“Jab tak Suraj Chaand rahega, Sunder tera naam rahega”, who does not remember this epic line from Gangaajal? We all do. No matter how negative the role was, we loved it. Because we love the person who played the role, which nobody else could have done better. Mr. Yashpal Sharma! Aka Sunder Bhaiya aka Sunder Yadav (Gangaajal) aka Lalan Singh (Shool) aka Lakha (Lagaan) aka Udaas (Singh is Kinng) and the list just goes on. PS. He was also in the Assamese film “Bahniman”.
Hailing from Haryana, he is a graduate from NSD (National School of Drama), New Delhi.
“Childhood was amazing! We used to steal lemons, mangoes and what not” he talks about his childhood in a rendezvous with team UniTreed.
“We had families from Nepal, Himachal Pradesh, UP and other places, living nearby. Hence, I do not face problems in acting in films of any language, as there has been influence of many languages during childhood. I had a very rich childhood, of collecting firewood, picking up cow dung, collecting bricks, making a hut, putting buckets under a leaking roof, cutting grass. Then we started Ramlila in 8th or 9th standard, collecting old sarees and stuff. And I played the role of Hanuman. Sometimes also comic roles, I used to make people laugh. I got a lot of confidence from playing these roles in Ramlila. Then during Janmashtmi, I used to play the role of Vasudeva, Lord Krishna’s father along with roles like Raja Harischandra.” he says about his early acting career.
“After that, Rajiv Manchanda, who is a NSD pass-out, came to Hisar and started doing plays. I first worked with him in the Oedipus play, it was not an important role. I was in the chorus group. I still lacked confidence somewhere. In college, I joined the poetry competition. I was very nervous but once I started, I did not stop and got the first prize.”
“During my college days, my mother died and I had to leave college. I started working, washing dishes, pulling rickshaws, working at Biryani shops, factories and other such jobs. I continued my studies at the night college. It was a routine of 5 am too 11-11:30 pm daily. But it was amazing” says the actor.
“I used to come first in acting, plays used to get prizes. So, the colleges were like Yashpal, come to our college, you don’t have to pay the fees.” he says proudly.
He also used to work in the silver industry and earn Rs 300 per month. One day, he ran away to Delhi, leaving his job. There was a play of Naseeruddin Shah. “I went for a day but stayed for four months” he says. He joined Children’s theatre and returned to Mumbai after four months. “I was waiting for training after that, along with continuing the silver work. I was applying for the NSD but was not getting through. In the third year, I got into MA in Indian Theatre (Drama) at Chandigarh and subsequently next year, into the NSD, Delhi. I got training for three years but everything was so interesting that even three years seemed so less.” he adds.
Yashpal further adds “I wanted to do children’s theatre in Haryana, imparting knowledge of theatre to young children. I believe it is a way of personality development. Then it was published in some newspaper that I was a good actor and I wanted to continue acting. I picked up my bed, essential items, the money that I had and left for struggling. I took a room, paying the advance, clicked some photographs and the journey started. I used to get roles but I did not like them and could not compromise. I was dying hungry but I never compromised. I also got a role in a daily soap. I was paid around a lakh per month. I needed the money and it would have been a secured life too, but I couldn’t do theatre and films anymore. And I wanted to do roles in films.”
He acted in the 1998 film Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa as his first big break where he shared screen with Jaya Bachchan and Nandita Das. But he was never into hardcore commercial films. “I have always liked small films with big roles” he says.
Presently he is working on a film, which is a biopic of Indian poet Pandit Lakhmi Chand.
We also got the following insights about the actor and his life.
UniTreed: There have often been allegations that people forget their roots after getting name and fame. What are your plans for Haryana? What do you dream for your place?
Yashpal: I have been working for about two years now on Haryana cinema. Cinema had totally died in Haryana, there is no audience. There is vulgarity in YouTube when you type and search Haryanvi. I have pledged to remove all this negativity. My try is to make good films which shall be internationally acclaimed and for that we have been organising film festivals for the past two years. I have been visiting small villages for programmes and sharing my experiences.
Unitreed: How is your lifestyle? Is it like that of a superstar?
Yashpal: Not at all. I lead a very normal life. Trust me, even superstars dream of living a normal life. But of course, many like the stardom too.
UniTreed: Your journey has been from theatre to film? Which are you more comfortable in?
Yashpal: Obviously theatre. It’s difficult but satisfying. Films do not give that kind of satisfaction. The film may be a super hit but satisfaction lacks sometimes. Live audience is a different feeling altogether.
UniTreed: Where do you think Indian cinema in terms of World cinema?
Yashpal: It will take a lot of time. If you watch European cinema or Iranian cinema, or even films from Cambodia, we still have a long way to go. However, some new directors have emerged. The problem here is that everybody wants to go into the 100 crore league. They are concentrating more on how to attract audience.
UniTreed: How was your experience in the Assamese Film Industry?
Yashpal: I have worked in two Assamese films. One is Aisa Ye Jahaan. It’s a Hindi film but my character was Assamese. It was a great experience. The other is Bahniman. I believe it could have been better. It could have been a bigger hit had there been some editing done.
UniTreed: Which has been your favourite role till date in theatre?
Yashpal: It’s like asking who is your favourite child. I have many. Some of them include the role of Einstein, one was the role of a man who is a father as well as a son and one is a play “Koi Baat Chale”. The list goes on. Gulzar Sahab’s “Lakeerein” is there.
UniTreed: When your name comes up, the youth usually talk about Sunder Yadav. How much did you like that role?
Yashpal: It was okay. There was not such great acting in that role. I believe I have done better in Apharan and Ab Tak Chappan. Ab Tak Chappan is my favourite film. For me Apharan and Ab Tak Chappan is above Lagaan and Gangaajal.
The actor believes that training is important, however, there is also something by birth. “Talent is important. Training just gives you a direction and makes you sharper. Training gives you confidence and perfection. It gives one a depth” he adds.
He says “Hard work is the only way to success. Once you enjoy your own acting, when you enjoy even your cries, you have reached the point. And if you think that you are not into acting, you can always go for direction or cinematography or script writing.”
It was an honour to meet this amazing actor and Team UniTreed wishes him all the success in the coming days too.