Today you cannot use real animals in serials or films, but at that time there was nothing like that. There were no such rules then. I have been bitten by a cobra several times. This has happened often. It did not matter because the poison had been extracted from the cobra. Cobra is cold blooded. The heat and sweat of the shooting light numbs them and their body also gets overheated very quickly. Three-four cobras would come a day and we would use it together. The first time was a little scary. After three-four days he got used to it.
These are the words of Samar Jai Singha of the 90s, who played the role of Lord Shiva in the serial ‘Om Namah Shivay’. This serial, which came in 1997, was the first serial which became very famous because of the character of Lord Shiva. Fans still remember this serial very well.
During the conversation, Samar Jai Singh told how he got the serial ‘Om Namah Shivay’. How many people auditioned for the role of Lord Shiva? How was the shooting of the serial? How was Mount Kailash made from salt and money? ‘Gadar’ was a super duper hit, but Samar Jai Singh did not get any benefit from it. Not only this, you will be surprised to know that artists like Anushka Sharma, Kartik Aryan, Tiger Shroff have been groomed by Samar Jai Singh.
Samar Jai Singh, born in Indore, says- My father was a doctor and mother a housewife. My elder brother is also a doctor. My cousin is also a doctor. My childhood was very easy and comfortable. I didn’t have to struggle in my childhood. Since childhood, I liked playing different sports, out of which I was very fond of cricket. I didn’t struggle at all. I have studied till graduation in Indore only.
Samar Jai Singh further says- I was already not interested in doing a 9 to 6 job. Yes, it is true that at that time I did not know what I had to do, but I knew that I would not be able to do it. Then I thought about acting. At that time I did not realize that if I wanted to act, I would have to prepare for it.
33 years ago I used to think that if you have good looks, height and voice then you can become a hero, villain or comedian. It was heard about the struggle of the stars of that time that they used to get work because of their looks and appearance. At that time it was unheard of that he could get work by honing his talent.
Samar Jai Singh says- I took admission in a law college in Mumbai. When I came to Mumbai in 1989-90, acting was always on my mind. I took admission in Government College of Law, Churchgate, Mumbai and started living in the hostel there. I did LLB. Then I took admission in LLM.
However, I could not appear for the final year examination of LLM. The reason behind this is that when Prakash Mehra was making a serial on Emperor Ashoka, I got the lead role in that serial. Both the shooting of the serial and the exams were clashing, so I continued shooting and did not appear for the exams.
Talking about Prakash Mehra’s serial, Samar Jai Singh says, ‘I auditioned twice for Prakash Mehra’s serial, then finally I got selected. Initially Prakash Mehra wanted to cast a well-known rising Bollywood star in the lead role. However, unfortunately this serial based on Emperor Ashoka was never telecast.
Actually, the serial got stuck in legal trouble. Famous director-producer O.P. Ralhan was also making something on Emperor Ashoka. There was a dispute between him and Prakash Mehra regarding the script. O.P. Ralhan alleged that Prakash Mehra had taken his script. The case proceeded in Delhi High Court. Then the show could not proceed further. We shot four episodes of this serial brilliantly. This was around 1994.
Talking about the serial, Samar Jai Singh says, ‘There was a contract with Prakash Mehra that I cannot do anything for two years. I was around 25-26 years old then. I waited for two-two and a half years. You can call that time a struggle. Prakash Mehra is a well-known name and the plan was that he would give me a film next, however, the show got stalled and he spent a lot of money on the show.
I was in the lead role, so they were afraid that if I started working in the film, I would get offers from other films and I would get busy. Due to this his show will be suspended. I also thought that we should wait, but the show itself did not go on.
Explaining the reason behind doing the serial ‘Om Namah Shivay’, Samar Jai Singh says, ‘When I got the offer of ‘Om Namah Shivay’, I did this serial. However, to be honest, I wanted to do Ashoka serial. Emperor Ashoka was a man. A king had a journey of his own.
At that time I needed work, so I did this serial. I also needed money so I did this serial. About 74 artists had auditioned before me. Talking about the audition, the actor says- “74 artists had auditioned before me for ‘Om Namah Shivay’. The production house told me that your number is around 75 or 76.
The shooting of the serial had started two and a half months ago, but the Lord Shiva of the serial had not been met yet. The production liked my audition and I was finalized. By then the remaining parts of the show had been shot. As far as I remember, I started shooting for this serial on 2-3 September 1996.
Talking about his preparation for the character, Samar Jai Singh says- I have been spiritual since childhood. I became more spiritual during the two and a half year wait for the serial Ashoka. At this time I realized that you have nothing in your hand. God is in control. At that time, at first I felt that a young man can do everything on his own, but the situation is such that he cannot do anything on his own.
He has to leave everything in God’s hands. That’s when I started leaving everything to God and I think that’s when the preparation for the character of Shivji started. When I got finalized in the audition, I made up my mind that I would portray the character not as a god, but as a human being. This man has gone above the material needs of the world, wealth, love, greed, all these.
I would create my character in such a way that he has all the achievements and qualities, but he never uses them for himself. Instead of people seeing him as a god, I tried to give him a human form. That’s why people got connected to that character. Lord Shiva was discussed on TV for the first time. The children of the 90s still have the same image of Shivji in their minds which was created by director Dheeraj Kapoor.
The actor further said, ‘I did not read any separate text for the character of Lord Shivaji. Played the role as per the script. The dialogues of the serial were written in great depth. The plot of the serial was very similar to the feeling I felt while reading the initial episodes. Whatever was in my mind from my experience was in the story of the serial. I connected with these stories very strongly. I did not prepare separately.
I don’t smoke already. I am taking care that my appearance does not look strange on the set. My thoughts were exactly the same as the character of Shivji was portrayed. I had to prepare physically. The body looks like that, the style of walking looks like that. I did not prepare anything more than this. There was no scope for much work to be done on characterization. I appeared as I was. The appearance was just a getup and a wig.
Samar Jai Singh further says- No such problem occurred during the shooting of this serial. There was an interesting scene in which Gangaji is absorbed in Shivaji’s hair. Then Gangaji descends on earth. In this scene, a huge horse pipe was tied behind so that it could reach my head.
There was a nozzle on top of the horse pipe and water was to come out from it. A complete tanker set was ordered for this. That pump was connected to a horse pipe tied behind me and water had to be drawn from it. As soon as the pump pressure came on, I lost my balance on the pipe and almost fell.
Taking the matter further, the actor says, ‘Talking about the most memorable scene, Lord Shiva cut off the head of Lord Ganesha with a trident. This scene was also very interesting. It was a bit difficult to shoot this scene without VFX. I had to remove the trident from the side of the camera. This scene was very complicated. The camera was kept completely safe. This scene was also challenging, there was an entire camera team behind the camera. It was a lot of fun to work.
The songs of the serial were very good. The serial was shot on a large scale. Dheeraj Sahab had made this serial with all his heart. It cost a lot. He made this serial with confidence. He himself is a devotee of Lord Shiva. As soon as we entered Swati Studio in Mumbai, there was a special temple built on the set. Worship used to take place here morning and evening.
The atmosphere on the set must have been very good. We all lived like a family on the set. I, Vishnu ji (Amit Panchori) were a little younger, Brahmaji (Sunil Nagar), Naradji (Sandeep Mehta), Indra (Sanjay Swaraj) were all of the same age and lived like friends. The shooting continued from 9 am to 9 pm. Sometimes the shooting took place at night, no one’s dates were available, when there was work on the sets, I used to work in night shifts also.
Nowadays every work is done with VFX. There was no VFX at that time. We created Mount Kailash with salt and money. First a complete set was made of wood and then salt and water were poured over it.
Using cutouts for trees. The set was very well made. As soon as the salt lost its shine, it was replaced. This process was done regularly. A small tempo was filled with salt. New salt was taken out from it and old salt was filled. The outdoor shooting took place on the Western Express Highway.
In response to this question, Samar Jai Singh says- 80% shooting was done at Swati Studio in Goregaon. Be it outdoor shoots like Shivaji coming face to face with a devotee or a forest, it was done at Filmcity or the Western Express Highway that runs from Mumbai to Gujarat.
Rain never stopped shooting as long as I was there. Sometimes the set was flooded, but there was no major problem that the shooting had to be stopped. Responding to a question about fans’ reaction to playing the character of Lord Shiva, the actor says, ‘When the serial was running, it often happened that fans would think that it was Lord Shiva. I became Shiva for the first time and people started recognizing me and a crowd gathered. However, I did not want people to recognize me so I kept myself hidden.
I once went to Indore during the shooting of a serial. Here I usually used a two-wheeler scooter. I went to the gym on a scooter wearing shorts, shorts and a T-shirt. Jim was the helper cleaner and he recognized me. They said all around, ‘Shivaji has come, Shivaji has come.’ So the people around came to know about it. The gym was on the first floor. When I came down, a large number of people had gathered. This was a very strange situation for me. I went to the gym in the same clothes I usually wear.
When asked whether playing the character of Shivji created a special image or not, Samar Jai Singh says, ‘It has often happened that because of the image of Shivji, I was rejected at the last minute from the film I signed. They thought that after seeing me, the image of Lord Shiva would immediately come to the mind of the fans and people would not be able to accept me. It was very difficult for me to come out of the image of Shivji.
All the actors who played such roles (Shiv became Ram) 15-20 years after I played the character of Shivji, those actors do not have all these problems. Arun Govil Sahab (Ram of ‘Ramayana’), Nitish Bhardwaj (Shri Krishna of ‘Mahabharata’) have also had this problem.
I never tried to cash in on Shivji’s image as an actor. I often get such offers, calls for induction, calls for Mahashivratri, even now, but I refuse. I don’t want to use that image. I consider myself an actor. I played the character of Shivji with good understanding from the heart, but I never had the desire to use that image.
Would you have thought that you would not have played the character of Shivji? In response to that question, Samar Jai Singh says – To tell the truth, at first it seemed that if he had not played the character of Shivji, he would have got more opportunities. A lot of work stopped coming to me because of Shivaji’s image, but it doesn’t seem like that anymore. Now it seems that people loved, people appreciated, these things are more important.
Talking about the struggle, Samar Jai Singh says – In the beginning, because of my loud voice, I had no problem in getting work. However, gradually it was realized that to get a job here, it is necessary to learn the work. I did not fight hard.
Some people say that I had to sleep after eating vada paun, had to spend the night in local trains, I have not done anything like that. Yes, it once happened with me that I was not allowed to enter the hostel when it was late at night, but I did not have to struggle at all.
Samar Jai Singh was asked whether he has played religious roles after the role of Shivji? So he replied- An actor has his own compulsions. Om Namah Shivay had an agreement for 52 episodes. I wanted to do a film then. I didn’t want to do serials so I took a break. To get work in the film, I did not renew the contract of ‘Om Namah Shivay’. One and a half years after leaving the serial, I got the film ‘Gadar: Ek Prem Katha’.
In this film I have played the role of a Pakistani Army officer. Actress Ameesha Patel was going to get married to this army officer in the film. In the climax I stop the train and that was the whole scene. Although the film was a super duper hit, I did not get the work I wanted. So I came back to TV in search of work and did serials. Then I did ‘Mahashakti’, ‘Vishnu Purana’, ‘Amar Chitrakatha’, everything. Such is the journey of an actor. It doesn’t always happen the way you want.’
Talking about why he started an acting school, Samar Jai Singh says- I have been teaching acting since 1993. I used to go to different institutes to train students. Then a time came when I felt that I should share my experience with the students. Whenever I joined an acting school, I thought that this is not the right way to teach acting. So in 2005, my partner Rupesh Thapliyal and I together started an acting institute. We started giving a new way of training.
One should act as per today’s demands. There was a lot of discussion about TV at that time. A new trend started in the film. Multiplexes started coming. A realistic film was coming. A big budget film was also being made. Along with this, films related to life like ‘Life in Metro’ also came.
In all these films the acting was not over top, real acting had to be done. Thought of doing something new regarding the training of actors. Our institute has completed 18 years today. Anushka Sharma was the first star of our institute. In 2007 he trained with us and in 2008 he got the film ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’.
Kartik Aryan, Tiger Shroff, Mrunal Thakur, all these actors have learned acting from us. Siddhant Gupta has been seen in the show ‘Jubilee’. Siddhant has played the character of Jai Khanna in this show. Currently our 70-80 students are working in TV, web shows, films. ‘I have evolved as an actor, acting less’. When he was asked whether he had done less acting because of the acting school, the actor said, ‘Yes, it is true. I feel like I have become a better actor by learning acting. Acting is something that is mental as well as physical.
You get carried away with emotions, psychologically you try to expand yourself more, I think this part of me has evolved a lot. Acting school has made my acting less professional, but I am still growing as an actor. My entire focus is on my growth.
I had a track of six-seven months in Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki. My track in the show ‘Sara Aakash’ was about to end. After starting acting school, I didn’t have enough time to work in TV. Time is very important in TV and whenever a call is made for the schedule time, at night you are told that you have to come to the set at seven in the morning the next day. If classes are already scheduled, I will have to cancel the class if the student is scheduled to arrive. For these reasons I decided not to work in TV. During that time, I did whatever films were offered to me and whatever characters I liked.
The last time I did ‘Prithviraj Chauhan’ (2022). Recently I have done a film ‘Delhi 2020’. This is India’s first single take film. There is no cut in between in this film. The story of this film is based on US President Trump’s visit to India and the communal riots that took place in Delhi at that time. This is a real time film. As long as the film is going on, the events are also going on. Time lapse will not be visible. The shooting of this film has been completed. Post production is taking more time.
Talking about the dream role, Samar Jai Singh says, ‘Many characters in Irrfan Khan sir’s films inspire me. As an actor he was very inspiring. Every actor wants to be like him. Want to do films like ‘Lunch Box’, ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, ‘Hindi Medium’, ‘Maqbool’.
It’s fun to work in such a film. He was more associated with spirituality than acting. In the initial days, I wanted to do a film like Amitabh Bachchan. When I came into Hindi cinema, Amitabh Bachchan was famous all over the country. It was because of Amitabh ji that I came into Hindi cinema. He has always been an inspiration. He is still working today. Today’s generation also likes his work.
I trained at FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) in Pune from 2005 to 2010. At that time, Jaideep Ahlawat, Rajkumar Rao, Vijay Verma, Sunny Hinduja all belonged to the same bench in the institute. I also get inspired after seeing his work. It is not necessary that I am inspired by someone who is older than me.
I am also inspired by the work of my students, looking at their work makes me wonder if I could do similar work. I don’t consider myself an acting guru or acting teacher. I believe I am a senior actor with a little more acting experience. He shares his experience with others. If I thought I was an acting guru, that I knew everything, I would have ended up as an actor that very day. I will never be able to move on. An actor should be like an empty glass, so that he can learn everything.
I had an arranged marriage in 2003. My wife is from Udaipur and is a housewife. My 19-year-old elder daughter is doing a film making course from Mumbai University and my 17-year-old younger daughter is studying mass media.
Talking about family support, Samar Jai Singh says, ‘My father never put pressure on me to become a doctor. He was very open-minded. He always used to say one thing, ‘Whatever you have to do, do it with your whole heart and mind.’ Don’t do anything half-heartedly. Even when I played cricket, he encouraged me a lot. Even when I decided to come to Mumbai, he fully supported me. I was never forced to remain in the medical field.
About quitting cricket, the actor says, ‘I could not play Ranji Trophy at the state level, but I have played at school level and University Under-19. I was 21 years old when I left cricket. Later I felt that I had acted too hastily in leaving cricket. I still need to give three-four years to cricket. Due to some reasons and I was constantly feeling that I was stuck at one place and was not able to move forward, so I left cricket.