Yesterday: When he was in Class VIII, he wanted to be an army man. Two years later, it was a career in the navy that he wanted to pursue. By the time he was in Class XII, he wanted to be a sportsman. However, fate had different plans for Sanjay Suri. His future lay in the glare of the arclights.
Today: In his quiet, unassuming manner, he has been climbing the rungs of stardom since the last few years. From a modest debut in Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi to much-appreciated performances in Jhankaar Beats and Pinjar , he has gently shaped his own identity in the Hindi film industry. An identity, that he had irrevocably lost, thanks to gun-toting terrorists who killed his father in the Valley – the reason why he had to leave his hometown in just 24 hours. The incident, which occurred over a decade ago, wiped out 19 years of his life.
“Overnight, we became refugees and migrants in our own country. We moved to Delhi, where we had our extended family. And then started the process of restoring our lives to some semblance of normalcy,” he says, quietly.
Shattered faith. Lost identity. And the ignominy of being thrown out of their hometown. And from this rancid ambience, Sanjay came up for air. “I went to Kashmir to complete my college education and then returned to Delhi. I worked in an export house, and then set up my own small business. To supplement my income, I started modelling. And that’s when I moved to Mumbai,” he reminisces.
Sanjay anchored a travel show and also worked in a serial in Mumbai. In 1999, came Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi . “My work was liked. My acting was noticed. And that’s all I could have asked for,” he candidly admits.
Films like Tera Jadoo Chal Gayaa, Daman, Filhaal, Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar, Jhankaar Beats and the recent Pinjar followed. “I am neither a product nor a victim of media hype. My work gets me more work,” Sanjay states.
Like every other actor, different characters entice him, but unlike every other actor, he doesn’t have a dream role. His justification: “What will I do after I am done with my dream role? That’s why I don’t have one! I want to essay a character, which needs a lot of effort and preparation. Till now, I have been able to relate a bit to every role. I want to do something that I absolutely cannot relate to and the actor in me has to,” he explains.
Dismissing “slotting” as a “director’s short-sightedness”, he plans to strike a balance between masala movies and sensible cinema. “I don’t want to get lost in the crowd. My forthcoming film, Plan , is a breakaway from my earlier image. My character is that of a lazy gambler’s. It’s a comic thriller. I want to do a Jhankaar Beats as well as a Plan ,” maintains the actor who also represented Jammu and Kashmir in squash at the national level.
Sanjay has made a new life for himself. Deriving his strength from his mother – “she lost her husband but still lent me her shoulder” – he has made moving ahead his life’s credo.
Having been married to Delhi girl Ambika, who is doing her masters in psychology, for over two years, he admits that now even if things become OK in the Valley, he can never go back there.
“After a while, one becomes numb. The pain is still there, but I cannot react at all,” he says, softly, and then, almost as an afterthought, adds, “You know, I don’t have any childhood photographs of mine. They were all left behind. When you think of that, it suddenly hits you…” Truth is stranger than the movies sometimes.