Sujay Shastry: I play a once-in-a-lifetime role in Banaras
The actor talks about playing the character of a death photographer, and sharing screen space with debutant Zaid Khan in Jayathirtha’s directorial
The multifaceted Sujay Shastry is one of the brightest talents in the Kannada industry. Coming from a theatre background, Sujay has carved a niche with unique portrayals and is popular for his comic characters. With Jayathirtha’s upcoming directorial, Banaras, set in the backdrop of Varanasi, and Sujay gets to play a distinctive role of a death photographer.
Sujay, ahead of the film’s release this week, talks to CE about the opportunities and challenges of playing rare roles like this. “Jayathirtha has given me the chance to play a once-in-a-lifetime character. I play a death photographer, and it is a first-of-its-kind role in Kannada films, and in my knowledge, maybe the first in Indian cinema too.” he says.
Explaining the role of a death photographer, Sujay shares, “There is a custom in Kashi where photographers are hired only to take photos of dead people. They never take photos of people who are alive, nor do they take photographs of good occasions.”
Incidentally, Jayathirtha gave the actor a reference to a real-life character. “I would follow him to learn how they work and have tried to imbibe that in my character. The overall appearance is that of a Kannadiga, and I’ll be seen wearing the traditional turmeric, kumkum, and chandan on my forehead. Coincidentally, I also met the photographer there and even shared with him that I was playing his role. But I was amused when the person just nodded, smiled, and walked off. That’s the proximity level they maintain,” he says.
Sharing that playing the role was an emotional rollercoaster, Sujay says, “I was put in a situation where I had to be around dead bodies. Post shooting that sequence, I couldn’t control my tears. Camping there for 15 to 20 days for the shoot also made us understand about life, and made us realise the importance of living in the moment. The best part of Banaras is the exploration of love in a place and situation where there is a dead end at every turn.”
Sujay feels that his role takes a rather emotional turn in the climax, which will bring people to tears. “The end scene will be very impactful, and the audience will enjoy it a lot on the big screen,” says Sujay, adding that the time travel concept explored in the film will be the USP of Banaras along with the performance of debut actor Zaid Khan. “From learning the TOTO, playing the role of a death photographer, shooting in cold weather, and working in Banaras was altogether a new experience,” he says.
Meanwhile, Sujay’s upcoming directorial, Elra Kaal Eleyutte Kaala, which marks the acting debut of rapper Chandan Shetty, is gearing up for release.