Sunny Singh: Ujda Chapman answers every question a bald person might have
Ahead of the release of Ujda Chaman, we quiz actors Sunny Singh, Maanvi Gagroo and director Abhishek Pathak on kickstarting the bald revolution in Bollywood
Sunny Singh has been acting in films since 2011, when he made a cameo appearance in Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji. Over the years, he has been widely admired for his screen camaraderie with Kartik Aaryan, in films like Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety. More recently, Sunny was seen in the two-hander comedy Jhootha Kahin Ka, and has landed his first solo lead in Abhishek Pathak’s Ujda Chaman.
The film, a remake of the 2017 Kannada sleeper hit Ondu Motteya Kathe, tells the story of a young lecturer in Delhi suffering from premature balding. When an astrologer mandates that he must get married by 30 or else remain forever a virgin, Chaman (Sunny) is worried stiff. On top of this, he has to deal with anxious parents, jeering students, and heedless love interests.
“The bottomline of my character is that he is underconfident,” says Sunny. “He hesitates before talking to anyone. He is embarrassed about his hair, because of which he is not getting a girl. We had to crack the minute details of a person like that — how he reacts to a situation, how he deals with his students, and so on. Thankfully, we had a young team working on the film, including our writer (Danish J Singh). They helped me pull off the part convincingly.”
Sunny did not have a direct reference point for Chaman, but spoke to several of his friends who suffer from hair-related problems. “One guy, who works in the shipping industry, starting losing his hair early on. He, too, was underconfident, and had reached out to me for advice. I recommended a doctor to him and he got a transplant done. Today, it’s much easier to seek treatment, if a person so desires. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Sunny says, adding that the film answers “every question a bald person might have.”
The team sifted through multiple looks before settling on Sunny’s hairpiece. The make-up department was led by Preetisheel Singh (Gone Kesh, Bajirao Mastani, Bigil). During the shoot, Sunny was allotted a two-and-a-half hour slot for prosthetics. “We had to start by 4.30 in the morning, for a seven o’ clock shoot. I used to get just three hours of sleep.” Given the Delhi setting (the film was shot in summer), excessive sweating became a problem. “It took 25 minutes to remove the makeup. I had to wash my hair and start afresh. It was a difficult process.”
Maanvi Gagroo plays the female lead in Ujda Chaman. Her character, Apasara, is among the several women Chaman approaches for marriage. “I play a girl who is overweight, and even though neither she nor her family see it as an anomaly, Chaman does at one point. So the film is about their love story and physical insecurities. It’s also about how the world makes you hate who you are, and how you handle it.”
Maanvi feels social stigmas attached to appearance are fading away, with changing times. “As a society, our conversations are changing. Concepts like body-shaming and skin colour-shaming are seeping into our daily lives. Likewise, these themes are also reaching Bollywood.”
On notions of aggressive body-perfection perpetuated by social media, Maanvi says, “I think that’s always been the case. Without or without social media, we have always had celebrities to look up to. What I keep telling everyone is to pick their role models carefully. For example, if I am following a Priyanka Chopra, it’s not for her lifestyle choices but how she is ruling the entertainment world and juggling two industries. That’s what I want to learn and take away from her.”
Ujda Chaman has been engaged in a legal tussle with Amar Kaushik’s Bala. Both films revolve around a prematurely bald man trying to overcome societal constraints. Abhishek Pathak, who makes his directorial debut with Ujda Chaman, rues the similarities between the two films. “I had the rights to Ondu Motteya Kathe. We also announced the release date first. The character is based on a story; it’s not like the Bhagat Singh movies where anyone can make a film on the subject. The makers of Bala had assured me their film was different. I feel audiences today are clever enough to know which film has been made honestly and which hasn’t.”
Asked about his upcoming project, Abhishek shares, “I am working on a women-centric film. It will be a social comedy. I want to make relevant movies that people can connect to.”
Ujda Chaman hits screens this Friday.