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Satya Bhabha on playing the quintessential Bombay boy in Midnight's Children
When Deepa Mehta first announced the celluloid adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, everyone asked her who would play Saleem Sinai, the primary character in the film. Names such as Ranbir Kapoor, Imran Khan and Shahid Kapoor did the rounds for a while, before Mehta sprung a surprise by casting what can be termed an unconventional choice for a hero, Satya Bhabha.
An American actor of Indian origin, Bhabha was, until then, best known for his portrayal of Matthew Patel in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010). Mehta thrust the burden of an entire film on his shoulders with the role of Sinai, among the most thought-provoking characters in subcontinental literature.
Bhabha took up the challenge, and is now awaiting the Indian audience's verdict when the film releases on February 1. "There is truth, honesty and positivity to Saleem that really inspired me.
I felt there were aspects of my own personality that I wanted to explore through this character.
He faces such incredible obstacles, and still emerges hopeful and positive for the next day," says the actor.
Bhabha first met Mehta in Toronto, Canada, through a common friend. The first two meetings were spent talking and getting to know each other, and it was during their third meeting that the two eventually discussed the role. "Months later, I was told that I would be playing the part," he says. It also helped that Bhabha had read the novel extensively and watched most of Mehta's films.
Bhabha, who was born in London and has studied theatre at Yale University, was always inclined towards the creative arts. "I have dreamed of being an actor for as long as I can remember," he says. His love for the stage can be traced to his grandmother, who lives in Mumbai, and was passionate about amateur dramatics. Bhabha says she instilled in him a love for theatre when he was very young. "We would go to many musicals and plays when she visited me in London. She also introduced me to my great hero, Fred Astaire (a Hollywood and Broadway actor). He was the inspiration behind my pursuing acting as a career," he states.