Meet actor Harman Singha, VJ Rannvijay’s younger brother
Harman Singha, actor-writer of sci-fi web series A.I.SHA, on how a casual chat with Raghu Ram helped him create the show.HT48HRS_Special Updated: May 16, 2017 16:20 IST
We are at Arre’s office in Bandra, watching Harman Singha in an animated conversation with his fans for a Facebook Live chat. You know him as Sameer from the web series A.I.SHA – My Virtual Girlfriend.
Singha (29) is nothing like his character on the show, he says. “Sam’s an introvert and he’s lonely; he doesn’t fit in socially.” But the two have one thing in common: their love for technology.
“My first tech adventure began when I was 12 years old. I could dismantle a computer without damaging it,” says Singha. And he uses this inquisitiveness while researching for the show. “Science fiction has a huge market in India because we, as a country, have a crazy imagination. We believe in 33 million gods and goddesses, so picture the possibilities,” he adds.
The idea for the show was triggered from a casual conversation with co-writer and actor of the show, Raghu Ram. “We were talking about how frightening it would be if your computer developed a mind of its own. Your most personal information is out there,” he says.
In the show, Singha plays a 26-year-old app developer, who creates an Artificial Intelligence app that eventually turns against him. Despite his confidence in the show’s content, the reception he received was overwhelming, he says. This, after two back-to-back setbacks three years ago, has served as a validation for him. “I acted in a film called Mango which never saw the light of the day. Post that, I worked in Love ka Hangover which got shelved midway,” he says.
Singha comes from an army background and describes his family as “overachievers”. The pressure to excel and do something phenomenal made him quit his Merchant Navy job after three years and try his hands in showbiz.
Though his sibling (Rannvijay of Roadies fame) was doing well for himself as a VJ and host, Harman says it was not easy to get his first break. “My brother couldn’t help me as that kind of nepotism only works if your family has been a part of the industry for generations,” says Singha.
However, it was due to Rannvijay that Singha finally found his calling. “After coming to Mumbai, I used to hang out with my brother on his sets. I wanted to be an assistant director first,” he says. After two films with Nagesh Kukunoor as his assistant director and as a writer with Abbas Tyrewala, Singha got his first acting break in Mango. “I narrated a script to Abbas and he asked me to audition for the lead role,” he adds.
But it was during the making of a web-based travel show (Tap That) that helped Singha understand the preferences of the web audience. “They connect with the characters rather than the shows. That’s why shows like Permanent Roommates and Pitchers have done well. Also, 20 years of bad content on television has spurred people to find alternatives,” he says.
Now the actor is planning to start his own production house, tentatively titled ‘The Northern Lights’. Through it, he hopes to explore science fiction, action thrillers and comedy. While it is ambitious for a production to venture into such diverse genres, he quickly adds, “I have failed at comedy more times than anybody else. After the films got shelved, I tried stand-up comedy too. Now, I want to give it another try,” he says.