Suhel Seth talks Guzaarish

Published On: 2018-01-04

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Suhel Seth talks Guzaarish



Source: Mumbai Mirror 

Date: November 14, 2010 



Seth plays Dr Nayak, physician to Hrithik Roshan’s Ethan. 

I did not reach Bombay by some seedy train and there were no tearful scenes when I was leaving Delhi. My dog and friends (in that order) couldn’t believe I was heading to Bombay to work in a film. Normally I go to Bombay to work or to see where I can pick up cheap flats that I do not deserve. Flats better located than Adarsh where I wouldn’t have to suffer the ignominy of some crooked army generals or corrupt bureaucrats or for that matter forgotten mothers-in-law. I landed by the Jet Airways flight; everything was the same. The same crappy food with unpronounceable names; the same people to meet me at the aerobridge; the same stupid co-passengers who would, mid-air, ask you on a flight to Bombay, if you were in fact, going to Bombay (as if there were chances of me being parachuted to Pune or Baramati) and the same delays in getting baggage once you land. But this time, things were different. It was my flight to fantasy. I would be working in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. So there was a spring in the air. I was dreaming of luscious women as part of the crew; was thinking of how full and steamy my vanity van would be with aspiring starlets and how I would eventually give Subhash Ghai a run for his money who had once famously told me, raat gayi, baat gayi, badnam hua Subhash Ghai! 


I was dreaming of mushy interviews with Karan Johar over some insipid coffee and getting to go to filmy parties where I too could get into a brawl over some lace-wearing vamp. So there were many things that crossed my mind and suddenly my chauffeur informed we were now at Mehboob Studios. Mehboob Studios is a cross between Mantralaya and some crestfallen public school run into the ground by the Thackerays. But for the clowns in Delhi, it was a story worth telling and since very few people know better, you can say what you wish. So even before I laid a foot on the sets of Guzaarish, I called up a friend in Delhi and said I am sitting on a chair in which, many years ago, Meena Kumari had sat. That bloke then told me to find a chair on which Madhuri Dixit had sat so that story of triumph ended pretty easily. I was then told, ‘sir’ was waiting. Now for me there are two kinds of people who you call ‘sir’. The first category is the people who may have had a small hand in your education and the other is the category of those who’ve been touched by the Queen’s sword so I was really keen to meet this other ‘sir’. And then there he was. Stroking his beard for the next big idea; with every other human being hanging onto his every eye movement since he said nothing. I was then given an audience the moment I arrived. He looked at me. And smiled. In many ways, that was MY casting couch moment and then we began chatting. I was with Sanjay Leela Bhansali who spends more time on candles than even Florence of Nightingale would. But there was simplicity about the man that was endearing. He disarmed me by saying he was scared of me since he watched me on news channels: I did not have the heart to tell him that there was so much in Delhi to abuse and so much in Bombay to be joyous about that here I would be docile as a cat. I then read the script of the film; he very patiently explained the nuances and when I asked for a diet Coke, he simply said, SPOT. And there it was. I could have asked for an honest A Raja and the SPOT would have delivered that. I felt like a star. You could ask the SPOT for anything and it would appear. 


Almost. I then met the talented Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the designer who told me I would now be measured for suits. And when I asked him how long they’d take to get the suits ready, he smiled and said they would be ready the following morning. Why on earth do I waste so much time and money getting suits made at Huntsman on Saville Row, when I can look like Shahrukh Khan at one-seventh of the cost and about one-fourteenth the time? 


The next day was the first shoot date. I was told I would have to leave Taj Lands End at 8.50am for a 9am call time. I then realised, all these call times would be insignificant compared to the exactitude of Sudip, the cameraman. If Sudip was ever made head of the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games, I can assure you we’d be hosting the 2072 Commonwealth Games. Such was his attention to details and his laborious nature, there were days when I would count insects in my vanity van rather than shoot. But the shoots were fun. There was a bonhomie that was so untypically Bollywood. I had amazing co-stars. Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan behaved like such wonderful friends (and have become so) that it was a dream to work with them even though if you blink your eyes, you may miss me in the film. But then who cares? If you blink for two hours you won’t miss Mallika in Hisss, so who what are we fussing about? The experiences were around both, the craft that Bhansali has the remarkable ability of injecting even into the smallest of scenes to the food that was served on the sets. I shot over months for this very large role of mine and I have to confess each day was special. There is a unique intellect that Bhansali brings to bear in his cinema. 


For me personally, it was an exciting peep into a world that is often parodied but one that in reality is very normal and very humane. Guzaarish was an experience that any actor would die for. Thankfully, I have lived to tell this tale. And I hope, there will be more to come. It is a world far away from the one I live in. But a world, which is more innocent, more giving and unblemished to a large extent even though one will always miss the ubiquitous SPOTS.