It’s quality over quantity for Naseeruddin Shah, a versatile actor who has spent 35 years breathing life into innumerable, well-etched out characters on the big screen. The National Award winner admits that he is getting better roles now than ever, but he picks a film only if he has ‘faith’ in it and when his ‘instinct’ pushes him to go for it.
“It is extremely gratifying, flattering almost, that so many young people find place for me in their films. I’m probably being offered better parts now than I was being offered five years ago or for that matter in my 35-year-old career,” Shah said in an interview.
The 65-year-old actor has given memorable performances in films like Ijaazat, Sparsh, Aakrosh, Karma and Masoom, to name a few. But in recent times, he has been proving his versatility over and over again without bothering about the screen time he gets.
Whether it was the role of a cricket coach in Iqbal, a common man ready to change the system in A Wednesday, a conman in Ishqiya or a painter in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, he carried out every role with aplomb. The length of the role isn’t important for him anymore, as he believes that his priorities as an actor have changed over the years.
“When I began my career in films, I had a lot of hopes, most of which have been fulfilled. The hopes were to play varied roles and to be different in every movie. My priorities over the last 35 years have shifted a little.
“I’m still not averse to play great roles, but that is no longer the most important thing for me. Over the last 10 years, I think I have come to a realisation of what an actor’s role in a film should be. That’s why I have been participating in any movie that I feel needs support and in which I have faith. The size and the importance of the part has receded to secondary importance for me,” said the actor, who received a Padma Bhushan award in 2003 for his contribution to Indian cinema.
Currently he is looking forward to his return as a lead character in Anurag Kashyap’s production venture Michael, directed by a newcomer, Ribhu Das Gupta. Shah plays a tainted cop, whose trials and tribulations have been narrated in the film.
“To get a script like Michael, where I was the eponymous character, it was a bonus to be present in practically every frame. But my real reason for doing the film was because I feel it’s a sensible film and it is a film that will be remembered.
“Actors are not remembered as persons, but for the roles they do. So at the moment, my priority is to be part of movies which will survive the test of time and the ones I am proud of,” he added.
There’s another criterion behind Shah’s choice of films.
“I choose my films on instinct. My reason to do every film is different. I should just feel like doing it. I believe in my instincts. When I decide to do a film, I don’t think whether that film will work or not or whether it will fetch awards or not. All I think is how can we make this film a good film.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2011.