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November 28, 2001

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Sunil Shetty: A tyrant?!

Ruth David

As a kid, Sunil Shetty dreamt of becoming a cricketer. He even quit school.

Of course his parents didn't take kindly to the idea, or any of his other suggestions. Sunil, who was in New Delhi recently to promote his latest film Ehsaas - A Feeling, said: "My parents had something to say about everything I did. As a kid, I thought they were against me. Now I realise they were mostly right."

Sunil says he now realises why parents tend to be domineering: "It was their way of teaching their children to do well, to face all odds and win. If you don't push yourself to the limit, no one else will do it for you," he said. "So while the father's training might seem extreme at times, it is part of the real world."

Ehsaas is about a 10-year-old motherless boy (Mayank Tandon) and his domineering father, whom he refers to as Hitler. The son is not very bright academically but has potential in sports. The father tries to exploit that skill.

Director Mahesh Manjrekar said he wrote the film's script when he was struggling to make a mark in the industry. He drew from his own feelings as a child: "I have been through the same feelings as a child. As a father, I'm sure my kids must feel the same about me," he said.

Manjrekar chose athletics as a medium to portray the relationship between father and son. "Sports seemed an exciting medium to me. Besides, training for athletics is more visually appealing than, say, studying for engineering," says Manjrekar.

Actress Neha, of Kareeb and Fiza fame, plays a widow, and neighbour to the father and son. She starts out as the boy's confidant but soon falls in love with Sunil.

Manjrekar's reasons for choosing Sunil to play the role were "quite selfish. He is the father of a nine-year-old. I knew I wouldn't have to work on the reel-life relationship between him and the boy. He may be an action hero. But Sunil also looks like a person who would protect his own. I wanted to portray a protective father."

Sunil has his own take: "This film does have high-energy level action. While it may not be pow-wow, athletics is adrenaline-pumping action, too. So I haven't gone too far from the fold."

He discloses, "When the overseas market was booming, people wanted dance and drama. Now market men want action films for Indian audiences. I've realised the only way to do the films I like is to turn producer. Then I can do one film for myself and one for the directors."

About Mayank Tandon, Manjrekar says: "From the moment I saw him, I knew he would do justice to the role. I asked Mayank if he would act in my film. He said, 'Yes'. I promptly told him I'd throw him out of the office. I didn't want him to act. I wanted him to behave like a 10-year old.

"Children tend to act like adults on screen. So initially I had to keep telling him to be himself. Soon Mayank was a delight to work with."

Indo-Asian News Service

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