, Ashirbad, Kumkum, Ghar Ki Lakshmi Betiyann, Miley Jab Hum Tum, Yahaan Mein Ghar Ghar Kheli, The Buddy Project, Shastri Sisters and Love Ka Hai Intezaar.
That apart, Sharma is also popular for his role as the female protagonist’s father in the famous Indian web series ‘Permanent Roommates’. While Sharma was recently in the city for his play ‘The Siddhus of Upper Juhu’, My City Links caught up with the veteran actor to know more about his life and experiences.
Brief us about your journey so far.
Beginning in 1974, it’s been a long journey. I started my career with theatre, acting in a play written by renowned play writer and director Pandit Satyadev Dubey. Through it, I had the opportunity to act alongside Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak, Amrish Puri, Harish Patel, Neena Kulkarni, Amol Palekar and many other famous theatre artists. Though I had no formal training in acting, I learnt many things while I had been working with Satyadev Dubey over the years until the year 2000, when we formed our own theatre group.
However, I received mass recognition with ‘Swabhimaan’. Thereby came a turning point in my life and I did my first film, ‘Satya’. Today, I act in all the mediums including commercials and ads. I am happy that my journey is still on and I am getting roles that I need to do and want to do.
Having acted in all kinds of entertainment mediums including theatre, movies and serials, which among them do you find the most interesting, and why?
Undoubtedly, I find ‘theatre’ as the most interesting medium of entertainment because it is once in a lifetime chance when you get up on that stage. Once on the stage, you are on your own. You do not get a chance for takes and retakes as in films and ads to improve your performance. Thus, you have to give it your all.
Theatre is also more thrilling as you receive immediate appreciation from the audience, which is not the case in cinema and other modes of entertainment. Moreover, theatre is the most challenging and exhilarating experience for an actor.
What is it that you dislike about each of these mediums - theatre, TV and films?
Everything has always been good about theatre while films have slowly been improving in terms of content. However, in case of television, the shows need to improve their standard of the content and storytelling. The ‘saas-bahu’ plots have become repetitive - the same women decked in heavy sarees and jewellery, and with makeup on all day! Television badly needs to get rid of its present silliness, and bring in more of relatable content.
According to you, how important is theatre for an actor?
I personally feel that any actor, who is serious about acting, definitely should not be flirting with theatre. Someone who wants to take up acting as a profession and aims to become a recognised actor must act in theatre for at least five years before entering into commercial mediums like the television or films.
What is the present scenario of the theatre world?
Theatre has become commercialised to an extent, these days. The Hindi theatre is probably the only theatre that has not gone commercial and thus is in a bad condition. All other theatres including Gujarati, Marathi, English theatres have gone commercial and are doing well. Hindi theatre needs to improve quite a bit if it has to survive, or else it would die out in the coming years.
Hindi being our official language, why is Hindi theatre in such a bad condition?
As I said, Hindi theatre is suffering, as it hasn’t undergone any commercialisation. For example, if you do a Hindi play in Mumbai now, you would need a star to perform in the play since there isn’t a large audience to see a Hindi play. Nevertheless, if you do a Marathi play, people would go to watch the play irrespective of whether there is a star in the play or not. There is less scope for Hindi theatre in Maharashtra at least, as compared to Marathi theatre. That apart, people are more eager to see English plays than the Hindi ones.
Today’s youth is more into films than theatre. How do you think the youth can be attracted towards theatre?
I think there are several barriers that theatre faces as an entertainment medium today, leaving more scope for films to draw the audience’s attention. The entertainment that films provide is also an important factor why the youth is inclined more towards films and not theatre. Publicity of theatre is quite expensive nowadays and it can’t sustain itself. Consequently, there is a serious need for sponsorship. For me, to encourage the youth to come to watch theatre is the biggest task. Furthermore, there are not many theatres as compared to movie halls in our cities. If today’s youth is not persuaded to watch theatre plays, theatre won’t be able to sustain, and will eventually, die out.
Share with us any memorable moment from your acting career.
Though there are many such memories that are worth sharing, my most memorable moments are those where I have been lucky to share screen space with industry stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Irfan Khan.
Is this your first visit to Odisha? What do you have to say about Bhubaneswar?
Yes, I have been here for the first time and I love the city. Bhubaneswar is a clean city and the roads are much smoother unlike Mumbai, where you can find potholes in every 100 metres.
What are your upcoming projects?
Well, I am doing Meghna Gulzar’s upcoming movie ‘Raazi’, which has Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal in the main lead.