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Exclusive: Fiji Actor Vishaarad Sharan talks about his connection to India and Love for Bollywood

The actor acquainted NewsGram with the Indian diaspora one finds in Fiji

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Vishaarad Sharan. Image source: Facebook
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Not many know that besides being an actor and a model, Vishaarad Sharan is also a Social-activist. Fiji-born Vishaarad is of Indian descent, belonging to the North-Indian diaspora residing in Fiji,  and has also been a part of movie “3G- A Killer Connection” starring Neil Nitin Mukesh and Sonal Chauhan, where he performed the negative role of ‘Jaden’. To talk of him, only in terms of acting in a Bollywood movie, confines his multi-skilled personality. Apart from love for Bollywood, he has deep interest in the diversities of Indian culture and Hindu religion in particular. In an exclusive interview with reporter Megha Sharma of NewsGram , Vishaarad Sharan speaks his heart out on Bollywood and his connection to India. We cover this article under the series mitti_kiKhusboo (the smell of the Motherland) under Indian Diaspora category.

ALSO WATCH: Vishaarad’s ( as Jaden) role from the movie ‘3G- A Killer Connection’ 

‘Back in 1879, when the British took in the ‘indentured laborers’ from across the whole of India, a large section of the population were transported to the islands of Fiji. And from there the journey started, eventually developing into a new cultural and ethnic evolution of the Indo-Fijians.’ Fiji has been a country which accepted the Indian culture and its people with open arms. The actor told us about how Indian immigrants spend their lives in Fiji. This diasporic eye gave us an interesting insight into the lively cultural practices and an eternal bondage shared by them.

MEGHA SHARMA (MS): It was the first time you worked in Bollywood. Can you tell us about your experience?

VISHAARAD SHARAN (VS): I have worked in movies even before. Here, in Fiji we have some directors who make Hindi movies and I did get some roles in them. I got negative roles only and it was a great experience to see how the Hindi film Industry works in India.

MS: What differences did you find in the local Fiji movies made in Hindi and the ones in Bollywood?

VS: The Hindi movies made in Fiji are low-budget and also lack skillful actors. People are limited in the resources when it comes to movie-making. The movies have a limited audience and are not explored globally. As far as the differences are concerned, there is definitely an attempt to imitate the Bollywood style. We have movies like “Chatai Kaha Bichau” (where do I lay the mat) which was shot a year before “3G” and includes songs.

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MS: In an interview elsewhere, you have stated how co-actor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, described to you the ways to appear and about your style. So before this, did you go through any professional training or did you attend some workshops for your professional development?

VS: I never went through any professional training. However, after “3G” I did attend some workshops as I thought of overcoming the lack of professional exposure. When it comes to 3G and Neil Nitin Mukesh, it was very amazing to see him work. He is very serious and sincere towards his work. He was of great significance in bringing about my role. He aided the choreographers while my scenes were being shot. He even lent me his jacket for a scene and choreographed most of the fight scenes. It was very interesting to see how the actors have a say in movie-making. They too become a part of the movie and work for a productive outcome.

MS: What makes you connected to India even while being born in Fiji?

VS: Personally, I feel a very strong connection to India. Even when people look at me they do see Indian looks and identify with me.

(As the interviewer saw him talking in a Hindi accent, she asked)

MS: Hindi? Where did that come from? Feels like you are indigenous to the language. Would like to explain that?

VS: I am a 4th generation (from my mother’s side) and 5th generation (from my father’s side) Indian. I have been brought up in an Indian culture and never found it away from me. My parents speak Hindi. However, Hindi here is different from the Hindi spoken in India. Here, we have a mixed version of Hindi with Bhojpuri and Awadhi.

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MS: Was your schooling in Hindi in Fiji? Are there institutions that recognize Hindi as a language and what do people think of it?

VS: Hindi is a compulsory language for primary classes in many schools here. A child reads and writes it till the primary classes and after that, it is provided as an optional language. The interest in Hindi has regrown and it’s very interesting that if two Indians start talking randomly, they end up talking in Hindi only. So the Hindi-connection, whether it is orally transmitted or being studied, it can be widely seen among Indians residing here. The masses are interested in taking admissions and learning the language. Even I studied Hindi.

MS: What are other traditional identifications that you feel are very prominent?

VS: There is no one strand of which I can talk. It is being practiced in each household bearing an Indian identity. I would like to tell here that the love towards India however, has regrown after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Fiji in 2014. People did understand that they are being recognized as they saw him coming here and meeting the diaspora.

MS: Which Indian communities manifest themselves as a face of the Indian diaspora? Do we find the same enthusiasm in celebrating festivals as in India? 

VS: We have a number of North Indian communities who came under the British Indenture. They are accompanied by many Gujarati and Sikh communities too who came as free Indian as opposed to the Indentured ones. It cannot be same but people are enthusiastic when it comes to celebrating festivals. Navratri is the most celebrated one. There is the same 9 days long worshiping of the goddess.

Holi is also very popular with singing Holi folk songs, eating sweets and coloring each other. Its celebration declined in past 15 years but for last 2-3 years, there is again the same colorful approach. It is also because of the commercialization and sponsorship in the urban areas. Diwali is also observed in the same way, with cleaning up houses and lightening them on the day of Laxmi pujan. There is also a South-Indian fire-walking festival which goes on for a week or two and is witnessed by over a thousand of people.

vishaarad sharan
The fire walking festival fiji. Image Source: youtube.com

MS: India is a land with different flavors of food. What about Indian cuisines in Fiji?

VS: Indian food is very famous here. Gujarati came here for over 2-3 generations ago. They still prefer speaking in their regional language, at home or at their temples, and eating Indian cuisines. We have many restaurants specialized in Gujarati, Punjabi and South-Indian food. Like we have the ‘Maya Dhaba’, which is a Punjabi food restaurant, and also street stalls and vendors selling ‘dosas’, ‘Dhokla’ and many other Indian dishes.

I myself have three temples nearby my house. One is Kabir Mandir, there is a Gurudwara and also a South-Indian temple. There are regular ‘kirtans’ and the Ramayana by Tulsidas is admired a lot. Every Tuesday it is recited at the temples here and most of the Ramayana stories are being told in them.

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MS: Did you get a chance to see all this practiced live by visiting India ?

VS: I visited India for around three weeks in 2010. The visit was very welcoming. I heard people describing it as not so pleasing but I felt at home. I was not able to attend any festive activity but I saw a Marathi cultural fest which was interesting to see. We do not find the tea stalls here as we do India. (He laughs). I plan to visit it again for a scholarship programme in Yoga from SYVASA Yoga University in Bengaluru/Bangalore.

MS: Do you watch Hindi movies and would you like to be a part of Bollywood again?

VS: As a child, I did watch a lot of Hindi movies. The interest lessened with growing age. “Monsoon Wedding” is my favorite movie and I love listening to all the songs composed by A.R. Rahman. I would definitely like to work again in Bollywood movie, if they pay me well (he laughs).

MS: Will you prefer the same negative role? Is there any movie you wish you would have worked in?

VS: I want to do a very negative role and I have always been interested to know what happens behind the camera. I still feel that I must work behind the camera only and learn more professional skills.

For movies, I have always liked all the historical movies as they give a wider awareness of the cultural plurality, India is rich with. “Ashoka” is one movie, I would have liked to work for and even “Baahubali” has an influential story-line. I would have certainly worked for free in “MohenJo Daro”, the upcoming Indian epic. I really have an eye on movies like these.

On asking his views about NewsGram, Visharad says that he appreciates the work that the news portal does and finds the ‘Indian Diaspora’ section quite interesting as he has a sense of belonging towards India. He says he follows NewsGram and loves to browse through the stories published on the portal, for it brings him closer to India.

-by Megha Sharma. Twitter@meghash06510344

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Governor humiliated for addressing in Hindi

  Incidentally, Hindi is a very powerful language, if we go deeper. This language is so self-sufficient that it is one of the direct descendants of Sanskrit, the oldest and the perfect language in the world

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Sri Ganga Prasad was criticised for giving his speech in his native language and not English in the legislative assembly.

Salil Gewali, Shillong

  • Hindi is one of the official languages of India
  • Sri Ganga Prasad faced criticism for giving his speech in his native language
  • This makes one question if English is becoming dominant in India

Sri Ganga Prasad faced a barrage of criticism when he delivered his maiden speech in the National language in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly. Even one of the legislators abruptly walked out of the assembly hall while the Governor was digression the session. Thus, the Governor was intensely scoffed at and humiliated through the social media and other news media.

Well, everyone has their right to disagree and criticize. Of course, we do not disagree that the majority of people in Meghalaya are not fluent in Hindi.  This is not a big deal. But disrespecting the language could be.

Is Hindi being ignored as the nation moves more towards English? Wikimedia Commons

This news also made many of my facebook friends abroad pretty curious.  One very learned scholar – Avital Markel from New York speaks out her mind with a dose of humor: ‘why is there so much noise when your governor delivered the speech in the language which is originally from India itself? I know another popular name of this country as Hindustan, not “Englistan”, I believe.’ Another Yoga teacher from Las Vegas — JM Palmer remarks — ‘it’s ridiculous that people can disrespect their own language. I can easily pronounce a good many Sanskrit terms. I personally have tremendous respect for India’s Sanskrit and other languages because they are the languages of Yoga and wisdom of spiritual dimension’. Mr. Palmer is a spiritual seeker who regularly visits India.

                 I think both Avital and Palmer views resonate with what the citizens of other countries feel. At least with those who have not been insanely fascinated by the English language like some Indians do. It’s much observed in the country that one without English speaking skills is obviously looked down upon.  The ‘inferiority complex’ vis-a-vis the West and its external trappings often hold many Indians back in asserting that they are Indians. This syndrome is getting more pronounced among the certain class of intellectuals and the snobbish folks. This has already taken a very ugly shape. The trait of sedition is quite noticeable amount the certain class of citizens.

                    Anyway, if we have regularly tolerated the bunches of fraudsters, rapists, and murderers in the parliaments and state assemblies in the country, why could we survive a speech of few minutes in Hindi and so on? 

Also Read: Is Hindi The National Language of India?

On the contrary, the citizens of very developed nations such as China, Russia, Germany, Portugal, France will never lose their calm when their leaders speak in the native languages. Actually, they all speak their own languages. The imperialist British till the date has literally failed to cast its spell on them. The citizens of those self-reliant countries rather swell their chests and claim their superiority and what they are due for.

                          If I am not mistaken Hindi is still recognized as the national language of the country. So, even if we are unable to learn the language, it would do jolly good if we do not disrespect it at all. Here it will be quite relevant to cite a case of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at United Nations General Assembly. I believe, nobody walked out of that international summit on 27th Sept 2014 when the Prime Minister delivered his speech in Hindi. Thank God, we didn’t have any leaders from Meghalaya who might have cringed with embarrassment and walked out! That particular speech by PM Modi in UN was so applauded that it subsequently served to motivate the member countries across the world to vote in favor of declaring a Yoga International Day for 21st June.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan, a Padhma Bhushan awardee for his contribution in Hindi Literature. Pexels
Hindi is a powerful language and ought to be used more. Pexels

                        Incidentally, Hindi is a very powerful language, if we go deeper. This language is so self-sufficient that it is one of the direct descendants of Sanskrit, the oldest and the perfect language in the world. On the robust ground of India’s Sanskrit the Modern linguistic stands. Kudos to those unprejudiced and rational intellectuals such as Sir William Jones, Johann Goethe, F. Schiller, Franz Bopp, F. Schlegel, Ferdinand de Saussure, Leonard Bloomfield, Noam Chomsky who discovered the incredible literary gems in the languages of India.

                           Finally, for those who sniff at the languages of Indian origin and the wisdom and culture associated with them, I would like to share just one opinion by their much celebrated English master. Here exclaimed the American British Nobel laureate TS Eliot: “Two years spent in the study of Sanskrit under Charles Lanman, and a year in the  mazes of Patanjali’s metaphysics under the guidance of James Woods, left me in a state of  enlightened mystification.” I think we should not walk out of the “truth”. India has for ages been enriching the intellectual treasure troves of the West. But, what is a huge paradox is that our Indians are either not aware of it all or they do not want to acknowledge it.