I was thrilled to chat with Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Milionaire) and Saraj Sharma (Life of Pi) of Million Dollar Arm to learn more about their film experience as Dinesh and Rinku, the two winners of the Million Dollar Arm contest. Madhur and Sarah talked about why they wanted to be a part of this movie, their favorite scenes, and more!
We bumped into Saraj at the premiere of Million Dollar Arm and he mentioned that he enjoyed talking to all of the bloggers and he said that we were all super friendly and a lot of fun to talk too. We feel the same way about you, Saraj!
What compelled you to an audition?
MADHUR: I think I speak for both Suraj and I, this is a tremendous feat that these guys have achieved and I had no idea about these guys. Nobody in my family knew. None of my friends knew this story. And what these guys have achieved is something that nobody has ever done in any sport in the history of mankind. So, I was kind of upset and so was Suraj that nobody knew about this story. I think it gave both of us a chance to showcase something different from what people have seen us do in our last films. I played a bad guy in my last film; he played a completely different character. So, I think it’s a great chance for us as young actors to portray something different and expand our spectrum as actors.
And I think it’s very important that this story reaches people and that was the first thing that hit me. And also the fact that, you know, we’ll get a chance to portray real-life characters. And what do you think, Suraj?
SURAJ: Yes, same thing. It’s just the fact that these guys came from nothing, went and did something phenomenal. And nobody seems to realize that they weren’t really appreciated for what they did. It just leads you to think that their story really needs to be told, and people need to know this.
Did you guys talk to the people you actually portrayed? And what was one or two things that you pulled away from the people that you’re portraying?
SURAJ: Dinesh was with us in Delhi when we were training for baseball and he hung out with us a lot, which is obviously great for me, because I’m portraying him in the film. But what he also did was, you know, not just give us an insight hint of his mind, but he used to tell us all these stories and anecdotes of what happened when they were really going through all this that we’re portraying in the film. And that would really give us a lot of insight into how Rinku was at the point in time or how JB was and how Asif’s character was. Just real insights into how these people were feeling when everything was unraveling in front of them.
I think, it was really great spending time with Dinesh as it was really helpful for both of us.
MADHUR: And also the fact that Amit’s character in real life really did have that video camera. He, basically went around him recording footage of everything through the process.
SURAJ: Literally everything. Yes.
MADHUR: So we had this massive footage. That’s how we got to know them before everything happened. Just their body language was so different. Their physique was different. The way they looked at stuff and talked about everything was really different. So all these things together helped us build these people in our heads.
What was your favorite scene to film?
SURAJ: That a tough one. We actually had so much fun, just every day. We were just too young kids, give us a glove and ball, we would just keep playing all day long. They would literally have to drag us on set, but we had a lot of fun like in a lot of scenes. Like, for example, the scene where they throw up was not fun.
MADHUR: Not fun for me. It stank [LAUGHTER]. They had some really disgusting vegetarian soup. Yes, and it really stank.
There were some scenes that were really hard to shoot, like, for example, when we were shooting in India there were some really hot days. 145 degree. 140.
SURAJ: 140? It’s not degrees Celsius. Degree Fahrenheit. I don’t if it got to 140, but it was really hot.
MADHUR: It was 140. I know this for a fact [LAUGHTER], because I checked. I was like my skin is burning how hot is it. Especially when we shot in Lucknow, that was the day. It was a 140. We were enclosed in like four walls and there was this huge ground in the middle. So we had no air flow and the sun just beating down from top with thousands of these people in this small space. It was really hot and we had scenes where we were running around and pitching and what not.
SURAJ: Yes. It wasn’t the hardest for us. Imagine those 300 to 400 people standing there in the heat.
How did you guys get into acting?
MADHUR: I have been in the business ever since I could remember. I started my career as a Michael Jackson impersonator as a child. Before I was three, I got into the entertainment business and when I was five my whole family shifted from Agra, where I was born to Mumbai, just so I could pursue a career in the arts. I had a really amazing supportive family. And they struggled and really pushed for me, and I always wanted to be an actor, be in the movies. I’ve, worked and strived hard to be that.
It’s very liberating to be on a film set. Like as a child I was very shy, a complete introvert, I mean not the kind of person I am today at all. And even then I remember that I wouldn’t be able to answer people’s or just be very communicative, but when I was on stage I was a different person. And that’s when I felt the most confident and the most alive, and I felt that this is where I belong and this is what I’m meant to do. This is where I’m meant to be.
Also, I think it’s one of those businesses where you except people from all walks of life. There’s just a tremendous spectrum of people from different cultures who look different, come together and create art. That’s awesome.
SURAJ: For me, I never knew. I never wanted to be an actor, or anything to do with film, it was more of realization, you know, to some extend I might have not been able to do anything, unless that had happened, because then that just opened my eyes to the fact that, wow, look there is something here that actually I love a lot. And that’s how it began. Your surrounded by so many weirdos who are trying to make something out of nothing and I love that they are full of passion. By weirdoes, I mean it in a very positive way [LAUGHTER]. Like we were saying, you know, insanity is legal on a film set.
I mean you’d be crazy to want to work on a film or movies, but just because of the hours, the amount your working; the amount you have to give to it. You need to be crazy and you feel- I feel very much at home in that situation.
Do either one of you like cricket?
MADHUR: I do. I do like cricket. Saraj is a soccer fan. But I’ve played cricket. Played for college and everything.
Million Dollar Arm is in theaters now!