Bollywood Actress Portrays a Kannada Thespian Who Walked Away From a Murder Case
By: Simran Mody
August 16, 2011
Three years after Kannada actress Maria Susairaj was accused of brutally murdering Indian television executive Neeraj Grover, Bollywood film producers anointed Ram Gopal Verma to direct Not A Love Story, which is headlined by Mahi Gill, Deepak Dobriyal, Ajay Gehi, and Zakir Hussain. While Ms. Susairaj was recently acquitted in a Mumbai court of the murder charges, Ms. Gill will be portraying the small-potatoes actress in the crime-thriller flick releasing this weekend in theaters worldwide.
In chronicling the accused murderer who was eventually convicted of evidence destruction, Ms. Gill -- who made a name for herself in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D -- told reporters that taking on Maria was rather grueling.
“I have also witnessed and experienced the struggling period, and so had Maria. So the struggling sequences were not difficult. But the sequences after the murder and its aftermath ... to deal with it ... was difficult for me,” Ms. Gill said during a press meet. “But Ramu sir was very helpful.”
A re-telling of the controversial murder case in film format, Not A Love Story delves into the gruesome demise of Mr. Grover and the highly publicized arrests of Ms. Susairaj and former Navy officer Emile Jerome.
What made Ms. Susairaj relatable to Ms. Gill was the Kannada actress’s personal background, as both rooted from locales outside of Mumbai and tried to work their respective ways up the cinematic ladder as outsiders.
Where the two struggling actresses differed was in mimicking Ms. Susairaj’s psyche beyond the commonalities, such as the real-life actress’s mentality in events both leading up to and after the murder. Indeed, it was that portion of Ms. Susairaj‘s life that Ms. Gill found “very difficult to relate with and was emotionally very taxing.”
Such a taxing emotional state was evident from the very moment Ms. Gill was approached about the role, she confessed.
“When he (Ramu) told me about the film ... about the role … I found it very challenging,” she candidly told the press. “We had shot in the same building but different rooms. Like, the incident happened in room 201, and we shot in 1501, so we had this weird ... creepy feeling how the incident would have taken place in such a small room, and we used to talk a lot about it as well.”
One thing that was talked about a lot was the actual murder case, which took place on May 7, 2008, when Mr. Grover was murdered in a Malad suburb. The murder actually took place at Ms. Susairaj’s flat (apartment). At the time of the murder, Ms. Susairaj was engaged to be married to Mr. Jerome.
According to news reports after the murder, the engaged couple allegedly cut up the victim’s body, placed the pieces into bags, and finally disposed of the remains in a Thane jungle.
Indeed, portraying a villainous role in such a storyline would be taxing upon any actress, giving credence to Ms. Gill’s comments.
Of course, as challenging as it was for Ms. Gill to essay Ms. Susairaj, the experience did not necessarily make her more prepared for another role where she had to take on a non-traditional scene or two.
In shooting for the film Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster, Ms. Gill told The Hindustan Times of her need to have an alcoholic beverage or two in order to pull off a steamy scene involving one of the longest kissing sequences in Bollywood history.
“I was very nervous initially. I was supposed to be drunk for that scene, so I took a bit of alcohol, but it hit me so badly that I just went with the flow,” Ms. Gill told the Times about the scene. “Thankfully, the shot has come out beautifully. Tigmanshu has shot it so aesthetically that it doesn’t look vulgar and it looks sensuous instead.”
The vulgarity was saved for Not A Love Story. So leave all your sensualities at home and arrive at the theaters this weekend expecting to see an emotionally charged criminal thriller about one of India’s most controversial stories in years. If No One Killed Jessica has any bearing on this film, Ms. Gill should be satisfied with the reception of Not A Love Story once the box office numbers are released.
‘Not A Love Story’ is releasing on August 19, 2011.