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Pursuit of Happiness

In 2005,Naseeruddin Shah portrayed a true-to-life character in Parzania,whose family is torn apart by the Gujarat riots.

Written by Debesh Banerjee |
January 31, 2009 2:50:57 am

ore his next release Firaaq,Naseeruddin Shah talks about creating his own space in Bollywood

In 2005,Naseeruddin Shah portrayed a true-to-life character in Parzania,whose family is torn apart by the Gujarat riots. His latest role in actor Nandita Das’ (with Shah in inset picture) directorial debut Firaaq,is also set in Gujarat. This time,however,Shah plays Khan Saheb,a classical Indian musician who lives in a Hindu neighbourhood and is oblivious to the sectarian violence.

Set among actors Raghubir Yadav,Paresh Rawal,Deepti Naval,Shah says he’s relieved that Jagjit Singh did all his singing. “I’m an extremely average singer,” he says with a grin. “Even the humming and aalaps that my character has done in the film is by Jagjit.” Shah was in Delhi for a promotional tour before the film releases on February 27.

In a career spanning 34 years,Shah has created a special slot for himself,balanced finely between commercial and art cinema,and theatre. Despite his unconventional choices of small art movies,he has a strong fan following who expect a different standard of him. “It’s not like I have something against roles in commercial cinema. It’s just that I’m at a stage in my career where I try to be part of the project,rather than just the character. After all,somebody should be doing alternate cinema,” explains Shah. He regards the 1954 Hollywood musical,Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,directed by Stanley Donen as his all time-favourite.

Firaaq is a more contrarian approach to the riots in Gujarat. In the film,Shah sports a snow white beard and a black skull cap and the story revolves around the reactions of the characters to the violence and their interaction over of a period of 24 hours. “In terms of appearance,I resemble Bismillah Khan saheb,” says Shah.

Currently,Shah has thrown himself into rehearsals for a new Dastangoi production with Mahmood Farooqui,and a few more theatre productions for the Prithvi Theatre to be staged in Mumbai in July this year . About directing a film,Shah remains non-committal. He says his first venture in direction Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota didn’t exactly rock the box office. “It is too much hard work,” smiles Shah wryly. “Acting is easier.”

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