The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On the waterfront

Water, water everywhere … and boy, did the cast and crew of My Brother Nikhil make a splash in Goa! The film, directed by Jadavpur University alumnus Onirban, after all, has a swimmer in the lead (Sanjay Suri as Nikhil).

“There was a scene of a competition where we had local swimmers matching Sanjay stroke for stroke. An actual national champion was swimming in the next lane, and Sanjay clocked a really good time,” recalls Onirban, the day after pack-up.

Suri is a natural athlete who excelled in basketball and squash before joining films. But there were tougher things awaiting him: the high seas. “The undercurrents were extremely strong. But I had taken a decision not to use dummies,” says the actor who grew up swimming in the lakes of Kashmir.

Sanjay’s commitment to the film went beyond the tryst with Arabian Sea. On Day 18, he had to shave his head to a close crop.

“I did not want to use a wig (and I thought I looked quite cute). This film needs that kind of effort. I have lost 4-5 kg already and will lose another 2-3 kg before the next schedule takes off. This keeps away from other films now but I need to look convincing as an AIDS victim.”

Another revelation of the Goan sojourn was Juhi Chawla, Nikhil’s sister and a singer. “Whenever she was free, in the make-up room or on the jetty, she would start doing riyaz, with her headphones on,” says Onirban.

The chirpy Chawla, now a mother of two, had a great time. There was no tension about little Arjun and Jahnvi being left at home. “As long as they do not harm themselves I do not mind them being naughty,” she laughs.

Working with a Bengali director did bring back memories of her Tollywood venture Amar Prem in her “puppy days” with Prosenjit. Though she was offered another Bengali film recently, she has turned it down as it had “too much naacha gana”.

On the sets in Goa, though, Bengal ruled in another curious way. Victor Banerjee , playing Nikhil’s father, had the whole unit saying “Hari Om” every morning and evening.

“It is one of the most sensitive scripts I have read in a long time. Onirban is a director with a mission and a vision. I loved working with the team of enthusiastic, disciplined and creative young talents,” applauds Victor.

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