Is there a sense of vindication after winning the National Award for Jolly LLB?
Winning a National Award was always a dream but I was not chasing it. Its value is much more than any other commercial award. Throughout my career, I’ve had people telling me that I’m a good actor but the awards always eluded me. And then to get this one — given by the government of India — is a great feeling.
How much of the Jolly LLB role was written in the script, and what did you add with your performance?
I made sure I didn’t portray the character of a judge merely as a person with a hammer. On paper, the role was just that much, but I knew that the crux of the film lay in this character, and it was up to me to underline that.
It was a beautifully written part but I improvised a lot. I worked out his back story on my own. That’s the work the actor puts in.
But you’ve done roles with greater impact than Jolly LLB. That usually happens, doesn’t it? For instance, Sean Penn didn’t win an Oscar for I Am Sam but Mystic River. Martin Scorsese didn’t get it for Raging Bull or Taxi Driver but won it for The Departed? Do you think that maybe your other roles led to this win?
I don’t know the mystery of it. I’ve been lucky with good roles. It started with Bandit Queen and then Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin and then, of course, Satya’s Kallu Mama, which got me a lot of attention; people’s expectations grew. But that went against me, because over the next 10 years, I felt taken for granted.
Everyone would tell me, ‘Saurabh, we know you will do a good job,’ and that’s it. No further encouragement. In that sense, being a good actor is the biggest cross one carries. People would say you belong to a different class, don’t do roles in regular films but I wanted to tell them that I have a house to run. So I do commercial films for which I charge money, but I also do two films a year for free. I guess, in that sense, it all leads up to something.
When did you get interested in acting?
I come from a family of musicians. My father is a vocalist while my mother, Dr Jogmaya Shukla, is the first woman tabla player of the country. We grew up with art and culture. Unlike other families, my elder brother and I were allowed to watch four films a week. My exposure to cinema began at an early age. When I was in Class VI, I wanted to make a film. Of course, I didn’t have the means but I thought that if I bought lots of film rolls, take pictures and join them together, it would become a film!
When I joined college, a friend suggested that since we will continued…