Actor-comedian Sunil Grover is enjoying this new phase of his career. Known as one of television's favourite stand-up comedian, he gained immense popularity playing characters like 'Gutthi', 'Rinku Bhabhi', and 'Dr Mashoor Gulati' on one of the top comedy shows while he also explored his dramatic side on the big screen with Baaghi and Pataakha.
Further, through his last act in Tandav, Grover, who played a cunning and ruthless man in the series, gave a peek into his versatility, something he hopes will continue with the upcoming eight-episode web series Sunflower that is now streaming on Zee5. Grover will be seen in a lead role in this whodunit intriguing murder mystery drama laced with dark humour.
Playing the multi-layered character with different behavioural shades of simplicity, innocence, quirkiness, manipulativeness and more, was a challenge for Grover. "What was most challenging was portraying that innocence because with time we lose our innocence and to show that as an actor it is a very difficult job. Gradually we become smart in our lives which is a compliment but I think innocence is a bigger compliment because to undo smartness is tough. To gather so many emotions for the series wasn't easy. My character Sonu has many moods and shades. Sometimes he is a loner, sometimes he is out in public. But I wanted to start with innocence and then I kept adding other characteristics like whatever smart things he does and feels a sense of achievement. We did several workshops and I gathered from my experiences as well. Of course, I loved my character, to believe in him and that such people do exist and survive was most challenging to portray but after a few days, I started enjoying myself. But primarily it is the story, the way it is told and the genre of the show that attracted me to it," says Grover.
"Also, I learnt a lot from my character that one should give a pat on your back once in a while, it makes you feel happy (laughs). We keep forgetting that sense of achievement, one should feel proud of what you are doing," he further adds.
Sunil Grover in a still from Sunflower. Image from YouTube
While the long story format is new to Grover, he said he is happy that the audiences have welcomed him in diverse roles despite his "comedic baggage". "It is challenging to break that sort of image. The fear of not being accepted in certain roles was always there. But people have accepted me and I feel happy about it. In a long story format, you have to set a graph for your role, you think about the whole story. I am trying to get used to this. It is a new world for me. Secondly, earlier, as a stand-up comedian, I would expect the audience to react to my lines immediately but here I shoot for two to three months and then you wait for six months for edits, post-production and then the release. So, I get reactions only after six months which I am not used to. However, I enjoy both worlds. I feel like a newcomer and my approach to work has changed. Each phase has its own advantages but I like this new phase," says Grover.
Ranvir Shorey, who plays a no-nonsense cop leading the team in solving a murder that happens in a housing society, says he tries to create characters from the imagination of a director and by contributing from his own experience. "I got an Alice in Wonderland vibe when I read the script of Sunflower. When you enter this housing society there are these oddball characters and there exists all the dynamics and relationships between them. In the midst of all that comes this investigating officer (played by Shorey) who wanted to play up the surreal element of the society. That is why my character is designed like that with his awkward pauses, long stares; you can't tell what he is thinking. People might think that he is not watching but nothing really escapes his eyes. He is a little obsessive, compulsive problem solver. Even when he is not actively solving a case he is busy solving crosswords, puzzles..he is a compulsive problem solver. Instead of bringing in one kind of neutral perspective looking at all these oddball characters in the society, it was more fun to add one more oddball character. It was like letting in a cat among the mice, so my character is like a cat and all these residents and suspects are the mice," says Shorey.
"When we did the workshop we did several variations of the character of how he can look, talk, walk..how he can be intimidating, unnerving, disorienting. With my character, the director wanted to add to the chaos in the society instead of sending one sane person in. There's this eccentricity in his sober attitude. He is obsessive and compulsive about the case. He won't let anything slip and that adds to the tension," Shorey further adds.
Both Shorey and Grover are huge admirers of each other's work. While Shorey feels Grover was the perfect fit for the part, the latter says he learnt a lot from the senior actor. "Ranvir has his own style, he also knows a lot about the technicalities, camerawork and the whole art. He gave me a few suggestions on how to approach my character. He is a very profound artist, whereas, I don't have any idea about technicalities. I just say my lines and leave but he has a point of view on everything," says Grover. On his part, Shorey signs off saying, "I have known Sunil for the last many years and I was really happy that he was playing Sonu's part. Although the series is an ensemble piece the most prominent part is played by Sunil. The only other prominent thing other than the society is 'Sonu'. He is the sunflower (laughs). For me, it was important to have an actor who would fit the job and Sunil was perfect."
Written and created by Vikas Bahl and (directed by) Rahul Sengupta, the series also stars Girish Kulkarni, Shonali Nagrani, Sonal Jha and Ashish Vidyarthi among others in prominent roles.
Reliance Entertainment's Sunflower is currently streaming on Zee5