Phillauri director on casting 'Life Of Pi' Sharma in his first Bollywood film
Anushka Sharma and Suraj Sharma
Soon after Anushka Sharma wrapped up her last production, NH10 (2015), her brother, Karnesh, suggested meeting director Anshai Lal for coffee. "Karnesh and I have been friends since eight years. I had once told him about a ghost-fearing friend, who was married to a tree. That story stayed with him. When we bounced the idea off Anushka, she loved it. We were instantly on," says Lal about the unique plot of the actress' next production, Phillauri.
However, their main challenge was casting the right actors. "Anushka was a custom fit. So was Diljit (Dosanjh) since we wanted the guy to be a singer and understand the ethos of the setting. But after the trailer released, many asked me how we cast Suraj. People thought he had disappeared after Life of Pi," Lal says, adding he noticed Suraj in Homeland season 4 while watching it along with Anushka and Karnesh.
"Casting for this part had to be fresh and Suraj's name came up. But he was based in New York and we assumed his Hindi would be weak," he says. When the team met him — Suraj's mother patched them up when he was in the middle of his filmmaking course — they were surprised by his impeccable Hindi. "He did two scenes for us and we were blown away. He is back in March and everyone will know why we chose him; he is outrageously funny," lal adds.