September 18, 2010, KOLKATA (Calcutta Tube): Naseeruddin Shah is known as an actor who never repeats himself. Sreya Basu catches up with the National Award winner during shooting of Michael in Kolkata
What is Michael all about?
The film, directed by Ribhu Dasgupta, is a thriller centering a Kolkata-based Catholic family. I play Michael, an ex-cop, who tries to get a secured future for his son.
You started with art cinema, moved to commercial films, did television, anchored cricket shows and also have done theatre. What makes you try different things all the time?
I guess that’s what makes life worthwhile. I want to try everything that I feel I should…grab every dream I have. My earliest dream was to be an actor. I also wanted to be a cricketer; dreamt of being a filmmaker, and always wanted to be on the stage. So I feel pretty much blessed to get the opportunity to try my hand at all these things.
Is there anything that you wanted to do, but haven’t done so far?
Ya. I really, really want to make a film.
What kind of film?
The kind of film I would like to see. I am really not fond of Hindi commercial cinema, I never was. These films never caught my fancy. I was fond of Ealing Studios’ comedies when I was a child. I loved westerns always, also war movies. I didn’t see any Hindi movies when in school. My father was rather strict in selecting which movies we see and he will always accompany us to theatres. But then, there are actors from the Hindi film industry like Motilal, Balraj Sahni and Yakub, whom I find versatile. And I love Shammi Kapoor…I can never do things like he did.
So, which actors/directors really inspired you?
People like Anthony Quinn, Paul Muni, Spencer Tracy and Charles Gordon had formative influence on me.
What was your childhood like?
I was an unhappy kid. I had no friends; was not popular in school. I was neither good at studies, nor at games. I was one of the wallflowers whom nobody notices. I was withdrawn; didn’t speak much, not because I didn’t have anything to say, but used to feel that I will make a complete fool of myself if I open my mouth. I confessed about my passion for acting to my two brothers, who were extremely supportive; but dared not mention it to my father.
Then, how did acting happen to you?
As luck would have it, when at Class IX, my father pulled me out of my first school and put me in a school run by Indian Jesuit priests (St Anselm’s in Ajmer). There I got a group of friends and we enacted scenes from The Merchant of Venice where I played Shylock in close imitation of my all time favourite actor Geoffrey Kendal. And suddenly, my whole life changed. I was terrified for the first two seconds I was on stage…staring at black space in front of me (audience), with lights shining on my face. But as I started speaking, I could hear a bit of laughter and a bit of approval from that black space. Honestly, that was the first taste of acceptance that I had in life and realized this is the place where I belong.