Sooraj Pancholi: There are a thousand people who can die for Salman Sir. I am also one of them

Sooraj Pancholi, 24, has inherited his mother Zarina Wahab’s mind and father Aditya Pancholi’s heart. He is a simple person with basic needs. He is emotional and sensitive and while he may be modern in his thinking otherwise, he is old school when it comes to respecting his parents. His best friend Karan Joshi knows him better than himself and he is more like a brother than a friend to him. He could do anything for a friend and loves animals. And while he is strongheaded with anger inside him, he is also extremely gentle without any external temper.

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Over an hour-long conversation, ahead of his debut in Nikhil Advani’s action entertainer Hero, he talks to Bombay Times about his mentor Salman Khan, his love for his father and how he still thinks of Jiah Khan every single day. Excerpts:

What makes you want to be a star?

Actors have an amazing life and they get a lot of things that they don’t even need to pay for. But despite many amazing things that you gain by being a star, the main motive for me to become one was to make my parents happy.

I can’t sleep in a big house. I love my one room apartment: Sooraj

Hero is a big break. How did you get it?

I first met Salman sir when I was five, when I had gone with my parents to the Michael Jackson show. I saw the entire show sitting on his shoulders. After that, there was no contact with him. Sanjay Leela Bhansali lives in the same building where my parents live. After finishing Class XII, I started assisting Sanjay sir on Guzaarish. I then trained in Taekwondo for four months at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium (where Mary Kom too was trained) where I lived with the sports people at the stadium. I then joined an acting course for three months, though I was not sure that I wanted to become an actor. One day during one lunch break at the acting class, I get a call from this unknown number who said, ‘Sooraj, come to Yash Raj Studios.’ By the time I could say something he cut the phone. I called back the number and asked who it was. He said, ‘Salman Khan.’ I felt someone was doing masti as it could not have been him. Then, I get a call from Arpita (who was friends with my sister as she studied in the same class as her) and she said, ‘Bhai is calling you.’ I went to YRF and met Salman sir in his van and he said, ‘I want you to assist Kabir Khan on Ek Tha Tiger.’ It was towards the end of the shoot when it was my birthday on November 9 and we were shooting in Mardin. I was sharing my room with another assistant. Around 3 am some people were standing outside my room banging our door and when I opened the door, it was Salman sir with three other people. They picked me up and took me to their room. And Salman sir says to me, ‘You didn’t tell me it’s your birthday. Congratulations. I am going to launch my production banner and I want you to do my first film. I don’t have a script right now but we will get one shortly.’ My father never spoke to him about me and till now I don’t know why he is helping me.

Everyone close to Salman Khan tends to call him ‘Bhai’. You address him as ‘Sir’.

Salman sir has been the saviour in my life. He has been there for me when there was nobody. After my jail incident, I am sure if some producer would have signed me, they would have dropped me. I was wearing one set of clothes and had carried another set. You get jail clothes only once you are convicted. So I would wash and wear the alternate set the next day and would wait for someone from my family to come and meet me. Due to all the media attention, for about 15 days, no one came. I was allowed to meet visitors once a week for about 10 minutes. So after 15 days, when the mulaqat time was announced, I heard my name being called out on the speaker and I was told that someone had come to see me. It was my sister Sana. I was really happy to see her there and was not crying, though she was in very bad shape. In those 10 minutes that she was allowed to be with me, she told me she was carrying a message from Salman sir. He had asked her to tell me, he would be waiting outside for me and that he had got the script of Hero for me. He stayed with me through my entire bad patch. He is the saviour in my life. Without him, I would still be struggling. What I am today is only because of him.

What made you cry on the trailer launch?

I cried looking at Salman sir as he has been there for me when there was no one for me. I can do anything for him. I love and respect him so much. He doesn’t need to love me back. My mom and dad are very grateful to him and my mom has the biggest duas for him. There are a thousand people who can die for him and I am one of them. I think he is not normal and my mom always says that he is God’s child.

Did he ever speak to you about jail?

No never. When I came out he just said, ‘Sooraj let’s make the film.’ He has never questioned me about it. I don’t think he has even thought about it.

Were you good in studies?

I was just not interested in studying while I was in school and in fact failed twice. I was very naughty. I would be constantly bunking school. I would bunk and just be walking around Bandra Talao, seeing observing birds and fish there. I would patao my driver and take him to Crawford Market, where I would pick all kinds of animals and bring them home. I had rabbits, turtles, love birds, parrots, white rats, hamsters, 14 dogs, even chickens.

Talk about your father Aditya Pancholi?

He is the best father. He has loved and protected us a lot and has given us whatever we wanted, without us even asking for it. He has been the backbone for our family. He has made his mistakes but has tried to not get them to us. I don’t know about his personal life as that is his thing but I know that he has a big heart.

Has your relationship with your father always been like this?

I have become closer to my father after I came out of jail. I think my entire family (my older sister and my parents) got closer to each other because of that. My parents have always lived in a flat in Versova but my grandparents lived in a bungalow in Juhu for 80 years. All my friends and 14 dogs were in Juhu, so when I was 14, I moved in with my grandparents and lived with them until they both died seven years ago. While their bungalow is now empty, I live in a one bedroom apartment, adjacent to their bungalow with one of my dogs Fausto. From the day I have come out of jail, every evening come what may, we four meet for dinner in my grandparents’ bungalow and spend time together. I might not have lived with my parents but have always had a very physical bond with them, where I still kiss both my parents and love them a lot.

Given that your grandparetns’ bungalow is totally empty, why don’t you shift in there as against staying in your one room apartment? 

I don’t like a big house. I like a one bedroom hall. I think I am going to live in my 1-BHK (bedroom, hall, kitchen) for the rest of my life. I like small spaces. I don’t get sleep otherwise. I live there with only my one dog Poshto, as he is very calm as opposed to all my other dogs.

Have you got over the traumatic experience of being in jail?

It’s something that I can never forget in my life, but yes, I am almost over it. What stays back in my heart is still Nafisa. The courts and jail don’t matter. Eventually my feelings for her will be reduced, but even now, I don’t know why but every single day I miss her. There is not a single day that passes when I don’t think of her.

In your growing up years, did the fight between your parents affect you?

While growing up, I loved my mom more but today, I love both my parents equally. Despite what they have been through, my mother loves my father a lot. Every time I have asked her, ‘Who do you love the most?’ she says, ‘Your father.’ My parents kept me away from their fights. So many things I don’t know. I lived with my grandparents and even though it bothered me, I was too young to understand what was going on.

Source: Times of India