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Verve People
March 18, 2011

Maverick On The Move

Text by Malvika Sah

From his debut film Sikandar to his recent release Yeh Saali Zindagi, the actor with a political lineage has garnered an interesting array of films. And yet the free-spirited Arunoday Singh tells Verve that he is a simple guy who is just following his heart and his whimsical fantasies

A background in critical thought and analytical thinking can only aid an actor in reading a script well and deeply, putting proper perspective into character work and such. No education is wasted. It all accumulates and influences the instrument the actor uses most – his mind.” Famous words of a philosophical guru or an expert scholar? Actually, these pearls of wisdom come from the latest entrant into tinsel town – Arunoday Singh, the man whose witty repertoire and sharp intellect aren’t the only qualities that make him stand out from the debutantes this season. The grandson of former Union Minister Arjun Singh is creating as much buzz for his lineage as his latest release Yeh Saali Zindagi! Though he plays the politics card down thanks to his parents who were adamant on raising their children in “an environment more substantial and friendlier” and the influence of a number of boarding schools and universities abroad.

His childhood was like a ‘Rudyard Kipling story’. His parents decided to stay away from the hullabaloo that defines a politician’s life and moved to a remote town near Bhopal. With no television, theatre or movies let alone mobile phones and Internet – the most coveted objects for today’s GenX, Singh grew up isolated from the world amidst nature. Painting, sketching and reading books of all sorts became hobbies that he still nurtures. But his grandfather’s name was too big a shadow to be ignored. “I needed to get away from my grandfather’s influence and name in Madhya Pradesh,” he says about moving to a boarding school in Kodaikanal at the tender age of seven. His journey had just begun.

An excellent student, he stood out in school and won a scholarship at the Brandeis University in Boston. His interests and talents by now were becoming more distinct and “by the time I was done, I was starting to drift into things other than academia; such as theatre and writing. I was generally following my whimsical fantasies of who I wanted to be”, he states. That’s when the big shift in his life happened. He moved to New York to study theatre. Though clearly it was his favourite city in the world, life in New York was just as hard as it was fun. Amusingly it wasn’t just theatre that had him hooked but hip hop. “My friends tell me I have an African soul, and I take that as my biggest compliment,” he spurts with enthusiasm.

In between all this, Bollywood happened by fluke. He came back to renew his American visa and whiled his time away by quietly finding work and meeting people. A couple of auditions later he bagged the lead in Sikandar, his debut movie. Soon, more work started to flow in and Sudhir Mishra, who partly produced the movie, liked him enough to sign him as one of the leads for Yeh Saali Zindagi. As for the Big Apple, he hasn’t gone back to the American Consulate since!

Fitting into a particular genre is not something Singh is aspiring to do. While there was an out-and-out commercial Aisha, there was also Mirchi from the brand New-Age cinema brigade.  “I think it would be a crime of the most unforgivable kind if I myself were to limit my own potential. I hope to be approached for all kinds of roles and do them diligently,” he says matter-of-factly.

And even as Mumbai takes him in its folds, the actor too is starting to settle in. There is no hint of homesickness as he re-evaluates his decision to stay back. “I’m like a kid that someone has allowed to play – act and fight bad guys on my lawn for life – the decision was absolutely worth it. I get to do what I adore for a living. Life doesn’t get much better”, he says.

Despite the furore that Yeh Saali Zindagi has created from its title to the 22 infamous lip-locks, Singh seems unaffected. Clearly, at heart he is still a small-town dreamer finding his place in Bollywood. He agrees he is a simple private guy and may have a tough time when he gets really famous, but as of now, “I do my job and go home to my very comfortable apartment and listen to the Rolling Stones.”

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