Actor Barun Sobti© HelloIndia

EXCLUSIVE: Barun Sobti On ‘Smart’ Shows, ‘Succession’ And More

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

Actor Barun Sobti is not done surprising us. After rising to fame as the rich, arrogant and suave business tycoon Arnav Singh Raizada in Star Plus’ super hit romantic drama series Iss Pyaar Ko Main Kya Naam Doon (2011-2012), the actor did a complete pivot and blew everyone away by playing a morally ambiguous police officer in Netflix’s crime thriller Kohhra (2023), a role that won him awards and widespread critical acclaim. His affinity towards taking people by surprise should have prepared me for his answer when I asked him who his favourite Roy sibling was in Succession (a query that naturally follows whenever anyone admits to liking the show, which Barun did during our conversation.)

“Shiv. Without a doubt,” says Barun as soon as I’m done finishing my question. When I express my surprise at his choice, expecting him to go with the more common choice of Kendall or Roman, he elaborates, “There are so many more layers to Shiv. Plus, I love the actress.” Fair enough.

Actor Barun Sobti©HelloIndia

Barun Sobti would know a thing or two about playing characters with layers. Whether it’s as the classic romantic lead ASR from Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon or the darkly complex forensic expert Nikhil Nair in the hit web series Asur, Barun manages to bring something unique and fresh to the character that renders them memorable days after you’ve finished the show.

“Thankfully, I’ve been very lucky with the people that I’ve worked with. There’s always a road map that is created towards becoming the character and I try to follow that,” he says. “I’m also a little bit of a curious cat. I ask a lot of questions. The more you know about the character, irrespective of whether it’s put to use or not, it allows you to understand it better and add your own feelings to it in an organic way too.”

So, how does he pick the roles he wants to live with? According to him, it all boils down to the script. “One mandate I have is that the script has to be a page-turner,” says Barun, “If I’m unable to finish the script in one go then it means it’s not compelling enough.”

Actor Barun Sobti©HelloIndia

When I wonder out loud if audience perception is ever a deciding factor in his choice of roles, especially since he got his big break playing a fan-favourite character on a Hindi-language soap on national television. He immediately agrees with me but says that, while audience perception has always been a concern for him, it has never stopped him from accepting roles that might not be as palatable as some of his previous ones.

“Negative reinforcement really works well for my brain,” he admits. “If someone tells me that this is a very difficult job to pull off, it becomes all the more interesting. Take Kohrra, for instance. Sudip (Sharma, the director) said to me ‘we were actually worried that your character might not be received very well’ and I got that right from the start. This is why I knew I had to make this character affable so that despite all the morally grey things he gets up to, there’s always a human quality about him that draws people.”


His efforts clearly paid off. His Garundi stood out in the ensemble that consisted of a host of well-etched out and brilliantly performed characters in the show, earning him the adulation he claims continues to motivate him every single day as an actor.

But would a character like Garundi, or even Nikhil Nair, be accepted two decades ago? Barun agrees wholeheartedly.

“The audience has always been ready for shows and characters like these. But earlier, film and TV makers refused to take risks like that,” he says. The actor credits OTT platforms for allowing this shift to happen. “OTT has everything to do with it!” he exclaims. “The real way art breathes is if it has freedom. Right? Art is not going to answer any questions. But art is going to raise questions. That’s the way art should be. But movies or television are not doing that and OTT is doing that. OTT is the only medium right now where you can see something and you can think ‘Oh, this is compelling. This is going to make me have a detailed conversation about this show with my partner or my friend’.”

But while Barun is a passionate champion for the freedom OTT brings to the table, he has some reservations too. “Everyone is trying to make ‘intelligent’ and smart shows now. They want to make shows using their brains. No one’s using their hearts.”

This is why, even though he has a special love for crime shows, he is working on a light-hearted, slice-of-life comedy for his next project (When I ask if it’s Asur’s third season, he spends two minutes spluttering and laughing, ending with a mildly worried “Oh my God! What is wrong with you?”).

Actor Barun Sobti©HelloIndia

Barun’s clear passion for TV shows and movies makes him the perfect person to recommend shows for a rich watchlist. When I prod him for it, he gallantly offers, “How many do you want?”. Five, I say, and he begins listing his top five recommendations one by one. “First has to be Mindhunter. Succession is not everyone’s cup of tea so I will skip that. Then I would say The Jinx, this amazing documentary series. There’s a beautiful miniseries on Michael Jordan’s career called The Last Dance on Netflix, that’s a must-watch.” He pauses for a while before laughing quietly to himself and leaving us with his fifth recommendation, “Watch Kohrra on Netflix. It’s really good!”

So we’ve heard!