All our dreams come true – provided we have the courage to pursue them- these immortal words of iconic Waltz Disney, the uncrowned king of the world of entertainment, are what have driven versatile Sanjeev Mehra, actor, Director, Editor, Teacher, Producer, film making mentor – all rolled into one to conquer the world of Cinema. For a person who began his carrier as a video editor, the world now seems to be his oyster. His seemingly audacious desire to establish his own Film City in Australia speaks a volume about the passion he imbibes. Sanjeev Mehra has made for himself an enviable reputation as a mentor in the domain of acting and film making which makes him a cut above the rest. Mehra carries the conviction that success comes only to those who possess passion, daring and zeal. But, for success to happen setting goals and aims is a must.
Mehra thinks he succeeded because he had in him whatever it takes .His vast experience spans 46 years of Indian and Australian stage, film, television, and ability to strike balance among creative,technical and people management skills in the Advertising industry. With his team comprised of Bollywood and Australian professionals, he has made his strong presence felt in advertising and film projects on global scale.It is not easy to leave a well entrenched career in Bollywood to take a plunge into uncertain terrain abroad. But Sanjeev had the temerityto take the leap of faith. He showed his resourcefulness and established himself deep in Down Under and very soon joined the big league in the domain.The coffee table book “ Challenges, Opportunities and success” composed by Hermon Walia’ is his hall of fame where he finds his place among Indian achievers who made shining success in Australia by their sheer hard work. This no holds barred interview took place in his home in posh area “ Quakers Hill” in the breathtakingly beautiful city of Sydney.
Your career graph took you from Delhi to Mumbai and then to Sydney.What is the story of your fascinating journey? Please tell us about why, when and how of this great leap forward.
I started my career as a modest video editor. That was the time around 1977-78 when I had the opportunity to edit programs of the journalists Vinod Dua, Prannoy Roy and many of his equally famed contemporaries.Interestingly, I did not do any course in editing, nor had any formal training in the genre. It all started in the Studio of Mukesh Walia.In fact,I was a creature of Mandi House where I came to know some strugglers who took me to Mukesh Walia’s studio. It was my haunt for a long while. I learnt editing skills there but I was inclined towards acting. I would do editing in the night to earn odd pocket money and would loiter during the day in the area of Mandi house, considered the Mecca of artists. Firstly, I came in contact with Mohini Mathur. She was a teacher in Bal Bhawan. Besides, she herself acted in the theatre and taught others acting as well. I learnt a lot in her company. Then I went on to form many theatre groups namely " Sakshi" , "Theatre Wala" , " Paridhi" et al and kept doing theatre. In course of this, I made friends with many actors and directors. For 23-24 years, I stayed connected with theatres, studios and production houses in Delhi. During this stint, I worked as actors in some plays and directed some of them as well.I was entrusted with the production controlling responsibility in " Humlog" serial, considered as the first Indian soap opera. In many serials namely " Ye Gulistan Hamara" , Police File Se, Sigma and others, I played actors.
Tell about moving to Mumbai from Delhi. How did it happen?
As they say, if you are driven by passion, either you go bust or vice versa. The very passion brought me to Mumbai. I made it to Mumbai in year 2000. Yes, there was struggle but I did not flinch and relished it on the contrary. I acted in about one thousand and a half episodes of serials namely " Lo kar Lo Baat" , " jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin" ,"Talak Qun" etc. I did some films as well, that is to say, in " Wada Raha" , " Sahar" , " I am 24", to name but a few. As my career was moving up south, a foreigner lady came in life. We fell for each other and then soon walked down the aisle. From Bollywood to Australia: A giant leap indeed! Sounds like a leaf out of some Hollywood action movie. I was on to tell you the same story. After navigating choppy waters of Bollywood, I shifted to Australia with my wife and children.My wife belonged to Australia, so I had to move to Australia In the beginning , my first instinct was to get a foothold in a foreign land which led me to work my ass off as a chef in a restaurant. Then, I went on to open one restaurant myself. It was not at all easy to do such things after ditching well established career in Bollywood but I could not help it. During this period, I had to confront many marital problems as well. As life is aboutsecond chances, I fought against all odds and was far from bullied by the exigencies of life. Children were small but passion kept compelling me to make my mark. Down Under is a country of whites and there is not much prospect for Indians out here, so grim vision of going down under haunted me. But somehow I could make it to an agent Daniel Lucas. He helped me get some ad films. Out of them, one that of Common Wealth Bank, an Australian govt Bank proved chart buster. In there, my act was that of an aged Indian. But my goal was to cutsomething big. Getting my own server, I started my first web channel TV- Ozone but failed to make a success out of it. In 2008, there was Web Channel nowhere else in the world. Then, thought of making serials but for want of Hindi actors in Australia at that time, I had to shelve this dream too. I did web design course to be able to design channel and developed web TV by the same name TV Ozone. For want of resources and money, this venture again could not take shape so kept doing different odd works just to keep afloat. I created Channel Number One in 2017 and started making programs for the channel in 2018, launched it in 2019 but, as they say, there is many a slip between cup and lip, Covid descended in 2020 and I was once again back to square one.Taking a phrase out of lingo of cookery you probably are well versed in, may I ask what is cooking up now? Is there any gourmet’s delight on your celluloid plate ? plz indulge me in. 15 years have elapsed since I came to Sydney. In the meanwhile, I have created a ‘gang’ of Hindi speaking actors. There are many whites in that team who can afford to comfortably speak in Hindi. I have made some serials and short films with them. I made a short film about ongoing Farmers Movement in the vicinity of Delhi as well. I made a short film on Bhagat Singh comprising of all Sydney artists whom I mentored myself. But I have set my sights on establishing a film City, especially in Western Sydney as this area has preponderance of Indians. I am in talk on the level of Council in Sydney. It would be cherry on the cake if Indian government comes forward to help in this. Talents of both countries working together can make a means of great cultural exchange. The content will of course be global grade.
Are you cut off from Bollywood’s umbilical cord or it still exists?
There is no question of ditching that primal connection. On the contrary, I have already made a comeback in Bollywood. I have just returned from London after finishing a shooting of Hindi film Buckingham Murders in which I am doing the role of father to Kareena Kapoor. The film has been directed by Hansal Mehta. Kareena is herself the producer of the film. This film also flaunts a British actor. The post production is in the works. This is a murder mystery film. Sorry, cannot say more of it for now.