Films run in his blood – his paternal grandfather was a director while his maternal grandfather a Punjabi film hero. While his maternal uncle was a well-known child artiste, his father has been a famous name of the Hindi film industry as well as the small screen. Third-generation actor SIDDHANT ISSAR tells SAURABH TANKHA on why he chose to be a part of the film industry, what prompted him to make a movie on sadhu lynching and the influence of his father and grandfathers on his life and more… He also shares that the unplugged version of the title track of his upcoming movie has been sung by Kailash Kher.
Were you always interested in being a part of the Hindi film industry?
Always. I’m third generation child from both, my father’s and mother’s, sides. While my dadaji, late Sudesh Issar, was a well-known director, my naanaji, Daljit Puri, was a hero in Punjabi films. Mohd Rafi started his career by giving playback for him. My maamaji, Satyajeet Puri, was a famous child artiste during 60s and 70s. Remember the song, Phoolon ka taaron ka sabka kehna hai from Hare Rama Hare Krishna which was filmed on him. He also acted in Shor, Anurag and many more. And then, my father, Puneet Issar. It is in my genes. I haven’t been a typical industry kid who grew up on his father’s sets. I always excelled in studies but saw work culture of films up, close and personal and perhaps that made me decide that I wanted to be an actor, writer and director.
My maamaji, Satyajeet Puri, was a famous child artiste during 60s and 70s. Remember the song, Phoolon ka taaron ka sabka kehna hai from Hare Rama Hare Krishna which was filmed on him
You are a theatre veteran at 25. How has been the experience?
I did the junior workshop of Ekjute when I was 11. I did children’s plays. I have performed at Prithvi Theatre in a lot of children plays. So the journey started then. I used to do drama and dramatics in school, college, university level. When I was around 17-18, I did another workshop with Ekjute. I have done a workshop at NSD also. Then I started performing with this Delhi based theatre group initially and then Mahabharata An Epic Tale happened where I played the young Duryodhana. I co-wrote it with my father. I got a lot of applause for it. It has been a journey of over 15 years and I have been performing. I know everything that can be known about theatre – lighting, managing the sound, backstage, properties, ushering to ticketing and of course, acting and directing. I have been a part of it all.
What were the learnings at London School of Dramatic Arts and Ekjute? How different are the two?
The approaches and techniques at both the places were similar. The only difference was that when we perform in India, the stress is on expression and they are louder. In London, they only know natural and that is the only way they know how to act. Acting is two kinds – one is stylisation, the other is realism. Here we mostly indulge in stylisation and acting. There, it is more of realism. However, even here now, you have some realistic actors like Divyendu Sharma, Shashank Arora, Vijay Verma and Nawazuddin sir coming in.
When the sadhu lynching incident happened, I was disturbed as nobody spoke up or did anything. And you knew nobody is going to do nothing because that’s how people operate in this country
When did you decide to write and make Sanghaar – The Massacre?
I was perturbed when the sadhu lynching incident happened. I was disturbed nobody spoke up or did anything, not even a candle march. And you knew nobody is going to do nothing because that’s how people operate in this country. So I thought someone should talk about this issue. In 10 days, I had the script ready and then told dad about it. He was happy I had worked on the subject. This vichaardhaara (thought process) was passed on to me by dad to whom it was passed on by my dadaji, an RSS member. In no time, we had decided to make a film. It took us a month to get the finances in place.
Showing Hindus in a bad light, making fun of Sanatan Dharma has been a practice with filmmakers since long. No one ever protested against it. Over the years, this practice has only increased, which really pained me. Your father has been quoted saying this about the Palghar incident. How much do you agree with him?
Completely. From a long time, Indian sadhus have been shown in bad light in our films. You will never see a cleric, a peer or a priest being paakhandi or dhongi or shown in bad light. For the country will burn if you do. Have you watched PK where Lord Shiva is shown hiding in a bathroom and we have been through it. It is sad and sick. One can’t make a picture of a Mohammad for you will be beheaded if you do that. We are aware of all this and still live with it.
You have made a movie presenting the Hindu side of the story. Why do you think has this feeling been missing in most of us over the last so many decades?
The reason why this feeling has been missing is because when our film industry took shape, the same narrative was told for years in this very secular industry. However, I won’t say it is anti-Hindu but you always saw movies with main antagonist either being a Gabbar Singh, Shaakal, Jindaal, Singhaal or Singhania. Never ever a don belonged to the minority community. On the other side, there was always a Sher Khan who was a positive character, like in Zanjeer. That’s how the narrative has been in our films for years. This narrative has been pushed down cine-goers’ throats because everybody wants to be secular. What they don’t understand is that just because you are in favour of your religion, the minority community doesn’t make you a fundamentalist.
You always saw movies with main antagonist either being a Gabbar Singh, Shaakal, Jindaal, Singhaal or Singhania. Never ever a don belonged to the minority community
Your movie will release on an OTT platform. Which one and when?
We are in talks with two of India’s leading OTT platforms and will soon announce about it.
Do you think OTT is the future?
Of course. The game has changed. Audiences who were watching GECs on television have now moved over to OTT channels during the phase there was nothing new on TV. People have gotten used to not going to theatres. It is a pleasant change.
OTT or movies or theatre. Your pick and why?
OTT will surely replace television. To certain extent and to some level, it will give tough competition to movie theatres. For a small film, why would someone pay money at a cinema hall? But for a 3D or a 4D experience, no one is going to watch on an OTT. In our country, we worship cinema and people will keep spending money to go to watch a movie in a cinema hall. We will become how Hollywood has – only movies like Avengers and Avatar will rake in big money because it will be like a picnic with kids flocking cinema halls with parents, watching movies, eating popcorn, having cold drinks and buying merchandise. All smaller films will release on OTT platforms.
Live theatre is something unparalleled as it provides a certain experience you can’t get at home. The feel is incomparable. A lot of people will choose OTT platforms over movie halls. The money they would spend watching a movie in a cinema hall will be spent watching plays, live concerts. In fact, OTT boom will help performing artistes because watching a good movie at home and the next best outing option will now be watching a live play or a live concert. Once Covid-19 ends, theatre will witness a boom in India.
One advice of your grandfather and father you never forget.
We have learnt there is no substitute for hard work. You have to keep concentrating on your goal and have loads of self-belief. You should never give up. We are nationalists, pro-Hinduism, pro-Sanatan Dharma and we do not shy away from putting forth out point of view.
We are nationalists, pro-Hinduism, pro-Sanatan Dharma and we do not shy away from putting forth out point of view
The role of your mother in your life…
She is the nucleus of our family and the boss at home. She is a righteous, just, strong and spiritually inclined woman. She is my backbone, my strength. I get my amicable nature, social and eased out factor from mom.
I have been in talks with a numero uno studio in India to play lead in a movie. Everything was finalised before lockdown happened. I presume we will start shooting in January 2021. I need to get back into shape for so have to get onto dieting and workouts now.