Survivor’s Story

Himalayan News Service


It’s hard to imagine Naseeruddin Shah doing a Bollywood song and dance sequence. But not only has Shah done so in the past films of Rajiv Rai but he is also playing a flamboyant, play-boyish character” in the director’s new movie ‘Asambhav’. Shah, associated with sensitive and powerful films like ‘Masoom’ and ‘Sparsh’, said that while Bollywood was getting slicker, “we’re still doing the same old stories.” Excerpts: Everyone looks up to you as an actor. Is there anyone you look up to? In the Indian film industry, I’m afraid, no! But I admire the younger set of actors who have come in the last 10-15 years. I really admire them because they have made it on their own.

Look at the careers of Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty and actors like Irfan Khan and Boman Irani. I think they are marvellous actors. They have not made it in the industry because they are the sons of some famous actor. They’ve made it because of their talent and their ability. I admire them because they have brought a certain system of discipline. What would your comments be on the film industry today? It’s becoming much slicker on the surface, but I don’t think we are making any progress in terms of content. We’re just doing the same old stories. You’ve worked with Rajiv Rai in most of his films. How different is ‘Asambhav’ from ‘Tridev’ or ‘Mohra’?

All three films are different. In ‘Tridev’ I play a romantic role. Rajiv Rai cast me as a romantic hero in ‘Tridev’ against the advice of all well-wishers. I did a singing and dancing role. He approached me for ‘Gupt’. But I had other commitments at that time. He then approached me for ‘Mohra’ and asked me if I wanted to play a villain. Rajiv thought of making my character in ‘Mohra’ a cripple, but I suggested we make him blind. That’s how ‘Mohra’ happened. That launched Akshay Kumar and Suniel Shetty. Then came ‘Asambhav’. He offered me the role of a play-boyish, flamboyant kind of character. It’s quite different from what I have done before in terms of characterisation and appearance. I have dyed my hair blonde. I have worn a lot of cool clothes. I play a cheerful, witty character in ‘Asambhav’. My character is slightly wicked, who of course turns out to be good.

The music of the film is extremely contemporary. You’ve also recorded a song for the film. Did you agree to sing instantly or did you have to be cajoled? (Laughs) Rajiv does not have to cajole me. I cannot forget the fact that he has given me two box-office hits in my entire career of 250 films. How I’ve survived sometimes is a mystery to myself. I don’t participate in any singing, but in this movie I’ve sung a song. It’s a rap number. It was great fun. When one thinks of Naseeruddin Shah, films like ‘Masoom’, ‘Monsoon Wedding’ and ‘Ijazat’ come to mind. You’ll now be seen in ‘Asambhav’. As an actor, do deglamourised roles appeal to you more or negative, funny characters with shades of black, white and grey?

I’ve never selected roles because they are glamorous. I have realised that I cannot survive on the basis of glamour or attractiveness. The attractiveness lies in the truth I can bring to my performances. I don’t fool myself by saying I am a glamorous actor. I’m flattered when offered a glamorous role like in ‘Asambhav’. There are a lot of youngsters in the film. Were you reminded of the days when you were doing what they are doing now? No (smiles). That’s a dangerous trap to fall into. Everybody I meet keeps reminding me of ‘Jalwa’ and so on. But that’s in the past. I treasure those memories. But I don’t live in the past. I look into the future.