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.
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