"If I had a chocolate face, I would have been driving a Ford Ikon and doing three Balaji shows; two on Star Plus and one on Sony" : Murli Sharma

Life has not been a bed of roses for this man. It is tough making your presence felt, minus a godfather or family connections, in the entertainment industry. But Murli Sharma seems to have done it just fine. A look at his life story and one would think that his personal motto would be 'perseverance is the key to success' .

"In school and college, I used to participate in a number of plays. I loved the entire experience of being on stage and what's more, I also got to bunk classes! Though I wasn't as serious at that time, but after watching some intense performances by Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor, I was inspired. Anil Kapoor's
Tezaab is one of my favourite movies," he tells indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani.

Excerpts of the tete-e-tete that transpired -


Did you have any formal training in acting to pursue your ambition?

I had read that Roshan Taneja's acting school was quite good, and after a lot of coaxing and cajoling, I managed to persuade my father to get me enrolled in it. I had to pay a king's ransom for my diploma in acting though. After completing my diploma, I started approaching directors for jobs in assisting.


But you were interested in acting, weren't you? Then why get into direction?

Well, there weren't any good acting opportunities coming my way and I needed to earn my living. Not that it was easy getting jobs as an assistant director either. I approached quite a few directors like Mahesh Bhatt, Rahul Rawail and Vidhu Vinod Chopra but met with little luck. I changed jobs every week. Later, I worked as an assistant to Kavita Chaudhary, but even that didn't work out.


How did you switch to acting then?

Since I wasn't satisfied, I switched back to acting. When I heard that Vinod Pandey was planning a serial titled Reporter, I called up his office. But after many unsuccessful attempts, I directly tried his residence number and got through to him. That is how I bagged a role in one episode alongside Shekhar Suman. And that's when the ball started rolling.

After that followed Anubhav Sinha's Sea Hawks and Anil Chaudhari's Mahayagya. I had exciting roles in both and that gave me lot of recognition. Thereafter followed four years of constant struggle. But I did manage to create a tiny niche for myself.

I acted in Kushan Nandy's Do Lafzon Ki Kahani with Helen Khan. Then, I did many episodes of Zee's X-Zone, Thriller At 10 and Rishtey. In one of the Rishtey episodes, I played a eunuch, Ramkali. It was a very challenging role and that showcased my acting talent. Later, I played a tough crimebuster cop in Dial 100.


Playing a eunuch? That must be quite interesting. Did you do some homework for it?

Yeah, I met a couple of eunuchs. I think it's quite unfair that they are labeled as 'bad people'. Some of them do come on strongly, but there are many who are nice. There's one Reema at the Four Bunglows signal, who will invariably wish you 'Good Morning, How are you?'


After so much of television, did you ever think about moving to the bigger screen?

Oh yes, when I did one episode of Saturday Suspense with Vikram Bhatt, he told me that I should consider films. So, I did his Kasoor and then Raaz. Then followed Market, Dil Vil Pyar Vyar and Ek Hasina Thi.

But the major films that came my way were Dhoop, where I played an army officer, and Maqbool, where I play the senior police officer to Naseerudin Shah and Om Puri. Undoubtedly, it was a great experience and it got me a good amount of recognition too.


Did television continue after your tryst with films?

Yes, I did a show called Viraasat. I was even nominated for 'Best Actor in a Negative Role' at the Indian Telly Awards for the same. I played a psychopath who meets a girl, who looks like his dead wife.


Any regrets about not winning?

No. I am happy that I was nominated. I would rather drive a Maruti Esteem than dream about a Mercedes and not get it (laughs).

"There is no dearth of work on television"

So, what is it that is keeping you busy these days?

Well, I played a role in Indra Kumar's Masti, which has been quite successful. I also featured in Farah Khan's Shah Rukh starrer Main Hoon Na, which releases on 30 April. I play a character called Khan who is in the army and is a blind follower of Suniel Shetty.

Then, I have King Of Bollywood, an out and out comedy, where I play Sunny Singh- Om Puri's assistant; the script has been written by Piyush Jha and Deepa Gahlot. Then there is Ketan Mehta's Rising, Ruchi Narayan's Rewind and Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday.


How was it working with Aamir?

On a 7 am shift, he always arrived at 6:45 am. No airs, no tantrums.

He never treated me as just another character actor. He would sit amongst the character actors, change his clothes around us and have lunch with us. I think he is obsessed with work. Ditto for Shah Rukh Khan.


How different are films from television?

The canvas is much bigger in films and it's obviously more advanced, technically. But, the major difference is that in films, you can be meticulous and take your own time. In television, there are deadlines that you have to meet and often we have to rush since we have to shoot a complete episode in a single day.


So the quality of work suffers on television, doesn't it?

I don't think so. Television doesn't demand much. Television is more about story-telling on an everyday basis. Besides, it concentrates more on facial expressions.


Is that the reason why TV actors, when placed on the larger canvas, tend to ham? They appear clueless about what to do with their hands and legs.

I really don't know. At least I have not faced this difficulty. Maybe because I come from a theatre background.

"Television is big business and everyone wants to put his best foot forward"

You said that television doesn't demand much. What about memorising pages every day?

Yes, I have often memorized three full pages for just one scene on television. On the other hand, we often memorise just two or three lines for one scene in a film. Frankly speaking, I used to perform at school and college level and pick up roles, which had lesser number of lines (laughs).


With so much to speak at one go, how do you avoid the retakes?

There is no question of avoiding the retakes. It depends from scene to scene. The directors understand which scenes are easier and which are tougher. Everyone is allowed to make mistakes.

At every stage, directors correct you and help you improvise. It's a race against time all right, but not at the cost of quality. Today, television is big business and everyone wants to put his best foot forward.


Is everyone "really" putting his best foot forward? Why do most of the serials end up looking like clones of each other?

Because it is the formula that is working. If a saas bahu serial has worked, then why not do something similar? Who's to lose anyway?

I think we all follow the same pattern- 'nothing succeeds like success'. I have seriously wanted to do a big role in a Balaji show. I did a few of their shows (Kahiin Kissi Roz, Kya Hadsaa Kya Haqeeqat). I know how popular Balaji actors are... they are probably as big as Shah Rukh Khan.

Although I played big brother in Parchhaiyan, people couldn't accept me in that role. They have always seen me as a cop, psychopath... (shrugs).


Is it because you have different features, quite atypical to what TV viewers are used to?

(smiles) I don't know if I look like a psycopath, but yes my face seems to have a slight negative tinge. If I had a chocolate face, I would have been driving a Ford Ikon and doing three Balaji shows, two on Star Plus and one on Sony (smiles).


Are directors given a raw deal on the small screen?

I don't think so. On the sets, they do have a free hand. But yes, I wonder why directors are changed midway through the serials!


In a career of over ten years, you must have done just about 15 serials. Why?

I always preferred films. Even today, my taste has not changed. I have refused a lot of work on television, mainly for two reasons. One, I kept some room for films. Two, I never felt an urge to accept inconsequential roles. There is no dearth of work on television, but I always did work that stood out.


Who are your idols on television?

Shekhar Suman, I personally think he is the best example of a perfect actor. He adds so much of his own to the script. Acting is not just memorising lines and making faces.


Does television pay well?

It does, but after a certain period of time. Until you get noticed, it's tough.

Thank God that period is over when people used to call me to their office and yet did not come out of their cabins when I reached there. After an hour, the receptionist would look up and say, "I think the boss is not coming today."


How satisfied are you at this point in your career?

I have reached somewhere, but I still have a long way to go. I have never salivated after money. I have always done good roles and that's the only reason I am still around.

Given a TV serial and a film role to be shot on the same dates, I would first look at the film. But if the serial has a better role than the film, I would definitely sign the serial. Money comes back, time does not.


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