Sujith Nambiar, Ahmedabad: Every film consists of stars, the lead actors and then there are the sidekicks. The ones whose performance stays in our memories, for the comic relief they provide amidst the serious storyline, for being the catalyst in the love story between the leads. We all remember them by their screen names, but rarely do we know their actual names and stories. Hemang Shah is one amongst them, popularly known for his portrayal as Sundar, the younger sibling to Mayur Chauhan’s Tilok from the award-winning Gujarati film Karsandas Pay and Use.

Hemang recently won the award for best actor in a comic role for Karsandas Pay and Use at the International Gujarati Film Festival in New Jersey. “I had no clue about it for the first couple of days, as I had shifted base to Mumbai and was unaware about it. There was a surprising rise in the number of messages on messengers and Instagram, which I thought it might be from people who were wishing me for my upcoming venture Natsamrat (Gujarati remake of the popular Marathi film by the same name),” says Hemang. He adds, “It was when a friend called me up to congratulate me on the win that I got to know about the awards our film had bagged. Words aren’t enough to describe my happiness!”

Hemang, who has dabbled in theatre before taking up films tells us, “I was a clueless young guy who was very shy about being in public and was very concerned about my short built. I had joined GLS College in Ahmedabad but would never attend classes due to my fear of getting trolled for my height. But when I was forced to attend college by the administration, I began looking for avenues that would keep me busy apart from academics. I joined as a student volunteer for a Garba event in college but was shifted to the theatre group. It was then the thought of trying my hand at performing on the stage came and I approached the professor-in-charge to let me audition for a part in the play.”

Fondly remembering his first audition, he tells us how he performed a horrible impersonation of his favorite actor Shah Rukh Khan, “I knew I had bombed at the audition but was surprisingly praised by the professor for my expressions and body movements. With this, I became an active member of the theatre group in the college for the three years I was there. I didn’t realize how time flew during this period, performing at various festivals and events.”

Stint at Ouroboros Theatre…

“I was blank after my college ended, I didn’t know what next. Though from the inside, I knew that acting is what I must do, this is what I am made for. This is when I came in contact with Chirag Modi of Ouroboros Blackbox Theatre who took me into his fold and went on to work with him for many of his ventures and plays,” says Hemang who has been involved into every aspect of theatre, be it writing scripts, dialogues, directing and even backstage and lighting at Ouroboros. Among the many plays he has done, the most popular one is Chu Chu Ka Murabba where he played the part of Ganghor Aashik. This play is a mix of five popular stories told from a different spin to it. “This play made us laugh, cry, rage and dance. The reception from the audience for the play was so overwhelming; it ran multiple shows at the theatre. Another play by Hemang that received rave reviews from the audience was Dream of Hare Sandal. When we ask him if he had ever thought of taking any acting lessons, Hemang gives out a short laugh and say, “I tried to get into National School of Drama in New Delhi three times, but I flunked the tests. But it’s a part and parcel of this journey, one needs to experience everything.” Hemang has also conducted theatre workshops in Ahmedabad with Chirag Modi.

Plunge into films…

Hemang shot to fame with the film Karsandas Pay and Use, where he played the role of Sundar, the younger brother of the lead. His comic timing in the film not only won him a lot of admirers but also an award at the international film festival in New Jersey. Hemang is known for his spontaneity and improvisation skills in his acts which makes the audience crack up. His friends and co-stars too swear by this, that one would be rolling with laughter while in Hemang’s company. Telling us about his foray into films, he says, “During one of my performances on stage, I was offered a part in Chhello Divas, which went on to become a massive hit. Though it was a small part, I put in everything I had into it. Since then, I have done Duniyadari where I played the role of Jignesh and Sundar in Karsandas Pay and Use. I always believe in getting into the skin of the characters I play, whether it is on stage or on screen.” Hemang will now be seen in the Gujarati remake of Natsamrat featuring Siddharth Randheria and Manoj Joshi.

On his bonding with his co-stars…

Michael (Mayur Chauhan) is not only my best friend but a mentor too. He’s a magician when it comes to acting, I admire the way he commands the audience’s attention when on stage and screen. Such is his aura. Actors like Michael, Malharbhai (Thakar), Deeksha (Joshi) not only are wonderfully talented artistes, but they make sure that their co-actors too improve and hone their skills along with them. I have learned a lot from them while working with them in films. I’ve shifted base to Mumbai now, where I have the company of actor Shivam Parekh, another terrific guy who knows his craft so well. Whenever I am in the company of such people, I try to absorb as much as I can. In my upcoming film Natsamrat, working with Siddharth Randheria was like a dream come true for me. Sometimes when I procrastinate and look back at this journey and the friends I've made, it feels unbelievable."

A character he’d love to portray on stage…

There is no specific character that I wish to play. But I am a huge fan of Hasan Manto’s (Pakistani writer, playwright, and author) work. The general perception of people towards Manto’s work is that they are very serious and dark. I wish to write something adapting one of Manto’s works and add a dash of humor to it. You see, humor works wonders when the society needs to be told the truth that sounds atrocious to them as it cuts through the tension easily.

Sujith Nambiar tweets @sujith17nambiar. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more.