'Finality in cinema is scary'

'Finality in cinema is scary'

Veteran actor

If you’ve watched him in Anu Menon’s recent movie, Waiting, you will know what Naseeruddin Shah stands for. The film allows one to enter that chapter of life, which we are scared to even think about.

Playing the role of ‘Shiv’ — who has spent months in waiting for a sign from his comatose wife. Shah has approached the role in such a way that the audience can experience pain through his simple gestures like a hearty laugh or sometimes pure and eerie silence.

Such movies, Shah agrees, are an experience for him. But is he more experienced as an individual?

“Personally, I cannot claim to be more experienced. But I can say that all my knowledge about life, relationships, situations and reasons for conflict is because of theatre and cinema. I’ve not learnt so much from books as I’ve learnt from engaging with movies and theatre that I’ve done,” says Shah during his ‘Retrospective of his films’ on the first day of ongoing Jagran Film Festival.

However, between cinema and theatre, Shah feels that in theatre, there is more scope of improvising and cinema, because of its “finality” is “brain racking”

“This aspect about cinema, where one can watch a movie even after 100 years, is brain racking. One cannot be infallible. Yet the finality in cinema is so scary that it has kept me away from making a movie, many times,” he says.

Recipient of the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan and three National Film Awards, Shah refuses to agree that he has achieved all what he wanted to. 

“It would be scary to say that I have achieved all  I wanted to. Today I’m old and have children, but I still feel the same thrill in my life as I felt when I first saw myself on the camera in Aman,” says the 66-year-old, referring to his first film in which he got the role of a side actor. Shah was 16 that time.

In his career — spanning almost 36 years — as a film actor, director and theatre personality, Shah has done as many as 250 movies. And he boastfully adds that there were 200 more, some of which simply vanished and others, which despite having creative excellence and powerful content, failed to hit the screens.

He doesn’t shy away from accepting that he’s had his share of bad movies. Of some, he even feels ashamed to be a part of.

According to Shah, there can be many reasons why a bad movie is made. From the director not having the right conviction, to different perspectives that people might have for the script — a bad movie can be credited to various reasons.

But Shah says that he should read scripts more carefully. “Sometimes, when I read a script and I find it thrilling, it is because of the way I read it. I do find flaws while reading scripts but I believe that the writer must be aware of those flaws. I can’t analyse a script until I begin to engage with it and till then, it’s probably too late,” he elucidates.

Nonetheless, with his vast knowledge and experience, Shah is open to working with first-time directors. In a way, he is attempting to break away from actors who usually feel apprehensive about working with debutant directors.

“Ninety nine per cent of the respected filmmakers in the industry have their first films as best films. They make their first movie with a lot of dedication because it means a lot to them. So I’m always open to working with first-time
directors,” says Shah.  

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