Not only is he big in Bollywood, Sammir Dattani has a parallel career in the South, having delivered hits in Karnataka’s Sandalwood film industry and in Tamil cinema. After an eight year innings it looks as though things are going to skyrocket further for this chocolate boy hero, who has been seen on screen in Pyaar Mein Twist, Corporate, and Mukhbiir. With Well Done Abba releasing this Friday and I Hate Luv Storys just months away, it is a busy time ahead for the Bombay boy. In a freewheeling chat with Steven Baker, Sammir talks about playing a double role in real life, his talent for languages, and his expectations for the future.
Sammir, as well as acting in Bollywood, you are also big in the South Indian film industry where you are known by the name Dhyan. Do you feel like you are playing a double role in real life?
In India we have lots of other regional language cinema as big as, or even bigger than Bollywood. I do have a parallel career down South where I’m known by Dhyan, from the character of my first film and that name has stuck – although they do also know me as Sammir. I think I’m lucky to have the best of both worlds in having careers in both industries, as it gives me the time to make the right choices and wait for the right kind of offers.
Your family is Gujarati, you were born and brought up in Bombay, and you have worked in Hindi, Kannada and Tamil cinema, so what languages do you speak?
Well I speak Kannada. I speak Gujarati, Hindi of course, English of course, and a bit of Marathi and Telugu.
Does the regional cinema you are working in impact your style of acting?
The South Indian film industry has progressed a lot in the last five years, and the kinds of films I do are the younger new age films, so there isn’t much tweaking in terms of my performance. I have my own style which is very Hindi, or very Bollywood of sorts and that works in my favor because it stands out, as it is not doing exactly what they expect of heroes in the South.
You have two major releases coming up with Shyam Benegal’s Well Done Abba and I Hate Luv Storys from Dharma Productions. Is your career about to skyrocket with such films?
Well Done Abba has already started to do that as we’ve gone round some of the international film festivals. Looking at Karan Johar’s past record, his films do become box office successes, as they excite the audiences. As an actor I feel my work has gone to another level already from just working with Shyam Benegal or in a Dharma Productions film. So I feel my career is already moving on to greener pastures, and the outcome is just a small aspect I guess.
Well Done Abba gets its commercial release 26th March. How do you feel before a film comes out?
At the moment very anxious and excited! Every time your film’s releasing you feel the same way. You have a clear two point agenda – a) you hope the critics like it and b) you hope audiences come out having enjoyed your film. That whole gamut of feelings is the same with every film. You focus on the Friday opening and then after that whether it will sustain on Monday and Tuesday. Every film you have the same thoughts, the same problems the same confusions in your head.
Tell us about your role in the film?
In the words of Shyam Benegal, he wanted my character Aarif to be a symbolic take on the youth of India today. He is a young village boy from Andra Pradesh who speaks in Dakani, a certain dialect used in that region. He’s a progressive Muslim boy working two jobs as a garage mechanic and a typist at the high court. He’s actually an orphan so he’s always trying to fit in and win people over with his enthusiasm as he doesn’t know where he belongs. This is what happens with Abba (Boman Irani) when my character falls in love with his daughter Muskan (Minissha Lamba), and tries to decide what he has to do to convince Abba to give the hand of his daughter. He also comes up with some of the solutions to the problems in the film, using his knowledge and education to fight for justice.
You then follow Well Done Abba with I Hate Luv Storys. Dharma Productions have a strong track record of successful debut director films (Tarun Mansukhani’s Dostana, Ayan Mukherji’s Wake up Sid); there must be high expectations from Punit Malhotra’s first film?
I mean obviously my expectations are sky high! Dharma Productions have a great track record. All of us have grown up watching Karan Johar’s movies. I remember when Kuch Kuch Hota Hai came out I was in my first or second year of college, so I was the ideal target audience and obviously was totally taken up with the film like everyone else my age. It’s my first film with Dharma Productions and it’s a rom-com like the title suggests. We were three youngsters (co-starring Sonam Kapoor and Imran Khan), who had a great time making the film. Well four youngsters as I would put director Punit in the same category, he pretty much had the best time making I Hate Luv Storys. Though we’ve only just finished shooting for it, so the whole expectation stuff really begins at a later stage.
With two major releases in the next few months BollySpice wishes Sammir every success with his new films, and a request not to be too “anxious” before those opening Fridays. Well Done Abba hits screens 26th March, with I Hate Luv Storys expected Summer 2010.