Naseeruddin Shah is candid in admitting that he joined films because he wanted to be a superstar. "Who doesn’t?" he questions with a grin, adding that he was happy with all the trappings of stardom.
He says, "Wine, women and song. I don’t think anyone becomes an actor to serve art. We do so because we are insecure little boys and girls who want to get a bit of attention."
Naseer quotes Hollywood actor Dustin Hoffman, saying, "He made an honest confession: ‘I became an actor to meet girls, because no one would look at me." I believe him. Whatever happens to you along the way is a different story."
Being one of the most prolific actors in the industry means Naseer has worked with the entire constellation of stars, from A-list box-office names like Amitabh Bachchan to arthouse favourites like Kay Kay Menon and Atul Kulkarni, who he teams up with once again for his latest release, Chaalis Chauraasi.
When asked to compare the environment on sets, Naseer says, "To start with, there is no insecurity or competitiveness. No one is trying to undercut another, or upstage the other by insisting on having the last word in the scene. ‘It’s very important. The scene must end with me saying something.’ Thank heaven, one didn’t have to worry about such nonsense."
While this ‘nonsense’ caused him to flare up in the past, Naseer insists he’s now become politically correct when critiquing colleagues, and has brought his infamous temperament under control. "It’s a cry of agony really. And I realise this, having done it many times, as an actor and as a director in the theatre. It’s completely destructive, and one indulges in it as an outlet," he says.
He adds, "I don’t do that anymore because I realised it is doing me a lot of harm. Since I started working with student actors, I realised it does them a lot of damage as well."