Actor Sunny Hinduja discusses 'Guy in the Sky' and his acting journey that began at FTII in an exclusive interview with A Potpourri of Vestiges

By Murtaza Ali Khan

A Potpourri of Vestiges recently caught up with actor Sunny Hinduja whose web film Guy in the Sky is currently streaming on Hotstar. Directed by Bikas Mishra, Guy in the Sky also stars Tannishtha Chatterjee and Maanvi Gagroo. Produced by CinePlay, Guy in the Sky is a satire on India's current political climate and Sunny Hinduja's role in Guy in the Sky is that of a husband who secretly admires a political leader whom his wife detests. Sunny, an FTII alumnus, has starred both in films and television serials but he is best known for his role in Ballad of Rustom which was shortlisted for the Best Picture Award at the 86th Academy Awards. Hailing from Indore, Sunny aspired to be an actor from a very young age and it was his dream of becoming an actor that brought him to FTII where his acting journey truly began. 


You have been around on the indie film circuit for some years now with Ballad of Rustom being your best known work till date. But you have somehow stayed away from mainstream cinema. How choosy are you when it comes to roles?

Well, one can only make the choices from whatever that’s been offered and I go by my gut that this has something for me. Because I not only see the fact that what kind of director I am working with, I also see what kind of environment is there, what kind of feel you get. Getting the right feel is very important for me. And whatever mainstream have been offered which I found good in my way I took it. Like my debut film was Cycle Kick which was by Subhash Ghai which I did while being in FTII. By God’s grace I was allowed to go in between my course. Because of the faculty’s support I could go. I was also thinking that I should not go because I was still learning and so I was not sure if I could do a feature film. I am glad the faculty allowed me and it proved to be a breakthrough film for me as an actor. Then I got his wonderful film called Ballad of Rustom, directed by Ajita Suchitra Veera, also an FTII passout. She is a prolific director. Even her diploma film was shortlisted for the Oscars. And, Ballad of Rustom, her first feature, too was in the race for the Oscars. I am really proud of that film.  

Tell us about the challenges one gets to face as an actor trying to establishing oneself in the film industry.

The biggest challenge as an actor trying to establish yourself is that you have to prove yourself every time you meet somebody. Every new person sees you as a fresh face. A big challenge is that sometimes you also have your bad days and then you are judged. But you can’t do much about that. It is such a cutthroat field. You have to be on your toes all the time. I take it as a positive thing to keep myself at my best all the time. That is what I have learnt. Don’t go for a meeting or an audition if you are not prepared for it. You can always postpone that rather than creating a bad impression.

You are a professionally trained actor unlike others. Does it give you an edge over others as an actor if you have had some professional training?

As an actor it definitely gives you an edge because during your training you go through a lot of drills such as audition. And so it definitely gives you an upper edge as an actor but in terms of getting selected I would not say because that is completely person to person, very subjective. I owe my acting, my performances and my all abilities to FTII. Whatever I have learnt I have learnt over there. Also my colleagues and my seniors have been instrumental to my growth.   

Tell us about your life at FTII. How it shaped you up as a professional actor? How would you rate the acting course at FTII on a scale of 10? (We had recently asked actor Bhuvan Arora, also an FTII Alumnus, to rate the course but he politely passed the question)

The duration of the acting course at FTII is two years. A typical day at FTII would start with a music class in the morning. Then we used to have Yoga or Dance or Swimming. So the morning session involved some physical activity along with music. Then some classroom training (acting specific involving improvisation or reading or audition or scene or sense memory or anything of that sort) from 10 AM to 1 PM, followed by lunch break and then another class till 5 PM. Then at 6:30 PM we had film screening everyday which is typically world cinema. You are exposed to great films. The screening is common for all the courses. See, as far as rating goes, I can rate my time over there because places change and people change with time. During my time I would rate it at 9.5 out of 10. I would not say that I know everything and because of my own ignorance I would not give a 10.

Tell us about your role in Bikas Mishra’s ‘Guy in the Sky’. How did it happen? Also tell us about your experiences of working with a director like Bikas.

Cineplay was a new platform for me, Tannishtha and Maanvi. Bikas, however, had done one more cineplay earlier called Pagla Ghoda. Now, I have done theatre in Mumbai as well as back at FTII. Then I consciously came out of it and started doing films. So I have a hang of theatre and film. So I got very interested when I was told that Guy in the Sky would be a cineplay—a play that would be shot like a film. Then the cast was very interesting and the director was good. So I was very excited to go ahead with the cineplay but I would like to say that the platform is really amazing as it allows one to archive classic plays and hence preserve good writing by giving it a new shape. Also as an actor it was good for me as I learnt the importance of retakes. Aamir Khan is known to do a lot of retakes and I used to feel that it may affect spontaneity but now I see otherwise. The key is that even while you are rehearsing a thing again and again you should approach it as if you are doing it for the first time. It allowed me to understand my director and fellow actors better. I could take cues from them in a new way and could bring out something new. Bikas gave me the space to improvise and thanks to the cooperation I got from Taanishtha and Maanvi we could create something so refreshing. So here I would also like to congratulate the founders of CinePlay, Nandita Das and Subodh Maskara.

Sunny Hinduja (right) and Maanvi Gagroo in Bikas Mishra's cineplay 'Guy in the Sky'

How well does ‘Guy in the Sky’ reflect the current political climate of the country? How similar or different are you from the character that you play in it?

Credit goes to Bikas for rewriting a play which has now become somewhat obsolete. I would like to congratulate him for such a great writing. It is an immensely well written play and Bikas adapts it beautifully keeping in mind the current situation. We just wanted to put across what’s happening currently. We wanted to show people something and let them decide on their own. My character is a common man who gets swayed by the politicians around. He has confused political views and he is disturbed mentally and emotionally as politics has entered his house. So in order to protect his peace, maintain his peace he completes hides his opinion from his wife. His wife has very strong opinions and so in order to maintain peace he is quietly agreeing to everything she says. Then somewhere in between he has this emotional outburst… those who have seen the cineplay can better relate to it.

How do you see the web as a medium?

Web is a great medium. Up to now we used to say that television is so close to you that it’s in your bedroom. But I would say that web is even closer; it is in your pocket. So you take it along with you all the time. It’s a great medium and it could reach out very far and in a very big manner. It’s a great medium and I would love to work more on the web.   

You seem to share good chemistry with Tannishtha Chatterjee and Maanvi Gagroo in ‘Guy in the Sky’?  How was it like to work with the both of them?

I would like to say that both Tannishtha and Maanvi are very humble. The three of us and the director, we gelled really well. Tannishtha, I knew from before… we had done a writer’s workshop in Bhubaneswar. I knew her since then. So I had a good relation with her. But, Maanvi, whom I was meeting for the first time, was very sweet. The thing is that they are at such a level that they focus on making the product good which is a great quality. We all were all focused in making the product good that we didn’t really think about ourselves. And it shows in the end product, I think. So I would like to congratulate each one of us on that front. I would also like to congratulate the entire technical team for their commitment and dedication. I would say that it was a great team effort.

Tell us about your early influences that helped shape you up as an actor.

I must say that I love the actors who have been inspiring me to grow. They are Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Daniel Day-Lewis. Other than them there are people like Kevin Spacey, and, of course, Marlon Brando. The kind of commitment they have. The way they work. I mean it’s completely at another level. I would like to be known as a performer like them.

Tell us about your upcoming projects. What advice would you like to give to the aspiring actors?

There are two films which are lined up for release. One is Kill the Rapist by Sanjay Chhel. It stars Anjali Patil and Sadia Siddiqui along with me. And another film called Brij Mohan Amar Rahe. It's produced by Saregama and Drishyam Films has done the line production for this. Also there are a couple of other projects in post production.

As far as the advice is concerned, it is very simple. If it’s your passion and if you see yourself completely into it, please go ahead. And, wherever you are, always give your best… whenever you are going to meet somebody make sure you give your best without expecting anything in return. That’s the only way to deal with disappointments.  

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