In the upcoming release Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain, you play the leading man once again.
I’m not a hero but this character is heroic. While growing up and getting to understand relationships, one comes across the kind of relationship shown in the film. There have been men who have almost named their wives ‘Ek Minute (One Minute)’. ‘Ek Minute, sunti ho?’ ‘Ek Minute, zara paani pilado.’ We have witnessed such relationships not just between husband and wife but also between father and their offspring. Saying ‘I love you, Papaji’ to their father is impossible for many. I can see reflections of my uncle in my character. This is the story of what happens after 25-30 years of marriage. When the movie ends, a husband might think let me help my wife in drying clothes.
From having an ‘angry young man’ as a hero, Hindi cinema today has a common man as a central character.
When you watch the story of a character for three hours, you root for him and want him to emerge victorious. I’ve felt heroic while watching Amitabh Bachchan’s movies. The youths of that time were drawn to those characters and they became their heroes. Who is a hero? A hero can be that man posted in Kargil. Heroes are in banks, in cricket — in almost every field of life. Every father is a hero for his children. Babuji of Ankhon Dekhi (2013) presents a different way of looking at life.
For you, how fulfilling is this experience of essaying these characters?
After doing a series of comic roles, when an actor gets something like Ankhon Dekhi, it is madness for him. However, I did not understand Ankhon Dekhi when I first watched it. When I did comprehend it, I fell in love with Babuji. I believe it is the audience which tells an artiste whether he/she has been successful in depicting a character successfully. It’s like a sitarist who ends his performance and waits for the audience applause.
After Ankhon Dekhi, I’ve became confident that I can carry a film. If its story and director are good, they can make me deliver a good performance. However, I’m not confident that I can do anything. I get nightmares before the first day of shooting. This always ends with a member of the crew telling me, ‘Sir, tomorrow’s shoot is cancelled’. This kind of nervous is good for an artiste.
Do you think the evolving taste of audience is leading to changes in content?
Over-the-top comedy has always been seen as entertainment. Loud music passes off as creativity. The audience too gets tired of this. They want something new. Content-driven movies have been made by filmmakers such as Sai Paranjpye and Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Satyajit Ray’s movies have remained timeless. There is drama in life even after you turn 60 or 70. Everyone assumes that only youth-related content works. When it comes to politics and cinema, no one knows what the public wants.
How do you select your projects?
From experience I know, you hear something during narration but the movie turns out to be different. After 23 years, today I am popular. I don’t have much time. So, I want to do something different each time. But I do make mistakes and take wrong decisions. One big draw for me is shooting in real locations where we can enjoy the natural surroundings, spend time together and cook. Otherwise, what’s the fun of being an actor?
What profession would you have chosen had you not been an actor?
Maybe I would have been a popular paanwallah or a popular chaatwallah. I would definitely been popular in whatever I would have done.