Sudhanshu Rai is nothing if not creative. At different times, he dons different hats – he is a storyteller one day and a director next, actor on some days and a filmmaker on others. Ask him which one of these roles he likes the most, and he cannot answer. “Each is equally dear,” he says. These days it is the filmmaker that is ruling the roost, for, he has come up with a short film Chinta Mani, which will set be released on an OTT platform.
Born in a village near Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, Rai got his early education at the village itself after which he moved to Delhi. He did his graduation from Delhi University and then MBA from IBS, Bengaluru post which he founded a strategic communication and production firm Saints Art. But the ever-existing storyteller in him didn’t let him rest for long. So, in 2018, Rai turned into a professional storyteller launching his show Kahanikaar Sudhanshu Rai on his youtube channel. There was no stopping after that. He soon moved to storytelling on radio channel and then entered filmmaking and acting, perhaps as a natural progression. “But. “ he says, “it is a shift, not progression since I was always a storyteller – even when I was studying, I wrote, directed and acted in a lot of plays, and bagged some awards too,” he says. In an email conversation with Life & More, Rai tells us more:
Share with us the making of Chintaa Mani.
Chintaa Mani is undoubtedly our most experimental offering till date, as it is a rare blend of different genres and sub-genres such as thriller, mystery, sci-fi, horror and supernatural. While our first outing Chaipatti was an edge-of-the-seat horror comedy and Detective Boomrah, a thriller with sci-fi elements like time travel, Chintaa Mani would ensure the audience a completely surreal experience, with a hint of humour and horror. You will see the team of Chaipatti – Shobhit Sujay, Abhishek Sonpaliya and myself – along with Detective Boomrah’s missing man Akhlaq Ahmad Azad portraying interesting and diverse characters who come together to offer complete entertainment. My co-writer Puneet Sharma, who is someone with great insights in the classic school of filmmaking, has brilliantly helmed the film as a Director. Chintaa Mani is set to stream on a leading OTT platform shortly.
How was the creative journey from storytelling to acting and directing in 2021?
When you talk about cinema, it encompasses various elements, such as acting, direction, editing, execution, conceptualisation etc, but what remains at the core of it all is the story. Hence, it has been a very natural progression for me from being a storyteller to an actor and a director. As I said earlier, I began writing, directing and acting in plays while I was studying, and therefore have always been an instrumental part of the complete process. It was more of a shift from the stage to the screen, rather than a progression of sorts.
OTT space is deluged with scores of platforms, with a variety of content. Good or bad?
The evolution and widespread acceptance of OTT platforms has in many ways transformed the way the audience had traditionally been consuming content. While it’s available in the comfort of your mobile and television screen, the content comes packaged in various styles and formats. Moreover, all stakeholders – filmmakers, actors, writers, directors, technicians etc – are getting the leeway to experiment with newer content, formats and concepts. The audience is certainly more adaptable than ever to unique stories that give them the requisite dose of entertainment. The only thing that the audience today is not willing to compromise on is the quality of content offered before them.
Any plans to move to creating feature films or acting in them?
As a matter of fact our next project, which is set to go on floors quite soon, is a full-length feature film with some a novel plot and popular faces from the Indian entertainment industry. In addition to the feature film, we have also initiated the second season of Detective Boomrah. All we can ensure the audience at this stage that the forthcoming edition of Detective Boomrah would be much bigger and better.
Which of your roles do you like more – a storyteller, actor or director?
There is no single role of mine that I prefer over another. Be it being a storyteller, an actor, a director or an entrepreneur, each is equally important and special for me, as they help me strike just the right balance in life. I get the equal amount of thrill while conceptualising a story that I get in portraying a character on the screen or directing from behind the camera.
What made you start your weekly radio storytelling show, Kahaniyaan – Kahanikaar Sudhanshu Rai Ke Saath?
It was after the initial success as a storytelling across different social media and digital formats that I came up with the first season of my storytelling show, Kahaniyaan – Kahanikaar Sudhanshu Rai Ke Saath on ISHQ 104.8 FM. The first edition of the weekly show featured some of my most loved thriller stories, especially the ones featuring Detective Boomrah, along with a few heart-touching ones.
Which medium do you find more challenging as an artiste – TV, radio or OTT?
Each medium has its own challenges as well as opportunities, but what’s important for an artist is to understand the nuances and intricacies of each mode and act accordingly. When you are on radio, it is the voice that makes the real difference whereas on the screen it is your complete self. Therefore, there isn’t really a comparison between the different modes and what remains intrinsic to all is the quality of content and concept of storytelling.