Cinema for the soul

Cinema for the soul

Cinema for the soul

When Dedh Ishqiya released earlier this year, it was promoted as a Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi flick and a comeback film for Madhuri Dixit, but the character that stayed with the audiences after coming out of the theatres was that of Jaan Mohammad, portrayed by the lanky Vijay Raaz.

Interestingly, the actor has been a scene stealer ever since he started acting in films with Monsoon Wedding in 2001. Whether it was his smaller role in Run or the lead role of a common man in Raghu Romeo, he has always turned the audience’s attention towards him and has been applauded for his performances as well.

The size of the role hardly matters to him, confesses the actor who has now turned a director with Kya Dilli Kya Lahore — a period film set in the post-Independence era dealing with the India-Pakistan Partition — that released on May 2.

Behind the camera

Having grown up in the 70s in Delhi, Raaz has been a witness to the impact the Partition had on people’s lives. Thus, he connected to the story instantly, when producer Karan Arora brought it to him. “His brother Aseem Arora, who has also written the story, was supposed to direct it. But over time, looking at my involvement and enthusiasm for the subject, Karan offered me the director’s chair and I took it up,” says Raaz, adding that most of the things in his life have happened like this, impromptu.

But ask him if he was comfortable taking up direction, as it is a much bigger responsibility than doing just one role in the film, and he says that it was effortless. While he agrees that direction requires a greater creative control and deeper involvement, what worked in his favour is the “limited premise” of the story. “The story revolves around only four characters, one of which is played by me, making it easy for me to direct. Plus, we also didn’t need to shoot at multiple locations,” he explains.

However, it’s his comfort level with the art of storytelling that makes everything easy for him. “The nuances of storytelling are inbuilt in me. A character may be written by a writer, but it is an actor that gives it a shape. I call it inner direction. That is what I do after taking up any role. I design it within me,” says Raaz quite philosophically.

Choice of films

His views are similarly philosophical when it comes to talking about his criteria for selecting movies he wants to be a part of. He makes it clear that he doesn’t run after work. He is quite content with what he gets. “Whatever comes my way, if I like it, I take it up,” he says and adds that he doesn’t even like the idea of categorising films as content-oriented or masala films. “In my career, I have worked with almost all kinds of filmmakers and have felt comfortable,” he remarks.

The actor, who has always been appreciated for his roles, says that he never gets carried away by appreciation. “It feels good to be recognised for your work, but I don’t let it affect me. It feels good that I get paid for my passion,” he says, accepting the fact that an actor’s life isn’t that easy as there’s no guarantee of getting work. “But it is my passion for acting that keeps me going.”

However, coming back to the film, he says that the association of legendary lyricist-writer Gulzar with the movie, has been a blessing of sorts. “Gulzaar sahab is an institution. I respect him because he has seen life and learnt from it. I value his association to the film and his instant approval to be a part of it. Since he has experienced Partition, he came as a resource to us. He guided us in many ways,” says the actor.

But then, he also confesses that no human being inspires him. He doesn’t believe in books to learn things. “It is nature that moves me. And my experiences that teaches me,” he says.

Ask him if there’s another directorial venture on the anvil and he quite philosophically concludes, “Agar zindagi rahi aur main zinda raha toh bahut kuch hoga (If life continues and I am alive, then a lot can happen).”