Interview by Aditi Singh (for TMM-ThnkMkt Magazine)
You began in an era where ‘Khans’ and ‘Kumars’ ruled the Bollywood kingdom. How difficult was it to sculpt your name in minds of your audience?
Everything in life take its own time. I too took my own sweet time and gain recognition in an era where ‘Khans’ and ‘Kumars’ are most loved. The names ear-mark magic in hearts of audience which doesn’t let anyone else, but them ‘stay’. I strongly believe that there is something very true that surrounds me.During the tenure I was confident to make it ‘big’ on a fine day. All of which persuaded me to focus, stay and work harder to be noticed, known and recognised in own coalition.I am glad that I am respected as an ‘actor’ beyond to most work I have done as a ‘comic’ actor which ensures that I get to read good scripts. There I take a moment of self-satisfaction.
Comedy or serious characters; what is more close to you?
Good-humour is my style; serious personality subsists deep inside me. Both are equally significant to me as an individual. For instance, I just completed shooting for ‘Kamyaab’ by Drishyam films; now working on ‘Dhamaal’. Both are great in own terms.
You have played a variety characters and turned them strong. How significantly difficult is it for an artist to foresee characters making their space in hearts of audience? Do we say all of it comes with experience?
Every time I sign a project, I convince myself about ‘kind’ of the film. The flavour, look of the film sets a certain boundary for me to make sure that I do NOT cliche’ myself in a certain role. For instance, the moment you play role of a drunkard or a blind-man; you are at a high-risk of being stereotyped in bounds of a character. Once you do a certain film of a sort; audience starts comparing you wit someone else who has done commendably well in a certain role. Like when I did ‘Kadwi Hawa’; I had to warrant my performance in a manner that people do not divert from the story or cause. Before we began shooting for it, I observed a blind man who even used a mobile phone. When I wake up in the morning, I see sunlight. How is it any different for you?’ I asked him. His response uttering ‘sound’ is what made all the difference.
After so many years in the industry, your role as ‘Shukla ji’ from office office still conquers hearts of audience. Where have we gone wrong in terms of the bringing age-less comedy like that? Are we moving in the right direction to connecting with the assemblage?
The genre of comedy shows like office-office was a mirrored reflection of the society. The rendition of everything that moved from below the table, way bureaucrats dealt with common man was characterised in a non-offensive but humorous manner.Most of the time when I went on-air; I used to ‘listen’ to the dialogues rather than ‘watching’ the show. It has been a long while that the idiot-box had put effort beyond daily soaps that has kept us at-bay from what we never get to see otherwise. All of that was ‘India in real terms’ which we are unable to watch these days.
You have witnessed a great deal of transition in the industry. From being hardly visible, to being readily available. However, you are hardly visible on social media. Why is it difficult to catch a glimpse of you anywhere but the screen?
If ever I had a social media follower who would search and find me in reality; that would be an achievement for me. I strongly believe in ‘slow but steady move to win a race’. A gradual increase in the number of people walking up to compliment my work is rewarding. I do not feel it right to directly connect with people who I want to. Somewhere, it is incorrect for the profession I am in. If I get into being available on social media; I am sure I would divert myself to something I never had my mind in. I strongly believe that if I am a part of a film project my work is half done in terms of reach to the audience. The single motivation is task half done and announce me a ‘happily satisfied artist’.
The last year has been very good with respect to small budget films. The projects in fresh category, different story lines but small budgets did fireworks at the box office. What made those ‘click’ on the silver screen? Is audience’s choice changing over time?
I am pleased to see exceptional films finally making their way to reach hearts of on-lookers. In fast paced lives, it is difficult to find time. An outing to a theatre is nothing less than blocking time for three to four hours. If a viewer is taking out time to wake up, get out and watch an off-guarded contemporary motion picture; it must be considered as an alarm to commercial cinema to wake up to a new India which demands no-less but a meaningful cinema. Worthwhile scripts, commendable acting and a cynosure directive together packages cinema which doesn’t require funds to prove its worth. Running only in third generation of independent India, it is a very short span to get up, stay and announce thoughts like never before. Everything shall fall in its place but in own time.
You have worked on-screen and behind the camera too. What is You have worked on both on-screen and did your directorial debut, which one would you find more comfortable doing?
I debuted as a director with ‘Pranam Walekum’. Making cinema is passion and demands time, dedication and focus. Since I do more of acting projects, that remains close to my heart. However, art direction remains my long-lost love and you would see me doing it soon.
The kind of art you follow speaks a lot about you. Make a conscious decision and carefully choose what you ought to!