Born in New Delhi, India, on 21st March 1993, Suraj Sharma became an unlikely star thanks to his debut movie role in the 2012 blockbuster “Life of Pi”. The actor was raised in a Malayali family – his father, Gokul Churai, is a professional chess player and engineer, whereas his mother, Shailaja Sharma, is originally from Kerala and works as an economist. Although we don’t know much about Suraj’s younger sister, Dhruvatara, his brother, Sriharsh, is an aspiring actor who’s appeared in a handful of films and shorts.
After matriculating from Sardar Patel Vidyalaya secondary school, and while studying philosophy at St. Stephen’s College, Suraj auditioned for the starring role in “Life of Pi”, despite having no previous acting experience. His brother, Sriharsh, also attended the audition. Ang Lee, the director, previously claimed to have selected Suraj thanks to his innocent appearance and expressive eyes; Suraj beat 3,000 young men for the role.
“Life of Pi” went on to win four Academy Awards, and rake in over $600 million at the box office against a $120 million budget. The movie, based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Yann Martel, was praised not only for its directing, screenplay and music, but for Suraj’s acting, which earned him a BAFTA Rising Star Award nomination, and critical acclaim.
Despite being offered plenty of movie roles following his debut, Suraj returned to St. Stephen’s College, intending to return to his film career later on. After graduating from St. Joseph’s, the New Delhi native began studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts.
In 2014, Suraj made his TV debut playing Aayan Ibrahim in seven episodes of “Homeland”. His next few projects would vary in genre, from sports biopics to independent comedy-dramas and Indian productions.
A couple of slow years ensued in Suraj’s acting career, despite his starring role in the Mongolian-American adventure drama film “Burn Your Maps”. The movie’s premiere took place at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival; it later won Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Calgary International Film Festival, and the American Indie Competition held by Leiden International Film Festival.
Starring: Diljit, Dosanjh, Suraj Sharma (Bollywood debut), Mehreen Pirzada (Bollywood debut)
Directed: Anshai Lal (debut director) pic.twitter.com/XSBI4808TI
— ❤ (@AnushkaAddict) June 24, 2020
Suraj’s first Bollywood venture, “Phillauri” in 2017, was a rom-com starring Diljit Dosanjh and Anushka Sharma. His leading role as Rakesh Singh in the humorous drama series “God Friended Me” lasted from 2018 to 2020; Rakesh was a talented hacker and the best friend of Miles Finer, an atheist podcaster who was subsequently sent on a journey to change people’s lives. The show received mixed reviews, and was criticized by some for its cliffhanger ending.
Concurrently, Suraj also took on other projects, such as his role in “Happy Death Day 2U”, and his portrayal of Hassan in the critically acclaimed Indian-American drama film “The Illegal”. In 2021, the actor was confirmed to have been cast in “How I Met Your Father”, the spin-off from “How I Met Your Mother”; starring Hilary Duff and Christopher Dowell, the show has so far run for two seasons, and is available to view on Hulu.
As of 2023, Suraj’s latest projects have been playing Aditya in the Hindi-language drama film “Gulmohar”, and doing voiceover work in “Star Wars: Visions”.
Suraj has previously been linked to his “Wedding Season” co-star Pallavi Sharda. In the Netflix movie, Suraj and Pallavi’s characters are two wildly different people set up on a blind date by their mothers. Despite recognizing that a relationship between them could never work out, they agree to fake being together and to be each other’s plus-one for all the weddings they’ve agreed to go to over the next few months.
As “Wedding Season” is a feel-good romcom, we can assume that Suraj and Pallavi’s characters ended up finding a way to make their relationship work. However, that’s not the case in real life, as Pallavi is reportedly in a long-term relationship with the Indian screenwriter Abhinav Kashyap.
Similarly, Suraj was rumored to be dating his “How I Met Your Father” co-star Ashley Reyes. At the end of season one, Suraj’s character married his long-distance fiancée Hannah, played by Ashley. As far back as 2021, the actress was confirmed to be in a relationship with her long-term boyfriend Jake Odmark; it’s unlikely that anything happened between her and Suraj, but as both parties refused to confirm or deny the rumors, we’ll never know.
With 55,000 Instagram followers and counting, Suraj keeps his private life far away from social media. The actor posts sporadically, and when he does, it’s always something to do with his upcoming projects. Likewise, the “Life of Pi” star prefers not to get too personal in interviews. One thing that he’s passionate about, however, is Indian representation in Hollywood. “This is our movement. That’s what we’re doing. That’s the real work… We’ve come a long way, but there’s a long way to go,” he told Pop Culturalist in June 2023.
In 2021, Suraj also confirmed that he was open to doing more Bollywood productions. While discussing his role as Hassan in “The Illegal”, he shared how his own experiences and those of immigrants he spoke to in New York City helped him get into character. In the movie, Hassan is an educated middle-class kid who moves from Delhi to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, and ends up having to work at an Indian restaurant to make ends meet.
“I like characters with complexity,” Suraj told The Quint during the interview. “I like dealing with characters that I haven’t gotten to deal with yet, you know, I like challenges.”
With an estimated net worth of $5 million and his vast fanbase, Suraj is lucky enough to be picky about which roles he chooses. It’s very possible that we’ll be seeing him in more and more Bollywood films, while he continues to fight for representation in media.