Sunil Grover
Sunil Grover Image Credit: Instagram/SunilGrover

What’s it like filming a web series in the midst of a raging pandemic in India?

Trust Bollywood actor and comedian par excellence Sunil Grover to break it down for you with a humorous twist.

“At some point you would feel like you are in a hospital because everybody has a PPE kit … I could only recognise my make-up artist with his masks on. Without it, I was like: ‘who are you?’ … We live in a time where we have begun recognising people with masks on and not when they don’t have it on!’” said Grover over a Zoom call with Gulf News.

Sunil Grover
Sunil Grover Image Credit: Supplied

“Every time you enter the set, you will be sprayed down and all your clothes that you wear in any scene would be ironed with the hottest iron after every use… A great amount of care was taken to sanitise our sets,” Grover said.

On June 11, Grover will play the lead player in the Zee5 Original ‘Sunflower’, a crime comedy directed by Vikas Bahl and Rahul Sengupta. The tale, dripping with dark humour, revolves around the quirky residents from the Sunflower Society in Mumbai and a murder investigation.

The global pandemic, which continues to ravage countries, has spun their reality on its head, Grover believes.

“Reality is often stranger than fiction. I understood that adage even better now. Who could imagine that wearing masks and not greeting with a hug is safer? Nowadays, the expression of love has changed. If you love someone deeply, then show your love by not meeting them … It’s bizarre. So if you love your parents now, stay away from them,” said Grover.

The comedian, who gained notoriety and fame after working with comedian Kapil Sharma and in series such as ‘Tandav’ and Salman Khan’s blockbuster ‘Bharat’, believes that the ‘airport looks’, where stars would showcase their trendy clothes before they travel, have been replaced by a new form of paparazzi shot.

“Even taking selfies as people get vaccinated is a new look now,” said Grover with a laugh.

Here’s his take on his new role in ‘Sunflower’, working with Vikas Bahl, shedding eight kilos for his new role, controversies around his earlier show ‘Tandav’ and more …

His role in ‘Sunflower’:

“I play Sonu Singh, a resident of Sunflower Society. He’s somebody who comes across as very innocent. He’s this funny guy who lives in his own world, but as you watch the show, you know that he has several layers to him. All the characters in this show aren’t what they seem. I am hoping that people will enjoy the show as much as I enjoyed reading its script for the first time… You can’t describe its genre fully. It’s a dark comedy around a death that happens in his society. There’s laughs and thrills.”

Working with Vikas Bahl:

“He and I have been planning to work for a long time. He even approached me for a few projects, but with ‘Sunflower’ it finally happened. I wanted to be a part of this instantly. He asked me to shed about 7-8 kilos for the show before we began shooting for ‘Sunflower’. I had to be careful about not gaining weight. But in the last two or three days of the shoot, I cheated a bit … But the truth is that nobody has to lose weight unless your work or your casting director tells you to do so … The definition of what being slim has changed over the years. It’s often about marketing products which start influencing us …. Nobody needs to lose weight unless you feel unhealthy or if doctors tell you to lose weight … I remember seeing an advertisement where a 1950s poster had a woman in a bikini. The definition of a bikini body was so different back then … On a lighter note, maybe the director wanted to save on food and clothes. But then they realised that diet food costs a lot more than regular food.”

Filmmaker Vikas Bahl.

Vikas Bahl being accused and cleared of sexual misconduct charges:

“I don’t have any right to say anything around it because firstly, I don’t know about the full thing [sexual misconduct charges], but whatever I know of Vikas sir as a colleague and well-wisher is that I value his work and am a fan of his work. I love working with him and I don’t think he would do such a thing. It’s not even possible.”

Experimenting with web series such as ‘Tandav’ and ‘Sunflower’:

“At one point, I was only doing a certain body of work. But then destiny took me to projects such as ‘Pataakha’, ‘Bharat’, and ‘Tandav’. After these projects, things began happening automatically to us. I am enjoying this wonderful phase in my life. I was so excited to be on the sets of ‘Sunflower’ because it’s a beautifully written show with well-defined characters. When I went to this set, I knew I would enjoy every minute of it.”

Sunil Grover and Kapil Sharma on 'The Kapil Sharma Show'.

On embracing dramatic roles after doing comedy:

“With my comic background, I was really sceptical when ‘Tandav’ released. I wasn’t sure if people would start laughing in my serious scenes. I was playing a role of a person who intimidated and scared people around him, but I wasn’t sure if my audience would buy it. But once they acknowledged my efforts in ‘Tandav’, I realised things were working out for me and I was lucky … Things began happening on my career front organically. I was not taking time in my life, time was being taken from me. Does that make sense? Working on OTT platforms just happened when they began making different kinds of content. There was a point when I didn’t have any acting job, but things gradually came my way. I looked at the work that was being offered to me as the best option and it worked for me … There’s a bigger canvas to paint on OTT platforms and series.”

‘Tandav’ courting controversy and facing calls for ban:

“As actors, we look at projects as work that we get to do … Personally, I don’t want to be a part of any controversy. Once a project is done, everything depends on how people take to it. It’s your luck … There are times when certain dialogues may feel like it’s going to be a rage with the viewers, but once the series releases it may not be the case … You never know how people are going to react fully to any show or scenes … Due to the advent of social media, people are expressing without filter and sometimes writing about stuff that they haven’t even seen … But my job as an actor is to do things that make people happy.”

Don’t miss it!

‘Sunflower’ is out on Zee5Global on June 11.