Actor and producer Sohum Shah© Sohum Shah

Sohum Shah On Why His ‘Maharani’ Character Is His Favourite

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

Actor and producer Sohum Shah’s motivation to make movies is equal parts altruistic and selfish. He makes movies that he wants to be a part of, it’s simple.

“I only became a producer because nobody else was producing the films that I wanted to be a part of,” he says, as he sits down for a quick chat with HELLO!, “With movies like Ship of Theseus, people were saying that the story is too dark, there are too many different languages, or that there are no item numbers. I became a producer by mistake, my main profession is acting.”

The actor’s performance in the self-produced Ship of Theseus earned him a National Award. Aside from this, he has also produced and acted in movies like Tummbad, Talvar, and Gulaab Gang.

It was, however, his role in Sony Liv’s Maharani, also starring Huma Qureshi, that skyrocketed his popularity amongst the masses. It’s one of the reasons why this role is the closest to his heart.

“I come from a small town and I’ve grown up watching larger-than-life films starring actors like Amitabh Bachchan. So there’s always been that itch inside of me to play characters like that. Whatever roles I’ve done till now, be it in Tummbad or Ship of Theseus, have always been slightly different from the mainstream. With Maharani, I got to fulfil that dream of mine because the character is larger-than-life with all the dialoguebaazi of a 70s movie hero,” he says, “It’s such a strong and complex character. For some, he could be considered a villain but for me, he’s a hero. I have come to empathise with the character because, in his mind, he has justified all his wrongdoings by thinking he is doing it for the better of so many people.”

This is not his first foray into the world of OTT. Previously, Shah has been part of web series like Bard of Blood, starring Emraan Hashmi, and The Big Bull, starring Abhishek Bachchan.

“We’re seeing different kinds of films and TV shows being made that weren’t possible earlier. You take Maharani, for instance. A show like that couldn’t have been made as a movie. Films, as a medium, have a certain kind of map or formula and everything has to be cinematic so that it can work commercially. With OTT, you can focus on the story and that gives you a lot of creative freedom,” he says, when asked about his love for the medium as an actor. As a producer, however, Shah has his misgivings about streaming platforms.

“I feel like if I’m making a film with so much passion and love, then I would like to see it on a 70mm screen. You can’t create the experience of 100-200 people sitting in a room collectively enjoying your film with OTT,” he says.

The love for cinema and actors is something that very apparently drives Shah to do what he does. Talking about the films or performances that made the deepest impact on him, he says, “Paan Singh Tomar is a very impactful film. What an incredible performance by Irrfan Khan! You leave the theatre and you’re still thinking about the movie. It made a huge impact on me.” His love for cinema transcends the barrier of language too, as he lists South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder and Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke’s Amour as movies “that have stayed with me the longest”.

The actor has a lot to be excited about in the future. His upcoming web series Dahaad, directed by Reema Kagti and co-starring Sonakshi Sinha, is up for a release and he’s going to star as the lead in Uff, a silent comedy where he plays the role of a clown (“I don’t remember any main hero being a clown in any movie. It’s so exciting!”).

So here’s hoping to see more of the actor on our screens, both big and small, very soon!