‘I WAS DY­ING TO PLAY GANDHI’

Had he acted in a Western, Naseerud­din Shah would be the one to shoot from the hip. He gets can­did on strug­gles, re­makes, and fame

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Front Page - Sneha Ma­hade­van

After four decades in cin­ema, one would ex­pect Naseerud­din Shah to be a pro at diplo­mat­i­cally tack­ling all kinds of ques­tions. But his an­swers are al­ways earnest, and, by his own ad­mis­sion, they might some­times “land him in trou­ble”. Yet, he’s one ac­tor who still calls a spade a spade — what’s more, he still hasn’t for­got­ten his strug­gles.

“These were new peo­ple who were try­ing to make their first movie against great odds and that im­me­di­ately af­fected me,” he says about the team be­hind his new film, The Hun­gry, based on Wil­liam Shake­speare’s play Titus An­dron­i­cus. Film adap­ta­tions of the Bard’s work aren’t new, but what ap­pealed to Naseer were two things — he’d be help­ing these new film­mak­ers and the play was new for him.

Re­call­ing his ex­pe­ri­ences, he says, “Even when I was in the po­si­tion that I was [in], when I was try­ing to make a movie, I had to face quite a lot of mor­ti­fi­ca­tion when I went ask­ing for money. The di­rec­tor [of The Hun­gry], Bornila Chat­ter­jee, and the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, Tanaji Das­gupta, came to meet me and I just liked them.” He was also in­trigued by their choice — this is one of the lesser known Shake­spearean plays. “I pulled it out and read it, be­cause I hadn’t read it. I don’t think any­one has read it. It’s far from be­ing his great­est play but it makes for great drama,” says the 68-year-old thes­pian.

But, in general, Naseer isn’t a be­liever in film adap­ta­tions of books. He men­tions “truly great writ­ers like Eve­lyn Waugh and An­thony Burgess”, whose books haven’t been adapted “be­cause their ex­quis­ite qual­ity of prose can­not be trans­lated in cin­ema”. He has a sim­i­lar opin­ion on re­makes — he doesn’t like them. “Hindi movies are be­ing re­made by the score be­cause they’re too lazy to think about fresh ideas,” says Naseer.

The con­ver­sa­tion moves to In­dian ac­tors look­ing West­wards. Naseer, who had a star­ring role in the Hol­ly­wood block­buster, The League of Ex­tra­or­di­nary Gen­tle­men (2003), un­der­stands the urge to at­tain global fame. “I dreamt of it,” he says, “which is why I was dy­ing to play Gandhi. I wanted in­ter­na­tional star­dom. I never got it. It’s fine. I got my due else­where. If I had got the role of Gandhi, what would have be­come of Ben Kings­ley? (laughs) Ev­ery­one gets what’s in his share.”

PHOTO: SATISH BATE/HT

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