Meet the ebullient Sangeeth Shobhan who plays the key role of Varun Agarwal in Golconda High School, the film based on ‘The Men Within’. Sangeeth is every bit of the Varun I envisaged and more. One look at him, one interaction with this 13 year old and you know that within the casual and fun exterior lies a mind that ticks constantly, a mind that knows what it wants and more importantly how to get it. Sangeeth is intensely competitive, is supremely confident of his abilities and knows what he is doing. The younger brother of the mercurial Santosh, Sangeeth has a temperament that is completely different from that of his older brother. Somewhere, somehow you can feel that Sangeeth is completely grounded, plans himself out to deliver the best he can while Santosh goes about it with the flow, relying more on his reaction to the moment.
|Sangeeth at the Don Bosco nets|
I first met Sangeeth at the nets in March 2010 just as I met everyone else. He looked the part certainly, chubby, sweet with a fine smile, and worked hard at the game during the practice sessions. He almost always goes about things with a smile, brings in seriousness when it is required, is always polite and does not fail to leave an impression. Maybe it is his innate sense of humour which makes him deliver that one extra line, his take on the incident that makes a conversation with him rather serious-funny-intelligent. He'd bowl all over the place in the beginning and after some serious work on line and length, he got the basics pretty fast - I could see him imbibing what I told him, registering it and instantly implementing it. The result was that he bowled a fantastic line for the rest of the day. But come another day and he was all over the place. You know, that he now knows he can do what he wants when he wants, and so he allows himself to slack off. But mind you, he got to a state of knowing the art behind line and length first.
Sangeeth studied in Sloka earlier and then moved to Sreenidhi International School. Studying in his 7th standard now, he likes playing cricket, and likes to bat. He bowls decent spin and can bat a bit. 'I like playing football as well,' he says. 'I am the goal keeper. And the shot put champ, the goal keeper for the hand ball senior team in my school as well.' Well we had a football on sets one day and we all took shots at the goal and I remember Varun did a great job for our team saving some penalties in that inimitable style of his. He is competitive in a very calculated manner - someone you want on your side. But leave aside games and sports and he becomes serious and says that his main hobby is 'to act' and second to that is 'to watch movies'. 'I'd like to do comedy characters,' says he. 'Once I wanted to do a villain character though.' Pretty good clarity for a 13 year old I would say.
Sangeeth has acted in three movies so far, the third being Golconda High School. Sangeeth's favourite actors are Jackie Chan, Leonardo di Caprio, Mahesh Babu and "me"! That is how the lad is. He will always add that one bit extra, which I do not see as arrogance, but as a deep burning desire to express himself as well as the best names in the business. And I know he is only half-joking, perhaps, he is not joking at all. And if Sangeeth says that he can do it, I would bet my last dollar on him. He will pull it off.
On one of the initial days of shooting I remember visiting the location. Sagar told me that I missed watching Varun's shot which he says was fantastic. 'That kid is a natural,' said Sagar who could not keep his admiration out of his voice. 'He acts normally in the monitor, looks very casual and confident, but in the take he improvises his performance and elevates it to another level. It's absolutely fantastic to watch.' I can understand what Sagar meant now. Because talking to Sangeeth is like talking to an adult-child. His responses are his own, he is not scared to speak his mind, he takes pot shots at everything, shrugs in that supremely confident way, but never ever does it offensively.
|Santosh, Sagar and Sangeeth at the shoot in Don Bosco|
When I asked him to send some details about himself Varun did it with a promptness that one does not expect from children his age. This is another pointer to the person within him, the perfectionist, the clear work ethic that drives him. When you ask him of what he is like personally and what drives him he says, 'I am scared of nothing till now but if anything comes, I will go through it, but never be scared of that.'
In 'The Men Within' the character of Varun Agarwal turns the tide really for the team. The weakest member, the coward of the school, he takes enough strength from their training to challenge the bully who beats him all the time. And when the rest of the team, the rest of the school sees him fighting the bully and beating him, not backing off an inch, never giving up, they all think in their hearts that if Varun can, so can we. This is a spirit that Sangeeth seems to possess as well and like Varun in the book, he is destined to scale many heights.
Sangeeth says: 'In my last school, on my birthday, my class teacher gave me a paper writing this to me that says,
"There lives in me an image of all that I should be,
Untill I have become it my heart is never free,
I search for a reed to weave a cloak of strength, of love, of might."
'And,' he says, 'I still remember this because she knows that I am an good actor and she wrote that this will become true and it will!!!!!'
I have not an iota of doubt that you will. That reed is your confidence, your knowledge that you will make it, that you are good enough as Di Caprio or Mahesh Babu or anyone else. Glad that our paths met Sangeeth, and may you scale the heights you are destined to. May you express yourself in glorious ways to the world and may your heart be free!