Naseeruddin Shah has been part of the film industry for over four decades. He is talented, experimental and, safe to say, one of the finest actors in India. Yet, the man himself isn’t as impressed with the nature of the show-business. Here, he tells us what he thinks of the commercial-movie-making machine called Bollywood and why he doesn’t find industry folk that interesting.
How a film is marketed nowadays plays an important role in its success. How essential do you think it is?
Not very; actually. After all, A Wednesday! (2008) didn’t get any publicity, but it did well. There have also been instances of star-led films failing completely even after being promoted extensively. The business of promoting (films) is a bit overrated.
Do you believe that the energy invested in marketing films should be concentrated on making good movies instead?
Films have always been (treated like) proposals in the commercial industry. Stars are roped in first, and scripts are written around them. Filmmaking in Bollywood has always been a star-centric business. It has never been an art. The first priority is for everyone to make lot and lots of money. Making a good film is the last thing on everybody’s mind.
Have you ever been part of any camps in Bollywood? Who are your friends in Bollywood?
I have a different circle of friends, who have nothing to do with the industry. I don’t find film industry people very interesting, apart from Danny Denzongpa and Tinnu Anand. The film industry people are the most boring people in the world, next to cricketers. They are very insular people. For them, the only thing in the world is making commercial movies and lots of money.
You’ve worked with Om Puri in many films. What’s your take on the allegations (of physically assaulting his wife) he is currently facing?
Om Puri has been a friend since before we entered the film industry. I really don’t know anything about it (the allegation). He is going through a bad time, and the press should leave him alone.
What are you expecting from your next, John Day?
Many people have told me that they are excited about it. But they are the ones who are interested in my work. And I don’t think that’s a majority of the audience.
Who, according to you, are the talented actors in Bollywood right now?
Irrfan is wonderful. I envy his skills. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is also very good. It is very important for him to make the right choices. He shouldn’t go on a signing spree. But, if he does, I wouldn’t blame him because he has seen a lot of hard days. I also like Manoj Bajpayee and Arshad Warsi.
Your younger son, Vivaan, is also slowly making his mark in the industry. Do you guide him?
He had a long wait after 7 Khoon Maaf (2011). He was very disappointed after that film’s release because he had got no work. I tried explaining to him that I, too, didn’t get any work after my first film (Nishant; 1975). But (now), finally he is getting work. I don’t try to steer their (my children’s) lives. If they will make mistakes, they will make them. I made plenty, but nothing ruined my life.