Without the fire

no smoke...

Without the fire

Maximum shows a tired Naseeruddin Shah as an encounter specialist cop desperately trying to maintain his foothold in a film industry which is well known for its absurdities and wastage of genuine talent.

Naseeruddin Shah is one ideal example of how the existing system in Bollywood has misused an actor of international calibre, who once set the screen on fire with his histrionic abilities, confidence and personality.

Way back in the middle ‘70s with the starting of neo wave in Hindi cinema, Naseeruddin Shah proved that there was much more to performing in front of the camera than mere shaking of the pelvis, theatricals and delivering larger-than-life dialogues. He was undoubtedly the most gifted of his lot, having completed his BA with distinction from the Aligarh Muslim University and receiving the best possible training in acting from the National School of Drama and FTII, Pune. He was considered the best actor after Balraj Sahni.

The only actor whose bold voice and dialogue delivery matched the baritone of Amitabh Bachhan, Naseeruddin Shah proved his versatility with Ankur, Manthan and Junoon, achieved new heights with a wide variety of characters in Aakrosh, Chakra and Khandahar. He considers Sparsh, Masoom and Paar to be his best and indeed they are. Under the able direction of Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Sai Paranjpye and Goutam Ghosh, Naseeruddin Shah scored as an actor, his versatility and perfection being his best assets.

Naseeruddin Shah took to commercial films with Swami Dada in 1982, but it was a damp squib. He was finally able to secure a good position in popular cinema with Pankaj Parashar’s Jalwa in the late ‘80s and went on to perform in a number of similar films like Tridev and Mohra. On the basis of his sheer acting talent, he was accepted, but he very much lacked rhythm and looked ridiculous in song and dance numbers. Besides, he did not have a face which could register romance at its altruistic best.

The ’90s saw a different Naseeruddin Shah, one who was diametrically opposite to his ’80s persona. He became equally vocal and critical of parallel cinema, of which he was a product. His sharp criticism of his mentors like Ibrahim Al Kazi, Shyam Benegal and even Mrinal Sen astonished many of his ardent admirers, who were shocked at his statements. They started discovering the fact that Naseeruddin Shah was a frustrated and confused actor. He lacked the consistency of his more illustrious predecessor, Balraj Sahni.
The new millennium did not see the same classicism of Naseeruddin Shah in Being Cyrus or Benaras: A Mystique Love Story and other films. His directional debut, Yun Hota To Kya Hota, in 2006, did not live up to the expectations of his fans. He decided never to direct and was even on the verge of quitting films as he found the entire atmosphere in Bollywood ridiculous and atrocious.

However, he never dared to quit facing the movie camera and carried on performing in films like Maqbool, Omkara and Saat Khoon Maaf, to name a few. His recent tryst with potboilers like The Dirty Picture, where he danced to Ooh la la along with Vidya Balan, proved to be a huge commercial success. However, the Naseeruddin Shah of The Dirty Picture and Maximum is definitely not the same actor who was once literally worshipped by discerning viewers.

True, present directors have not been able to do justice to the undeniable talent of this grand actor who once literally perspired, took deep breaths and swam the Ganges along with Shabana Azmi in Paar, for which he was awarded the Best Actor at the coveted Venice Film Festival in 1986. He brought Mirza Ghalib alive with his startling performance in the serial of the same name on Doordarshan. Now, news is that Naseeruddin Shah will be paired along with Amitabh Bachchan in a film by Sujoy Ghosh. Perhaps, the day is not too far when he will light our screens, once again, with histrionic fire.

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