First of Many: Samir Kochhar revisits Valentine Days

This week's First of Many features Samir Kochhar. In the 68th edition of our exclusive series, the actor talks about his first film, Valentine Days (2003).

Actor Samir Kochhar has tried several things in his career. While he’s been part of films like Zeher, Jannat and Housefull 3, his stint in TV show Bade Achhe Lagte Hain remains a fan favourite.

Samir has also dabbled in the digital space with shows like The Test Case, Sacred Games, Typewriter and Four More Shots Please! He also hosts the pre-match Indian Premier League show Extraaa Innings T20 every year.

But how did Samir’s showbiz career begin? Here’s what the actor shared:

1. What was your first project? How did it come to you?

My first film project was Valentine Days (2003). I was hosting a travel show in Vijaywada. I got a call from a casting director in Delhi that there’s a film happening, so come back and audition for it. Since the train journey took two days, I got onto it the same day. Throughout the journey, I was hoping that I get the role. I was the last person to walk into the audition room. I was chosen for the film.

Cinema back then was a different thing. We are talking about 2000s. You can call it a rom-com with three cool guys and one girl. There was a sweet guy who confessed his love for the girl. My character had grey shades. I was the aggressive one among the three.

2. What do you remember of your first day on set?

They told me it will be shot in the hills and other places, and that it’s a huge film with this entire Gen X angle to it. Coming from Delhi, I never thought I’d be a part of something like this.

My first schedule was in Mussourie. On my first day of shoot, I had to ride a skateboard, stop at a point, flip that skateboard and say my lines. The entire unit was looking at me, and the director asked me if I am ready. I said yes. He asked me to mark my movement, and I didn’t know what that meant. He explained to me my position and that this was my mark. I said what if I don’t touch the mark, and he said no we can’t do that as there’s something called focus. I was bang on the mark during the rehearsal. But when the director said “Roll sound, camera, action”, I froze and didn’t know what to do. But just before he was about to say “cut”, I thought to myself, do it now, or this is not happening. I pushed myself on the skateboard, came on my spot and said my lines. I forgot that I was supposed to walk away from the camera, and my ADs kept gesturing me to move. I somehow managed, and the director got his shot in the first take itself. I remember after the shot, everyone on set clapped. It was a fun day. It’s an experience I look back and remember.

3. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?

Today, cameras have gone digital. That time it was the cinemascope reel camera. We were told that 4 minutes of footage is worth Rs 12,000, so there shouldn’t be any retakes. So, I was super nervous. I didn’t know which way the skateboard will go because first there was a fear of doing a film, and then I cannot do retakes. I hadn’t seen so many people as part of a crew. All the chaos on set, with so many people doing things simultaneously, was very unnerving for a 19-20-year-old guy.

4. How was the rapport with your co-stars when you got to meet or work with them again?

I’m still in touch with Manoj Bidwai, though he doesn’t act too much now. He started his own business. Then there was Nikhil Sakhrani. I think he’s changed his name now. There was a girl called Sita Thompson who was from the US, and Alyque Padamsee had a major role in casting her. He also gave creative inputs.

5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what would you like to change or do better?

I was a 20-year-old kid who didn’t know much in life. Nobody in my family is connected to this world. I came to Mumbai to pursue my passion. Today, I tell the director to change the script a little and make it better. Most scripts look wonderful on paper, but turn out not as good. Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Valentine Days film didn’t see the amount of love we wanted it to see. But it was a learning curve for me. I think I learned not just what I should do, but also what I should not do. But, it’ll remain special because it got me to Mumbai. Though, it could’ve been a much better film.

Today, I choose my projects more wisely. I see what platforms they would go to or how they are planning to release the film. Now, I’ve faced the camera long enough to understand what’s working and what’s not. That time, my main concern was that I shouldn’t forget my lines. I have absolutely no regrets about what I’ve done.

6. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?

I remember watching a lot of Amitabh Bachchan films. His persona was spellbinding. I watched a lot of world cinema too.

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