It sounds implausible when actor Shishir Sharma, who has four decades of acting experience (he started his theater career in 1974), says that he got nervous before shooting for a film. But his role in Omung Kumar's biopic Mary Kom starring Priyanka Chopra as the boxing champ was an experience quite unlike anything he has had before since he was to play the role of Kom's coach Anoop Kumar. "I had absolutely no exposure to boxing before this, so I didn't know what I was going to do!" laughs Shishir. He had to undergo training for about 12 days at a make-shift boxing ring with Anoop Kumar's son to learn the body language of a boxing coach and actions like how to put the head gear on, give pep talk to the boxer, take out the mouth guard and put it back in, press the boxer's arms, etc. all within 10-15 seconds!"It was a great training ground for me," he says.
Working with Priyanka after Love Story 2050 was also a great experience for Shishir. "She is still so professional and really went through the grind for this role like a newcomer," says the actor who landed the role right after his meeting with director Omung because of his resemblance to Kom's coach. Shishir was eager to take up the role because anything of this caliber is hard to come by while confessing that he's keener on doing films than TV shows right now because he has had enough of roles where he has to "go to bed and wake up in sherwanis." He adds, "Only if it's a show like 24 tele-series that has some substance would I want to be a part of it."
Part of his reluctance also stems from the fact that the powers that be in channels take arbitrary decisions making creativity of shows suffer. "There is no creativity in television. What we have today is just a pretext of creativity, which is ruining the television industry. For instance, after three years of airing Yahan Main Ghar Ghar Kheli the channel decided to kill four male characters including me and focus only on the female characters and the hero. Thereon the show went downhill." Shishir also rues about the dearth of real talent right. "When I started in television in 1993 with Swabhimaan, we had the likes of Manoj Bajpai, Ashutosh Rana, Irrfan Khan, etc. who were brilliant and true to their work. But actors these days only want to build a bank balance or enter Bollywood. Anyway, they also have the marketing guys sitting and dictating terms to them. There's not much they can do either."
That said, Shishir also confesses that he cannot just turn down shows indiscriminately. It is not so much about the money for the actor, who has also done Ghar Ki Lakshmi Betiyann, because he has a successful business keeping him busy too. "Call it desperation if you will but when one is passionate about acting and if there's nothing else then you do end up taking some show since it's better than not doing anything at all because you just crave to act no matter what." And for that reason, Shishir agreed to do DD1's show Aurat Ka Aashiyana where he is one of the main characters. Shishir has several film projects in the pipeline, like Bejoy Nambiar's Fataak being directed by Aakarsh Khurana, Rensil Dsilva's Ungli, Madhur Bhandarkar's Calendar Girls and Meghna Gulzar's Talwar, which is based on the Aarushi Talwar case where he plays a CBI director. Though some of these have short appearances by Shishir, he says, "I am not sitting on a high horse that I will do only meaty roles. But I don't want to do potboilers like Entertainment either."
It is theater that Shishir holds in the highest regard when it comes to acting. "In theater you are on your own. There are no retakes and you are not allowed to get it wrong." Reminiscing the time when he started theater, Shishir signs off, "There was a time in 1974 when Pt. Satyadev Dubey saw me with theater artiste and director Sunil Shanbag and offered me a play. I told him that I couldn't act at all and he said, Tujhe toh main actor banaake hi chhodunga.'"