Actor Sudhanshu Pandey on turning villain in Billa II and his Kollywood hopes

Till now you knew Sudhanshu Pandey as the stunner who made a mark on TV, as an affable actor and host, as a singer who was part of a boyband and a character artiste in films. Henceforth, Tamil audiences will remember him as Abbasi, the mean don with a salt-and-pepper beard in Billa II.

It’s difficult to imagine the clean-shaven, strapping actor in a negative role. “Hey, but that’s something I’ve been yearning to do for a while now,” says Sudhanshu. “I’ve played a good boy for a long time. It was time to do something different. Also, I’ve been wanting to do films in the South. They are real entertainers, and many of them are being remade in Hindi,” says Sudhanshu, who has acted in flicks such as Singh is Kinng, Dus Kahaniyaan, Murder 2 and Singham.

How easy was it to play the baddie on screen? “An actor should be capable of delivering what is expected of him. That way, I’ve been fortunate to get a launch pad such as Billa II. I was given enough time to get into the skin of the character. A tutor helped me rehearse my lines so that there would be perfect lip-sync. And, luckily, I got to dub my own lines! If you’d told me two years ago that I’d work in a Tamil film and speak my own dialogues, I would have laughed. It was never in my wildest dreams,” says the actor, breaking into his trademark line from the film: ‘Indha Abbasi illaena David ille.’

How comfortable is he with Tamil now? “Quite. It’s a tough language to master, but I’ve managed. In fact, the senior recording engineer told me I’d done a good job. That was a great compliment.”

Speaking about the Billa II experience, Sudhanshu says, “I came on board knowing Billa II is a huge brand, a cult film. Once you realise that, the responsibility is on you to ensure the brand does not slide in the popularity stakes. Every one has given their best to make the movie work.”

As for Ajith, he says the connect he shares with people is amazing. “He’s reached a position where it is so easy to get carried away, but he’s remained grounded. We bonded well on the sets. But I’m yet to taste his famous biryani. Someday soon, hopefully.”

What plans does he have after Billa II? “I want to do more quality cinema here, but I’m waiting for the audience reaction first. I’m sure working here will be a huge learning experience, for the South has produced so many great actors.”

Memories of TV days

Speaking about his television avatar, Sudhanshu travels back to the time he hosted Cook It Up With Tarla Dalal with the iconic chef. “I was about 23 then and we bonded like a grandmother and grandchild. I never realised how big the show was till we started getting mails from across the world. But I never learnt cooking on the show. I stopped with helping Tarlaji.”

The actor still has fond memories of his television days, especially Kanyadaan, his first solo show.

The soap saw him play a man with a heart of gold, a character that endeared him to many. “It was a lovely serial. But, will I do a soap again? I don’t think so. A daily drains you. But, if there’s an interesting opportunity that challenges me, why not?”

Sudhanshu was also part of ‘A Band of Boys’ for three years. “That was a very special part of my life. The popularity was amazing. Till then, I knew I could sing, but never knew people would like it. I continue to sing … at home, for friends.”