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‘I am against all kinds of systems’

I think you should ask the audience and the industry that.

Written by PriyankaPereira | New Delhi |
June 24, 2012 1:36:53 am

I think you should ask the audience and the industry that.

You have often been tagged as the poster boy of meaningful cinema. What do you feel about it?

I think you should ask the audience and the industry that. Right now,I feel what I am trying to do is ‘middle of the road cinema’. I am trying to strike a balance between formula films and non-formula ones. So where I have a Manorama Six Feet Under and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye,I also have a Dev.D,and for a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara,I have a Shanghai. I am happy mixing entertainment with content.

Shanghai has got excellent reviews. Are you happy you did the film after initially rejecting it?

I am very happy I did the film and I am happier about the appreciation that has come our way. I did not want to do it because I thought I would never be able to do justice to the role. I couldn’t see myself playing the character and I don’t think anyone else would have imagined me playing the role either. But Dibakar (Banerjee,director) was convinced that I would do it well. Also,when I read the script,I loved it.

What was the most challenging aspect of your role as TA Krishnan?

I had to underplay my character. In films,Tamilians are often portrayed as loud. The idea was to not make the Tamilian character look caricaturish. It had to be subtle yet effective. Also in India,there are no professional trainers to train you in a particular language. So getting the accent right was another tough task.

So what are the compliments that have come your way after the release?

I wouldn’t like to blow my own trumpet,but the reviews have all been positive. There have been a couple of Tamilians who came up to me and said,‘You looked like my dad.’ or ‘You look exactly like a Tamilian.’

Are you reconciled now to commercial cinema?

I was never against commercial cinema. I started out with films like Socha Na Tha and Ahista Ahista which were as mainstream as they could get. The perception probably built when I did movies like Manorama… and Ek Chaalis Ki Last Local. I definitely like to do a certain kind of cinema,but then the most important part is the script,even more than my own character in the film. If the script doesn’t appeal to me,I will not do an offbeat film either.

Has your job been made easier by the blurring between mainstream and offbeat cinema of late?

The lines haven’t blurred at all. There is still a huge demarcation between the way commercial and alternative cinema is perceived in India,the only difference being,today movies are sold as they are. A Rowdy Rathore is sold as a commercial venture and Shanghai as a non-formula film. The audience are aware of what they are going in to watch. And the good part is that they are ready to embrace both kinds of films.

What will it take for you to do a complete masala entertainer?

I am already doing one — Chakravyuh. That’s the most commercial film I have done so far. But then this isn’t because I want to bend towards commercial cinema. I loved the script and Prakash Jha’s work as a director. The other film I am working on,Rock the Shaadi,is another first-of-its-kind. That’s the plan — to follow each formula film with a non-formula one. Shanghai should have ideally been followed up with Rock the Shaadi,but then it got a little delayed.

Did you always want to be an actor?

The initial inspiration,of course,came from my family. I grew up knowing that I wanted to be an actor. My family did try to tell me that I should either be an engineer or a doctor,but I was adamant. But they were really nice and sweet to me,and let me do whatever I wanted to.

As a kid,did you go for shoots?

Yes,all the time. I remember going to Kashmir for most of my taayaji’s (Dharmendra) shoots. In fact,that was how I travelled around India. I also remember having a great time seeing my taayaji act.

Was it difficult to cut yourself off from the image they had created?

Yes,there were people in the industry who expected me to conform to a certain image created by my family in the industry. They wanted me to carry the legacy forward. But I chose to not look at the cons,and focus on the pros instead. Coming from a film lineage,I got easy access to the industry. Also,my family has a lot of goodwill in the industry,which held me in good stead.

Was your family okay with you moving away from typical Bollywood fare?

They were a little worried for me,but were very supportive of my choices.

Do you consider yourself fortunate that you came to the industry when independent cinema was just coming up?

I debuted in 2005,when independent cinema had still not picked up. It was disheartening in the beginning,but we kept trying. In such a scenario,it depends on what you focus on. I chose to focus on the positives. I think the last five years have been crucial. The audience and the industry were speaking a whole new language. Even the filmmakers realised the importance of distribution,marketing and promotion,which helped this kind of cinema in a huge manner. Somewhere,I feel happy and proud that I have been a part of this change and people have accepted me with these films.

At what point in your career did you believe that you had become a saleable actor?

I think with Manorama Six Feet Under. Although it wasn’t a big commercial success,it helped me establish myself. People started talking about me and appreciated me as an actor. With Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! I got a lot of recognition. But it was Dev.D that made me feel secure as an actor.

Does this mean you have also come to accept the star system,which you so strongly defied at one point?

I am against all kinds of systems (laughs). How can one be a star in one’s own eyes? But I do enjoy the appreciation and adulation. And it doesn’t matter if my audience calls me a star or an actor,as long as they like the work I do.

What made you sign up for endorsements? You have always been against them…

I did consciously stay away from endorsements,because whatever came to me did not appeal to me. I also believed that I am an actor first,and not a model. Given a choice,I wouldn’t do any endorsement even now. But,after all,I am human and I am tempted by money. The ideal situation would be to do one endorsement a year and that’s what I plan to do.

What’s happening with your production house?

I am trying to put a few projects together.

My production house helps in the creative processes of most of the films I am part of now.

Do you plan to get into direction ever?

I don’t know. I would like to direct for sure,but then it is a tedious job.

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