Sooraj Pancholi has been through a lot in his personal and professional life. Although he has spoken about some of his troubled times, only the ones closest to him — his parents and his sister Sana — know the real story. The siblings are very close and though she is older than him, he is fiercely protective of her. She is his biggest cheerleader and also, his silent support. I remember seeing her at the trailer launch of Hero. While everyone was asking her to sit in the front row with her father Aditya, Suniel Shetty and his son Ahaan, she ducked and took a seat in the last row. Away from the spotlight. It was her brother’s day and she didn’t want anything to take away from that. When he got teary-eyed on stage, she too was crying. Here, for the first time, Sana talks about her relationship with Sooraj. Read on…
How were you as kids?
We used to fight so much! I used to hate him. (Laughs). Sooraj and I used to share the bedroom till he was 10. I am three years older than him. But he was a pain! He was a very naughty kid. He would stick chewing gum on my uniform or in my hair. There would be hamsters in his bath tub. He would get chickens home who would poop everywhere. I believe the last time we fought was when we were kids and we would be like, ‘You are adopted, mumma loves me more’ and all that.
But then, he moved out…
Yes, when he was 14. Sooraj started staying in Juhu with our grandparents. He would go there often and he made a lot of friends there. He would go there on weekends and come back on weekdays. But then, he moved to a school there and the weekdays turned into weekends. Eventually, he started living there.
Do you miss not staying together?
I wish we’d spent more time together. At the time, I was in my teens and you get busy with your own life. I got distracted, too. I hope we get to stay together again soon but I don’t know how that’s going to be possible.
Wasn’t it difficult to accept it in the beginning?
Not at all. I was so happy that I was getting the whole bedroom for myself. My little menace of a brother was getting out of the house. But on a serious note, later on, that feeling sunk in. We used to have conversations where I would ask him to come back and he would be like, ‘Why don’t you come and stay here and I will stay with mum and dad?’
Are you guys more like friends?
Completely. Sooraj is younger to me but he’s a lot more mature than me. He’s also more sensible. People keep thinking that I am his younger sibling and I have to clarify it to everyone. He’s extremely protective and caring. We have gotten closer in the past five years. He does share a lot with me and vice versa. I know most of the stuff that others or usually my parents wouldn’t know. It’s either me or Karan Joshi.
How often do you meet?
We meet at least three to four times a week because Sooraj is so busy nowadays. He wakes up at 5 am everyday for his football practice and by the time, he’s done and is back home, he is dead tired. We do dinners and hang out together. He also comes home often to meet our parents.
Do you share the same set of friends? Like Krishna Shroff, Renzing Denzogpa and others?
They are Sooraj’s friends. Renzing, Tiger and Krishna are his friends. I am friendly with his set of friends but we have another set of common friends. I’ve never hung out with Krishna or Tiger other than the times I met them with Sooraj.
How different is Sooraj at home than from the person people know?
He comes across as a very serious and calm person which he is, but he’s also got this crazy sense of humour and this funny side. He does these weird mimicry of people around him. I think he’s got it from mom because she’s got a terrific sense of humour as well. Everyone doesn’t get to see his funny side.
How different are you both?
Poles apart. He’s calm and I’m hyper. So I would go ‘OMG Oh MY God’ about anything and he will be like, ‘Calm down’. He keeps telling me that after meeting me, he needs to go for a relaxation massage. That’s the joke between us. Plus, like any girl, I like to gossip. Sooraj doesn’t. I’m his family, but he won’t gossip even with me. He’s a gentleman. I aspire to be like him.
The Jiah Khan episode must have been trying..
It was a really tough time, because I can’t stand anyone saying anything against my brother and people tagged him as a murderer on social media. I would respond back. But he would ask me to chill. Gradually I have. Sooraj wants me to stop being hyper. He gets irritated when I get cranky about everything I read about him. I am proud of the person he is today.
It must have been really difficult for you when he was arrested?
I broke down. I still do. (she tears up) when I think of it. It was quite painful. I am shocked that the everyone thought he was wrong. I didn’t even think about my brother once when I heard the news of her death. The only thing I was thinking about was her. I didn’t even think about the repercussions on Sooraj because I knew he hasn’t done anything wrong. I have had a hundred break-ups and thought my life is over. But it wasn’t, right? There’s always something that holds you back. We were just being strong and we just prayed a lot.
Even when he was at the poilce station and he was arrested, there wasn’t a single change of expression on his face. He just looked the same as today. We knew that everything would get sorted. It’s still a difficult time because the case is going on. But now, we have reached the point where we know that the truth has to come out and nothing can change the truth.
But your entire family has maintained silence on the issue. Do you think that worked against Sooraj?
Given a chance, I would speak so much. But he has warned me not to. He tells me, ‘Listen Sana, if the media asks anything, you are not going to open your mouth’. If I want to say something, I will just say it. And I have a lot to say on this matter. But you know he’s right. The smart people know the truth.
Do you think perception about Sooraj has changed in the last one year?
Yes, that’s happening. People know now that he isn’t someone who will kill anyone. And I’m happy that, slowly, the perception about him is changing, thanks to his fans who have supported him. He was a kid when all this happened. He was just 21. That’s why when you look at his face today, he looks like he is 28 years old. Because he’s been through so much already. It always reflects on your face. In a few years, everyone will know him better. All I want is to see Sooraj happy and this case to go off his head and I want him to have a clean chit.
Sooraj has also changed a lot ever since this has happened. Comment.
He’s definitely matured so much. He’s changed in a positive way. Not that he was negative before. He understands life better, takes each day seriously. I like that about him. He’s also become very focused. His change is more internal than external. No matter what happens, he is rock solid. He didn’t cry even once when he was in the jail for 23 days, or when his bail got cancelled twice. He just broke down at Nafisa’s (Jiah) funeral. That episode turned his world upside down. It will take time for him to come out of it and open up and be the Sooraj we all know him to be. Because there’s definitely a Sooraj the world hasn’t known or seen yet. He is a little sehma hua, right now. He was shaken up by that entire incident and you can’t blame him for that. He was at least courageous enough to debut in a film and put himself out there for people to judge him even more. I am sure he will be over it soon and when this entire baggage goes off his head, the world will see the real Sooraj Pancholi. He’s not free in his mind right now. After the incident especially, he’s not been what he used to be anymore. I would love to see how he is once this thing is out of his head.
Does he discuss his girlfriends with you?
Of course! I am his sister. He has to get that stamp of approval from me. And now, I’m extra cautious about him and his girlfriends.
Has his perspective towards love changed because of this?
No, Sooraj was always a relationship kind of a person. Before Nafisa, he was dating Janvi Turakhia. He wants someone caring. If someone’s not caring or if he feels things are not going anywhere, he will wander off. But he’s always been a one-relationship, one-girl man. He’s been waiting for me to get married so that he can play with my babies. Can you imagine? He is a family guy so I keep telling him, ‘Why don’t you get married and have your own babies?’ Sooraj will probably have a family before he’s 30. (Laughs) He’s more family- oriented than I am. I don’t want to have babies but he wants to play with babies. Also, he takes love very seriously.
How do you take the link-up rumours about Sooraj?
I understand people want to make him a ladies man because my dad was one. But the truth is, he’s nothing like my father. I am more like my dad. My dad has been the bad boy in the industry but he’s one of the best people. If he’s angry, he will be angry, if he’s sad, he will be sad and if he’s happy, he will be happy. He is what he is. He is never fake. Just because you are into women doesn’t make you a bad person. That’s his life and no one should be interfering in that any way.
What’s the best gift Sooraj has given you?
Oh, I just got one today! (Beaming with excitement) Even before tying him a rakhi. He got coach bags for me and mom. Sooraj has given me a lot of gifts. But I remember with his first pay cheque, he got me this limited edition bag which I would never buy. I would never spend so much money. He also got another bag for my mom and a swanky pair of shoes for dad. He spent half of his pay cheque just on that. So that’s one of our most prized possessions now.
Krishna has started handling Tiger’s work. Do you plan to do something like that?
No, Sooraj is already in the hands of the best. He’s got Reshma Shetty. What am I going to do there? But I always give him my inputs here and there. My managing is going on in the back-end everyday.
What kind of films do you want to see him in?
I’d love to see him in more realistic movies where he doesn’t have to dance or where he doesn’t have to fight. I want him to be in a film which he can do without having a great body. Not always, but he should be so flexible that he can do a non commercial film as well as a commercial one. I think he has the potential to be a good actor. Also, because I don’t like commercial cinema. I think he’s doing a football movie, which isn’t that commercial.
Are you his biggest critic too?
I don’t think I am. Mom tells him what to do. I think about it, but I don’t know why I don’t tell him. Maybe I have told him a few things, but there are some things I would like to tell him soon.