Hailing from Indore, Hinduja embarked on a journey to become an actor at a very young age that brought him to FTII where he enrolled for an acting course. Having tasted moderate success in the indie film circuit, Hinduja is fast emerging as a bankable name in the OTT space.

Sunny Hinduja is chuffed by the love and appreciation that he has been receiving for his portrayal of a Haryanvi UPSC aspirant in the TVF series Aspirants. Hailing from Indore, Hinduja embarked on a journey to become an actor at a very young age that brought him to FTII where he enrolled for an acting course. Having tasted moderate success in the indie film circuit for his work in films like Ballad of Rustom, Brij Mohan Amar Rahe, and Pinky Memsaab, Hinduja is fast emerging as a bankable name in the OTT space thanks to his memorable performances in shows like Bhaukaal, The Family Man, Chacha Vidhayak Hain Hamare, and Aspirants.
In this interview, Hinduja talks about Aspirants, his preparation for the part of a Haryanvi UPSC aspirant, the plagiarism controversy surrounding the series, and the rise of OTT platforms. Excerpts

Q. The TVF series Aspirants seems to have struck a chord with the country’s youth. What do you attribute its success to?
A. I think first and foremost the credit goes to the writing department. The subject is very relevant and it’s written in a manner that’s not preachy. Everyone at TVF follows a very organic process. Even the interns are allowed to speak their hearts out which allows a lot of creative freedom and transparency. At the end of the day, it’s really a team effort.
Now, most of us who are a part of Aspirants, cast as well as crew, have been working in the industry for quite some time and somewhere we all have been eying a major breakthrough in our respective careers. Also, it’s been five years since Pitchers and so TVF too was eying something big. I think all our energies came together to create a synergy of sorts. Our aspirations at one level or another found a harmony with the aspirations of the characters battling to crack the UPSC exam as well as the aspirations of the viewers watching it. That’s why I feel it has succeeded in connecting with the viewers so well.

Q. You play the pivotal character of Sandeep Bhaiya in the series. Tell us about your association with the project. How did you prepare for your part?
A. I have always wanted to do a TVF series and have known Arunabh (Kumar) and team for a long time. When the part came to me, I auditioned for it and they liked it. But I was a little skeptical at first as I had just done the second season of Chacha Vidhayak Hain wherein I play the main antagonist. Although, Sandeep is a pivotal character it isn’t one of the protagonists, technically speaking. As an actor you gotta consider all things. But the script was so good. Also, I knew the people well and of course it was TVF and so I went ahead with it. And, in the hindsight, it has proven to be the right decision. The kind of love and appreciation that I am getting for my portrayal of Sandeep is overwhelming to say the least.
In the early stages my approach mainly revolves around reading the script again and again because that’s where you can find everything as an actor. Then of course I like to talk to my director and understand the overall vision. In the case of Aspirants, I called up the director Apoorv Singh Karki and asked him if he has something specific in his mind for my character. He asked me to order a book online which I read. It basically dealt with India’s history. Then for polity I was referred to the Shyam Benegal series Samvidhaan. You see, I needed to have a basic understanding of these things to build up the character of Sandeep who is supposed to be a senior UPSC aspirant and it’s basically out of respect that everyone calls him ‘Sandeep Bhaiya’. So I had to look that no-nonsense guy.
Q. A lot of the time one hears actors sporting a Harvanvi accent it feels a bit forced. But you seem pretty comfortable at it. How did you get it right?
A. Initially, the Haryanvi accent wasn’t there in the script and it was only added as an afterthought as it seemed to enhance the script and the character. For that I took the help of an FTII batchmate named Jaswant Singh Dalal who worked closely with me while I was preparing for the part. Also, in between, I met Jaideep Ahlawat, who is also a batchmate, and told him how he helped me virtually with my Haryanvi through his portrayal of Hathi Ram Chaudhary in Pataal Lok (chuckles).
Q. The setting of Old Rajinder Nagar gives Aspirants a very realistic touch. Did you actually shoot in West Delhi’s iconic hub of UPSC aspirants? What was the experience like?
A. Yes, we actually shot in Old Rajinder Nagar. It was during the pandemic and so we followed all the necessary guidelines. The credit goes to our team. Everything was carefully planned and meticulously executed. It was truly a memorable experience.
Q. Author Nilotpal Mrinal has claimed that the series has been plagiarized from his book Dark Horse but the same has been denied by TVF. What are your thoughts on the dispute?
A. Well, as an actor, I can only say what I feel about it. Now, the way I see it, TVF is a legacy. So we are not questioning a director, producer, or writer. We are questioning a legacy. That’s all I can say right now.
Q. What are your thoughts on the rise of OTT platforms?
A. I think it’s bound to have a long-term impact since the OTT platforms offer a variety of films, series, standup shows, etc. They can cater to diverse tastes and so it is less likely for viewers to remain unsatisfied with the content on offer: be it kids, adults or even film aficionados. And, it’s really great for writers, artists, and technicians. I think it’s making things convenient and creating a win-win situation for one and all. It really is the need of the hour.