Buddies and colleagues Sanjay Suri and Onir chat about their long association and their latest joint venture
As he packs his bags to fly to Amsterdam for a special screening of My Brother…Nikhil, director Onir gets nostalgic about his directorial debut. The film was a landmark in the careers of both its writer-director and its male protagonist. For Onir, the film, with its bold yet sensitive exploration of a family dealing with homosexuality and AIDS, was a dream debut. As for Sanjay Suri, who played the protagonist, it was an announcement that he had arrived on the scene of actors who mattered.
The duo is now working on their third movie together, Sorry Bhai, which releases by the month-end. And for a change, it’s a light-hearted comedy as opposed to their earlier, more serious projects, which also includes Bas Ek Pal. Both director and actor are clear that they don’t want to be typecast in a ‘serious’ mould. “I enjoy lighter roles too — I had awesome fun doing Jhankaar Beats and Shaadi ka Ladoo.”
Despite the genre change, Sorry Bhai’s focus remains Onir’s prerogative — relationships and the people who have the power to make or break them. The film follows the lives of the Mathur family. Younger brother Siddharth (Sharman Joshi) flies to Mauritius with his parents (Shabana Azmi and Boman Irani) to attend his brother, Harsh’s (Sanjay Suri) wedding. There, he meets his sibling’s fiancée, Aaliyah (Chitrangadha Singh) and the two fall in love. The rest of the movie deals with how the family copes with this awkward situation. Onir says, “This new movie is a romantic comedy, set in Mauritius. I wanted to try my hand at something different and this was a fun idea to work around.”
Onir and Suri go back a long way and the camaraderie is evident. “I met Onir on the sets of Kalpana Lajmi’s Daman; he was editing the film. As the friendship thickened, we decided to make films together and then came My Brother… Nikhil,” says Suri. Onir is a little more expansive as he explains that Suri was the one who encouraged him to follow his dream of writing and making films. He says, “Our association has grown since and we ended up co-producing My Brother… Nikhil.” Now, Suri is also co-producing Sorry Bhai.
Without much of a break, the director will begin his next project, Kill Chhabra, in January. “I play a different role this time. The film will be directed by the writer of Sorry Bhai, Ashwini Malick.” But even before we can shoot the next, obvious, question, he assures us, “Don’t worry, Sanjay and I will continue work on it together — he’s the producer, while I’m the creative director.”