By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Admittedy, at the moment there is no bigger star in the country than Mohit Suri whose ongoing performance as Lord Shiva in Devon Ke Dev Mahadev has the entire nation bowing to this soft-spoken bewildered Kashmiri.
Mohit Raina seems shell-shocked by the reverence and adulation. A self-confessed Mama’s Boy, Mohit lives in Mumbai with his mother. Cutting down talk of being involved with his co-star Mouni Roy and of a marriage proposal from Priyanka Chopra’s aunt, Mohit says he is single.
“There is no real-life Parvati in my life. There has been talk of my link-ups. But seriously, there is no time. All I do is shoot and go to the gym. My mother lives with me after my father passed away two years ago. She is inundated with requests to meet me. ‘Bhagwan ke darshan kara do,’ they tell her. But my mother doesn’t take me seriously. She doesn’t think I am a good actor. She thinks I am over-rated, doing just-about okay.”
A screen-god, who is the nation’s sex symbol, sure sounds contradictory.
Laughs Mohit, “It surely is. Well, I guess people people are looking at me in a way they’ve never looked at screen gods before. I am happy and grateful for that. The kind of attention I get is way beyond my comprehension. I know they’re reacting to Shiva Bhagwan and not to Mohit Raina. But still the attention is disconcerting. I guess it’s because every Hindu household has a picture-calendar of Shiva, Parvati and Ganesh.The serial brings alive the calendar-image. That’s the USP of the serial. Whenever I meet people they feel they know me. There is an accessibility to Lord Shiva. He’s a people’s God.People love me.I couldn’t ask for more.”
Fans and admirers from all over the country want a darshan of this home-medium’s Shiva. But Mohit, who shoots for the serial round the clock, has a a one-point contact address with the outside world.
“To be very honest I am not a very outgoing person. I don’t party or socialize. Not only because I can’t(considering my image). But because I don’t want to.This is a lifetime opportunity for me.Even if I was tempted to socialize and womanize, I would have given up the thought for this role. But I am not that kind of people. But I have to go to the gym to be able to expose Shiva Bhagwan’s torso in every episode. People have gotten to know that I visit the gym every day. They are there to meet me every day. And there’s no particular age group of fans seeking to meet me. I have 7-year-old girls, 57-year-old aunties and 85-year-old grandparents desirous of a darshan. The other day, 70-plus ladies from Nagpur showed up at the gym with roses. They didn’t know what else to gift me. I was touched.”
For Maha Shivratri this year, Mohit couldn’t perform Shiva Puja at home. “My mother was very upset. She couldn’t understand that I had to play Shiva even on Shivratri. I had requested for a holiday on Shivratri. My producers laughed their heads off. That’s when I realized I am really seen as some kind of a God. On Shivratri they prayed to me rather than to the Shiva idols. That zapped me. I made sure I performed Shiv Puja after I returned home shooting. But I can’t complain. I love what I am doing. I am quite happy being Mahadev. But Mahadev is completely separate from Mohit Raina.”
Mohit has a formula to get out of character every day after shooting. “Initially I didn’t know how to switch on and off. In due course, I’ve discovered a 15-minute meditation and breathing exercise that I do every day after shooting. That helps me to come out of character.”
Going back to the beginning of his journey, Mohit says, “I am from Jammu & Kashmir. I always wanted to be part of Mumbai’s enterainment world. I participated in Grasim’s Mr India contest in 2006. That’s how it all started for me. I came to Mumbai and I was modeling for a while. Soon I realized modeling was not my cup of tea. I wanted to try my hand at acting. I started with some serials like Chehra that didn’t do well. I also did film Don Muthu Swamy with Mithun Chakraborty.I tried my luck here and there. Finally I got Devon Ke Dev Mahadev. I was destined to play Lord Shiva. And now people know who Mohit Raina is , albeit as Lord Shiva.”
As a Shiva devotee, Mohit found it easy to slip into character. “Initially I wasn’t sure if I could play God. But the makers saw their Mahadev in me. That fact that my father was a Shiv Bhakt helped me to get into character. We are Kashmiri Pundits. When we were in Kashmir my father would take me to the Amarnath temple.People will remember me as Mahadev for as long as possible. I am giving my life to the show. We’ll continue telling the story of Lord Shiva till the time when the story keeps going and the love keeps flowing. Some supreme power wanted me to play Shiva. And I am doing what HE wanted me to. I will continue playing Shiva until the Supreme Power wants me to. At the moment I do nothing else.”
After 17 hours of work when Mohit heads home he can’t have his mother’s cooking. “Unfortunately I can’t have my mother’s rich ghee-laden food. Because Shiva has to have a great body non-stop. Being a foodie,it’s hard. But I can eat all my mother’s food when I am no longer playing Mahadev. At the moment I get so much happiness when people tell me their lives have changed because of the serial. People listen carefully to what I say as Mahadev. If my presence in a 22-minute serial can change lives why would I miss the small pleasures of life?”
About desisting from love involvements, Mohit quips, “A real-life Parvati would demand time and attention. I can’t give her time, I am sure in the future I will have a Parvati in my life. And the Ganesh and Kartik (the kids) will follow. It’s not easy being God. But it’s exhilarating. I tell people not to touch my feet because I am not God. It started with a guy who travelled all the way from Himachal. He insisted I bless him. Since then I realized who am I to deprive people of hope?”