In a recent conversation at Loksatta Gappa, Naseeruddin Shah candidly spoke about his craft, the future of entertainment, the bane of social media and even threw some light on the legendary film Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.
Naseeruddin Shah has spent over 40 years as a professional actor which includes his work in the movies and the stage. The fine nuances of his performances could be seen even when he started his career with films like Nishant and Manthan and can still be seen in works like Dedh Ishqiya and Waiting. While many actors speak of “method acting” and how it takes a toll on their personal lives, Shah believes that they are only showing off. He said that when he’s playing Ghalib or George Bernard Shaw, he’s fully aware that he’s only playing the character. Shah further said that it is an actor’s responsibility to keep themselves away from the character or it could start affecting their sanity. After all, playing such diverse characters can take a toll on one’s mind and body. “Unfortunately, in our country, crying is mistaken for good acting,” he says, and rightly so.
As an advice to young actors, Shah explained that it is an actor’s business to take care of their health for they will not be able to explain to each member of the audience that the performance suffered for health reasons. Taking care of one’s body and staying healthy is a part of an actor’s job. He also noted that not all actors have the same strengths, “Try to identify the things which are most essential to you as an actor.”
Naseeruddin, who has been around the block for a long time acknowledged that the future of entertainment lies in the digital medium. Shah worked on the popular short film, Interior Cafe Night, and really enjoyed the process and also revealed that he will be seen doing another short film soon. Cinema halls are witnessing a decline because of the popularity that is enjoyed by digital entertainment and Shah accepted that with phones having the power to entertain on the move, the audience chooses the medium for its convenience as well as its quality. For new talent, short films are a big challenge and Shah believes that this will open many avenues for them in the future.
But Shah was also quick to point out that while digital entertainment is promising, it is the trolls on social media that have created quite a nuisance. “It’s completely beyond comprehension that you just can’t say anything without offending somebody or the other,” he said. He recounted the time when his Facebook post on Einstein’s quote created quite a furore and that shocked him. It certainly speaks a lot about the direction that we, as a society, are heading in.
Naseeruddin also spoke at length about the new generation of actors who are impressing the audience. Actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Alia Bhatt and Rajkummar Rao are changing the landscape of Indian cinema and Shah believes that they are far more talented than his generation of actors, “This generation of youngsters are far more knowledgeable about acting and able to deliver the goods than my generation was.” But he also understands that there is much more to the craft of acting than just Bollywood as he wished that his children must explore other avenues and do more with their lives than getting stuck in the “bubblegum Hindi cinema.”
Naseeruddin Shah is still remembered for his performance as the struggling photographer, Vinod, in the cult classic film, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and he went down memory lane to share a few anecdotes about the film.
He revealed that director Kundan Shah initially wanted to cast Zeenat Aman in the role of the newspaper editor but she was quite a big star at the time and they felt that it would create an imbalance in the film. Aparna Sen was also given a narration but she fell asleep while it was still going on, Shah remembered fondly. Bhakti Barve was finally chosen for the role after Naseeruddin took Kundan to watch her play. The conversation about the film’s sequel has been doing the rounds as fans have kept it’s memory alive and Shah completely agrees. He believes that considering the corruption laden society we live in today, it’s time for a sequel and someone should definitely make it.