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Monday, July 23, 2018

Naseeruddin Shah: Money has never been a criterion

As Naseeruddin Shah reprises the role of a lovestruck imposter in Dedh Ishqiya, the powerhouse actor talks about stories taking shape in his mind

Updated: January 11, 2014 10:11:38 am

Naseeruddin Shah in a scene from 'Dedh Ishqiya'.

Naseeruddin Shah in a scene from ‘Dedh Ishqiya’.

Nearly three years later, you are playing loveable Khalu Jaan again in Dedh Ishqiya. How has the experience been?
All the homework for this role was already done and I was looking forward to working with Arshad Warsi. We had a very good time while shooting for Ishqiya. I was really impressed with director Abhishek Chaubey not making another film after Ishqiya’s success. He could have signed up for half-a-dozen films. But he did not. He made the film that he felt he should. He is a sensitive and funny director. But he is not at all funny in real life. The icing on the cake was Madhuri.
Do we get to see different shades of Khalu Jaan this time?
He is little older. But he is the same — wearing his heart on his sleeve. He is still an imposter. These two men remain the same — ‘characterless characters’ as Arshad calls them. I hope they continue to entertain.
Was working with Madhuri Dixit-Nene as wonderful as it looks on screen?
It was one of the few times that I have played a character in love. I have done it before in Ijaazat and Baazar, apart from some terrible films. For some reason, no one has cast me as such a character. I think because I was better as the rebel or the unusual one. The film industry has a habit of slotting people. No one saw me as that kind of person except Abhishek.
Working with Madhuri was a privilege. She is as wonderful a person as she looks. Even though she came back to India after a long gap, her popularity was intact. I have done three other films with her. But we did not have too many scenes together.
Some of your movies, including the last one Jackpot, have been panned by critics and fans.
Jackpot’s story was supposed to be told in reverse. That’s what I found interesting. Also, I like Kaizad and his Bombay Boys. But the film did not turn out the way it was supposed to. It got changed completely during the editing. I felt very let down. It was a mistake. One makes mistakes.
What made you act in movies like Sona Spa?
The film’s director Makrand Deshpande has very interesting ideas. Some day, he will make a movie that will astonish people. I didn’t think Sona Spa would be that. But it had the germ of a great idea — getting somebody to sleep for you. My role was a satire on godmen, which I enjoyed doing as I believe these men are charlatans.
So, what draws you to a project?
Money has never been a criterion. It is not that I don’t value money. But it’s not the main thing. It is great if I can get both — money and enjoyment. If that happens every five years, I am happy as the joy from such a project lasts a long time.
How far do scripts help in making up your mind?
You can never tell how a film will turn out by just hearing the script. You have to go by your instincts. I have read the most brilliant scripts, which have turned into rubbish films. And I have met the most inarticulate young men who could not tell a story but have made wonderful movies. I knew nothing about Shoaib Mansoor who made Khuda Kay Liye, Neeraj Pandey who directed A Wednesday, or Kaizad. I took a chance every time. Recently, I shot for Homi Adajania’s Finding Fanny Fernandes. I felt like doing the film.
You have acted in yet another Pakistani movie Zinda Bhaag, which is likely to release in India this year.
I liked the movie in parts. Even though there are some weak parts, what the movie is trying to say is important enough for me. It is the first film of the filmmakers and their intentions were good. Soon, good movies will come out of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, but not India. Even though India has stories to tell, we are stuck with
happy endings.
Would you blame it on the writing?
Who to blame is very difficult. It’s the system that has perpetuated itself. And the system has not outgrown the early talkies days — the habit of telling stories underlined in red and having lengthy explanatory climaxes. We take pride in our technical advances. You have an army of producers, promoters, exhibitors and distributors who think they know what makes a successful movie. And it’s an acknowledged fact that a movie can be manipulated to be a success.
People like me should be happy that we are allowed to do our own thing on the side. And then have the privilege of acting in a movie like Dedh Ishqiya.
Are you doing a new play this year?
I have not decided yet. I have two-three ideas in mind. I am doing a performance reading of Saadat Hasan Manto’s Toba Tek Singh at the Kolkata Literary Festival. I have long wanted to make this into a play. But it would be very difficult. Probably by end of
this year, we will do a dramatised telling of this story, the way we do Ismat Chugtai’s Ismat Apa Ke Naam, along with a couple of other stories by Manto.
Have you considered directing a film again?
No. But there are a couple of ideas for movies growing in my head. Maybe, I will write a script and ask someone like Abhishek or Neeraj to direct it.

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