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February 21, 2015

Shah’s trip down memory lane


February 21, 2015

“The purpose of writing my memoirs was to re-examine my relationships in life and finding a means for catharsis.” This was claimed by Naseeruddin Shah, a famous Bollywood actor in a session on the first day of the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF), held at Alhamra Art Centre in Lahore on Friday. The session was titled “Hero and Anti-hero” - Book Launch: And Then One Day, and moderated by Mira Hashmi and Sarmad Khost. Talking about his autobiography, “And Then One Day”, he said he never planned or thought about writing. One day, he was at set during the shooting of a film and had nothing special to do. He was getting bored and that was the moment when he took out a pen and tried to write something. When he stopped after writing about one hundred pages, he found something fruitful. He carried on this exercise for about 12 years and came out with a ‘book’, Naseeruddin Shah said. He said he did not censor or filter any information while writing content for the book. He wrote whatever was in his memory. There were no deliberations or any special effort, he wrote whenever he inclined to do so, he added. He said writing his autobiography helped him re-examine his relationships with as an absenting father, a negligent husband and sluggish son. He said it was a source of catharsis for him. To a question about the narration in the book, he said he described the events as pictures because his visual and aural senses were very strong. He could remember sounds and scenes exactly of the movies or events seen or heard in his early childhood. He said this faculty of him was so overwhelming that it dominated him in his every aspect of life. As an actor and director, he always just tried to reproduce the pictures, he added. He said that he tried to search the characters he was playing at stage “inside him”. He came to know this after a lot of labour and vigour. He observed the characters assigned to him in the outside world, captured it in his memory and

stilled it as a picture on the stage, he added. And, this was the job of a director and actor, he added. To a question, he said a good movie to him was the one which communicated easily with the audience and managed to capture the spirit of the time. Shah termed “Sholay” not a good movie and said that ‘Piyasa’, ‘Guide’, ‘Masoom’, Teesri Manzil’ Mughal-e-Azam’, ‘Libaas’, ‘Ijazat’ etc., were good movies to him. He said ‘Sholay did not comer up to the above mentioned two standards.
He told the audience that a failed actor would be one who would give up hope. He said he always advised the youngsters not to join the acting profession if they did not feel that they would die if they did not act.
To another question about signing popular movies, he said once a fan of him asked him the same question and “I asked him few names of my art movies but he had not watched any of them. When, he asked about the movies like “Chamatkar’ and ‘Oye Oye’, the fan nodded his head in affirmative. On which, he told him that that was the reason he had signed popular movies too, he added.
About his movie “Mirza Ghalib”, he said he felt lucky and proud on doing that movie. He said when he was a child, he heard about Ghalib for the first time when passed through a street on a tanga and everyone would point out to a house saying it was the house of Mirza Ghalib, but then that had been converted into a coal shop. Since then, he kept on listening about Ghalib at different stages of life and he learnt more about Ghalib when he grew up.
When he heard Gulzar Sahib doing a movie on Ghalib and signing Sanjeev Kumar as hero, he wrote a letter to Gulzar Sahib and requested him to take him as hero giving very odd reasons. Gulzar did not receive that letter but ‘fortunately or unfortunately’ Sanjeev Kumar fell ill and Gulzar had to delay the movie. He said he was lucky in a sense that he was the least favourite for the movie but due to various reasons Gulzar had to sign him as the hero.
Naseeruddin claims that the script of Mirza Ghalib was the reason behind its success. If any other actor had played the role, even then the movie would have been a success, he added. His role in such a great movie was just because of luck, he added.
Naseeruddin said it was the work of the actor that mattered regarding audience. A good actor could turn a bad audience into a good audience and vice versa.
Choosing between theatre and film, he said even held at gunpoint to choose between theatre and film, he would choose theatre. Because, only theatre was the medium where energies are exchanged and communicated takes place directly with the audience. In film, the actor communicates with the camera that was not a human being.

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