‘Society finds it difficult to accept honest people’
Actor Shekhar Suman is currently busy playing late Urdu writer, Saadat Hasan Manto in Randhir Ranjan Roy’s Ek Haan, which showcases the various stages of Manto’s life. The actor shares that the primary reason why he said yes to the role was because he considers himself a literary person. He has been a writer and a poet too. And, more importantly, he grew up reading the works of Manto, among many other writers. However, while preparing for the play, he refused to watch any films based on the character for references. “I did not want any other actor to influence my approach towards the role. I wanted to avoid that,” says Shekhar, who will soon be performing in Pune.
He adds that it is always “interesting and challenging” to play a character as layered as Manto or as complex as Sahir (Ludhianvi, in the play Ek Mulaqaat). “Manto became controversial because he called a spade a spade. He was honest and would not mince his words. He exposed the duality and hypocrisy of our society. People would cringe at what he wrote and try to push those topics under the carpet. But he stood his ground and did not care about what the world had to
say about him. He was unapologetic of the topics he wrote on. I tried to dig deep on these characteristics while prepping for the role,” he says.
He shares that he has always been intrigued by these characters and related to Manto as well as many others. He says, “Honestly, when you stand up for something, you are often misunderstood. You don’t get your due. There is always a thirst of acceptance. I was often misunderstood. I myself am considered brazen and brutal with my words. I believe in speaking my mind and the truth rather than lying. Society finds it difficult to accept honest people. They tend to sideline them. I see these similarities between such roles and myself. So, the moment these roles came to me, I knew I had to do them. I could not let them go.”
Shekhar feels being anxious is good for an actor’s psyche. “If one isn’t nervous about his or her role then something’s missing,” he says, adding, “I am quintessentially a stage actor. The stage is where you come alive. Films are a collaborative effort. Theatre, on the other hand, is a battle to be won alone. I am not defying the importance of a director, but as an actor, the spotlight is on you, and the stage gives you the liberty to grow with every show.”