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1990s nostalgia will work in Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, says director Abhishek Sharma

The film is a romantic comedy starring Diljit Dosanjh, Manoj Bajpayee and Fatima Sana Shaikh.

Keyur Seta

Elements of the 1990s evoke nostalgia among who grew up in that decade. Director Abhishek Sharma decided to capitalize on this for his upcoming film Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, which stars Manoj Bajpayee, Diljit Dosanjh and Fatima Sana Shaikh. The film sees Bajpayee’s character, a detective, going to great lengths to derail couples’ relationships. 

In an exclusive chat, Sharma said he decided to set the film in the era after a conversation with the story writer, Shoki Bannerjee. “When I heard the story, I asked Shoki whether he was influenced by the 1990s since I sensed that flavour. He said yes and told me that Dulhe Raja (1998) and other Govinda films were among his favourites,” he said. 

Looking back, Sharma said that the 1990s was the period of family comedies, which are hardly seen nowadays. “We have veered into slapstick and sex comedies. Also, I think the character of our detective, someone who changes his get-up regularly, fits the 1990s better. Today, sleuths do all their work on social media itself. It was also an innocent era without the Internet, social media or cell phones. This innocence and nostalgia will work in our favour,” he said. 


Sharma is transfixed by Bajpayee's character. “We have seen matchmakers but we haven’t seen a 'matchbreaker'. Such a character plays a unique role in society. In a way, he is a negative character. This is what got me excited. And today people are also getting excited after watching the trailer because of this reason.” 

When asked about casting Bajpayee in such a role, the filmmaker said he wanted someone who could fit into a role that has various avatars. “Manoj ji is one of the finest actors in our industry,” he said. “So he was definitely on our wishlist. When we narrated the story to him, he instantly gave his nod. He has played the character so well. He later told me he also liked my film Tere Bin Laden (2010). So somewhere he knew if would handle comedy well.” 

As far as preparations for such an unusual character was concerned, Sharma didn’t have much to do. “He is such a fine artiste and his process is so strong that you hardly get to do anything. He had a lot of conversations and readings with me. We created the background of the character, in which we added things that weren’t there in the script. We then added them, which gave a depth to the character,” said Sharma. 

Diljit Dosanjh and Fatima Sana Shaikh

He added, “Generally, actors don’t work hard in comedies in terms of creating a background and depth, but Manoj sir is different. He also worked on his Marathi. He is such a hard-working actor.” 

Coming to the casting of Shaikh, Sharma said she was also an easy choice. “We wanted an actress who would pair well with Diljit. Basically we wanted someone who displayed vulnerability as well as a rebellious streak. We saw both the qualities in Fatima. I had a good time working with her. The way she has lived the character, you will feel she is actually Marathi speaker,” he said. 

Promising that there is much more to Shaikh's character than what has been shown in the trailer, the director said, “There is another dimension to her character, which you will see in the film.”

Except for Parmanu (2017), Sharma’s filmography boasts of either comedies or light-hearted entertainers such as Tere Bin Laden, The Shaukeens (2014), Tere Bin Laden: Dead Or Alive (2016) and The Zoya Factor (2019).

Asked whether he feels at home with the comedy genre, he said, “You can say it comes more naturally for me. It might be because of my nature and sense of humour. Sometimes, I unknowingly end up writing comedies. But a few of my upcoming films are not comedies. It all depends on the story. After Parmanu I get offered dramas too.”