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‘For the love of fans, I continued with Crime Patrol ’

Actor Anup Soni, a well known face in tv shows, has a lot in his plate – from web to films

Ludhiana-born Anup Soni is best known for hosting Sony TV’s popular crime series Crime Patrol. After a successful stint in television with serials such as Sea Hawks and Saaya, he went on to star in films like Gangaajal, Hathyar, Sheen and Tathastu. However, his work in television serials like CID – Special Bureau and Balika Vadhu has remained his greatest strength. But things are about to change, as  he finds himself in a very interesting space as an actor.

In this interview, he talks about his long association with Crime Patrol, his upcoming film Prasthanum wherein he stars alongside Sanjay Dutt, the second season of ALTBalaji series The Test Case, the Baahubali prequel series for Netflix, his Marathi feature film and  other upcoming projects.

Excerpts:

You have been doing movies on and off for the last couple of decades. But your stints on television have been much longer. Is it something that you have consciously chosen?

To be honest, I have always been choosy about my work and it applies to both films and television. If you look at my television work, I don’t do daily soaps back to back.

When we came into the industry after passing out of National School of Drama (NSD), we all wanted to do films. But at the time only a certain kind of cinema was being made. So initially I was only offered the role of hero’s friend or heroine’s brother. Characters that are there in the film but only have little to do.

Within a couple of years, I realised that there isn’t much happening in films for me. Coincidentally that was also the time when television was growing. So, I did not plan that I would do more work on television and less in films but the offers that came to me on television were significantly better.

I remember I was going through a phase of immense dissatisfaction as an actor until I got offered Sea Hawks. It was a big show on television in terms of scale and grandeur. It was helmed by Anubhav Sinha and we shot it in Mauritius and Goa with actors like Om Puri, Niki Aneja, Simone Singh, Manoj Pahwa and R. Madhavan. And I had a brilliant role. I couldn’t have asked for something better at the time.

After Sea Hawks I didn’t look back as there was never a dearth of offers on television. In between, I kept doing films as and when I got good offers from people who appreciated my work such as Prakash Jha and Vikram Bhatt. Then I entered another phase where I wanted to give films another go, but again the roles didn’t excite me much. On the other hand, a show like Balika Vadhu offered me a lot more as an actor. Then Crime Patrol happened. But I think this period is the best period for actors. Right now I am doing films, web series as well as  Crime Patrol.

You have been hosting Crime Patrol for such a long time that you have become synonymous with the show. What has kept you hooked to it for so long?

I have been able to do Crime Patrol for so long mainly because of the love I received from the audience. Whenever I have taken a break from the show I have got bombarded by fan messages asking me to come back.

Being synonymous with a show like Crime Patrol has both its positives and negatives, but I must say that I am really thankful for it. Finally we have managed to work out a logistic arrangement that allows me to do Crime Patrol simultaneously with the new things that are coming my way. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my production house and the channel.

You have recently been associated with some interesting shows on the web such as The Test Case. How do you see the web as a medium vis-à-vis film and television?

I think web is playing a very important role. I see it as bridge between television and cinema. It offers writers as well as actors the freedom to experiment. Also, there is a lesser fear of getting typecast.

One important thing that differentiates web from television is that you know are fully aware about your character arc from the word go. So, it’s like a film only but it’s a little longer, with of course a bigger cast. You will start seeing me in a gamut of interesting roles on the web from November onwards. And the best part is that they are all very different and  thoroughly rewarding for me as an actor

How did the training at NSD help you in becoming the actor that you are? How important is it to be formally trained as an actor?

My training has played an immense role in my career. I come from a typical middle class Punjabi family. In our family people were either doing regular jobs or running businesses. I was born in Ludhiana but stayed in different places because my father had  a transferable job. And,  my family has nothing to do with acting, performing acts, or even literature.

Yes, my father was very fond of music and that is something I have inherited from him as a hobby. I like good music and I can appreciate it but nothing more than that. Thus, I really feel that it was the training at National School of Drama prepared me for the career that I have chosen.

But, I think it depends on an individual. There are actors in the profession who haven’t done any formal training in life but they perform well and the results are brilliant. So formal  training is not necessary but if you love your craft and are passionate about it then training will certainly add to your craft.

You are uniting with Sanjay Dutt on Prasthanum after a gap of over 12 years. Tell us about the character that you are playing in the film. How did you get associated with the project?

Prasthanum is actually my third film with Sanjay Dutt. The project came to me because the director of the Baahubali prequel series that I am a part of is also directing Prasthanum. He is also the director of the original Telugu version of the film which he directed about 10 years back.

The role that I am doing is actually a guest appearance and it’s also credited in the film as one. But the character is quite crucial to the film. The number of scenes is not many but the importance in the storyline is high for this particular character. My character and the one that Sanjay Dutt plays are like brothers. But then something happens to me and he takes my place and looks after my family. In the climax, it is revealed what exactly had happened and  that’s what makes my character crucial to the storyline.

You are also doing a film called Ramyug with director Kunal Kohli. It’s said to be inspired by the Ramayan. Would you like to tell us something more about the film?

When Kunal Kohli called me for Ramyug, the first thing I inquired was if it is set in the contemporary world. He told me that it would be made it in a mythological way only with the proper costumes and look. Since I am playing the part of Parashurama, all the training that I had at NSD in Parsi Theatre, Indian Classical Theatre and Western Drama came really handy. I think it is a great coincidence that finally after all these years I am getting to do roles where I am able to put all my professional training as an actor to use.

You have also done a Netflix film for Red Chillies Entertainment. Could you brief us a little about that?

Right now I am contractually bound,  so I won’t be able to share much about it. But all I can say is that the audience will be really  surprised to see me in the role. I am really happy that the makers thought of me for the part. I believe that unless as an actor you get the right opportunities, it’s very difficult to show what you are truly capable of. I am expecting the film to come out by the end of the year.

Tell us about your other upcoming projects. 

As I said earlier I am doing the Baahubali prequel series for Netflix which is expected to come out in January 2020. We have already shot for it and currently its post-production is on.

It’s a very different role but I can’t reveal anything more right now. I can talk a little more about the second season of The Test Case. It’s going to be an extension of the first part. So, I will be playing the same character but my role is much bigger and stronger in this season. Then on November 15 my first Marathi film is releasing. It’s a period drama and I am the only non-Marathi actor in it because my character is Hindi speaking.   Also, there is an Amazon Prime series lined up but we haven’t even started shooting for it.