Actor Suraj Sharma on life after Pi

Suraj Sharma in God Friended Me

Suraj Sharma in God Friended Me   | Photo Credit: David Giesbrecht

If searching for God on Facebook sounds like a satire of the times we live in, then God Friended Me is a slightly silly and contrived yet heart-warming take on the concept.

The comedy-drama, which is currently airing on Colors Infinity, explores human connections and our ability to help one another, says actor Suraj Sharma, who plays one of the leads. “Do we need a so-called God or faith in a higher being in order to help each other? Or is faith in one another enough to be kind and compassionate? That is the basic premise of the show,” says the Life of Pi actor.

‘God’ sends a friend request to atheist Miles Finer (played earnestly by Brandon Micheal Hall) on Facebook, providing suggestions of ‘friends’ to him — people whose lives Finer invariably ends up making a difference in, without always intending to. Sharma’s character Rakesh Sehgal — a part-time hacker who ends up “finding meaning and an objective to his life” — is also swept up by the changes in Finer’s life.

Bigger picture

Just three episodes in, the show has provided viewers with context about Finer’s family (his father is a reverend who is deeply disappointed with his son’s atheism) and has woven in the issues of the third protagonist, Cara Bloom (Violett Beane). “The point of the TV show is to kind of harness the multiple perspectives on religion, you know? It’s to try and get to a more holistic idea,” shares Sharma, who was most recently seen in the 2017 Bollywood film, Phillauri, where his character is haunted by Anushka Sharma’s ghost. “There’s a whole bunch of different ideas in the show.”

It is, however, yet to delve deeply into Sehgal’s character. When it does, Hinduism will definitely come up, promises Sharma. “He is definitely agnostic,” says the actor, on a phone call from New York. “He’s all about computers and hacking and science. I think his mom and dad might be religious but he’s definitely not.”

I ask him about his own spiritual beliefs. “Me? According to the bigger picture, I am also agnostic, but I like to think of myself as into the idea of spirituality,” says Sharma. “So no, I don’t believe in God.”

But he does seem to believe in serendipity. “I had to leave New York to get a job in New York,” says the Delhi-born actor, with a chuckle. “I’d been living in New York for about five or six years and I moved to Los Angeles. But in the first week there, I get a callback to this audition. So I go to CBS and meet the people there and basically, everything went really well. And I ended up coming back here.”

Actor Suraj Sharma on life after Pi

The accidental actor

Serendipity might also have had something to do with Sharma bagging the role of Pi in Ang Lee’s critically acclaimed 2012 film, Life of Pi. It was Sharma’s brother who had originally gone to audition for the film. Still in school in Delhi when he was cast, the actor reveals that his life turned “completely upside down” after the film. “It was epic and amazing and I got to learn so much and meet so many different types of people,” he says.

After Life of Pi, he has gone on to do several critically-acclaimed roles, both on television and the big screen. There is his portrayal of Rinku Singh, the first Indian to play professional baseball, in Million Dollar Arm alongside Jon Hamm and Slumdog Millionaire actor Madhur Mittal. He was also seen in the fourth season of Homeland, where he essayed the role of Aayan Ibrahim, a Pakistani medical student.

Talking about his acting career thus far, Sharma sounds just as excited as the 16-year-old version of himself. “Pi gave my life an objective,” he reveals. “Obviously, you know, this is also such a privileged lifestyle — I got to go to film school in New York. I really appreciate how it gave me a way to move forward,” he adds.

But he is in no big hurry. Beyond God Friended Me, Sharma shares that he has not signed on any new project. “For now, I’d just like to concentrate on this,” he says.

God Friended Me airs every Monday at 10 pm on Colors Infinity.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 6:24:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/suraj-sharma-on-life-after-pi/article25333714.ece

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