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Sanjay Suri recalls Onir’s first directorial shot that happened by chance

The filmmaker was the editor of Kalpana Lajmi's 2001 film, Daman, starring Suri and Raveena Tandon. 

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Keyur Seta

Sanjay Suri is producing his close friend Onir’s directorial Shab, which will be released on 14 July. In a conversation with, he got talking about Onir’s first shot as director. It happened when he was the editor on Kalpana Lajmi’s Daman (2001), which also starred Suri. 

“Kalpana Lajmi had some urgent work and we were shooting; five-six actors. She called Onir to execute the balance part of the scene. I was like, okay she has trusted someone who is the editor. But he executed it with ease and finesse. Very beautifully... without having to raise a voice. In the evening, I said, ‘Why don’t you direct?’ He wasn’t writing until then. I asked him to write since he has ideas,” he said. 

Since then, the two shared a good rapport and thought they should do something together. “We thought of doing something we can do without any budget problem. Then My Brother Nikhil was written. Those days PD 150 was the camera; the handycam. We thought that we don’t care, we will make it with that too. Luckily we shot it on film then,” added Suri. “Of course we discuss, argue; conflicts also happen. But we respect each other’s vision. We are a great sounding board for each other. We critique each other also.” 

Interestingly, Suri has acted in every film directed by Onir so far. In fact, he also has a part in Shab, for which he has an interesting name. “I call it a mooh dikhai appearance (blink and miss appearance). This is a new term (laughs),” he says.

When asked the reason for not doing too many films, he jokes, “Koi aata hi nahin yaar leke roles (laughs).” On a serious note, he adds, “We have to be excited about what we do. Sometimes you need to do something to pay certain bills. But largely, my 98% decisions have been like if I am not excited about something, I won’t do it.” 

The promos of Shab give a feeling as if the film revolves around the fashion world. But Suri believes this is just a part of it. “To be honest, I feel Shab is a kind of a film where a promo can’t do justice to a 100 minute narrative. Unfortunately or fortunately our first visual communication is the trailer. And in a static medium, you really can’t convey that much. The film is multi-layered. It’s the story of five people. It’s about their experience in a big city, how it starts defining them and how choices make them,” he said. 

Shab was supposed to be Onir’s first film. Suri informed that the canvas was much bigger then. “We thought we would focus on something else and revisit this. We didn’t know it would be 15 years later that we would revisit it (laughs). I think this is his perseverance and not giving up attitude that Shab happened. Somewhere in between, I hadn’t given up hope, I thought maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t.” 

Suri is also starring in the web series Inside Edge, which is produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment. “I am excited about it. It’s shot very well. The approach has been like these series happening abroad. Like a film. There is no compromise,” he informed. 

He believes that the medium shouldn’t be taken for granted. “Like Instagram made everyone a photographer, web is not going to make everyone a filmmaker,” he signed off.