Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II was one of the first multiplex movies in the early 2000s. But it has taken you seven years to get back to that space.
(Chuckles) Honestly, I love that space of realistic urban or rural cinema. Even Seher was from that genre. People couldn’t digest Waisa Bhi… they would say.
‘Why is he behaving so normally?’
So I wasn’t offered any appealing scripts. And then Munnabhai released, and I got only commercial films after that. Had I got a film like Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye!, I would have surely done it. Frankly, I never looked for such scripts. I just did my work and waited. You can’t rush or force things in the industry. Certain box office collections and a certain amount of audience in the theatres is required, because somebody is investing money in your project and you can’t ignore that and do what you like. Everything has its time.
So you were disinterested in most of the work you were doing in between?
Pretty much, yeah. It’s like eating the same food every day. On the third day, you start hating it. I enjoy comedy, but I do have more emotions!
How many times can you do the same thing?
I loved doing the intense scenes in Ishqiya. Also, my idea of comedy is Chashme Baddoor, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Golmaal, or of course, Munnabhai. Not slapstick like falling over a banana peel. Even in real life, I’m like the character in Waisa Bhi… If my wife would throw me out of the house, I’ll probably go to the fridge and pick up a couple of beer cans before I leave.
(Chuckles) But there’s a sentimental reason behind it. I was once invited to a chat show, where dumb and deaf kids were in the audience. And they seemed to love me. Through sign language, they told me that even if they couldn’t hear what I spoke, they loved watching my antics on screen. (Smiles) I’ll do anything for that love, man.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since Ishqiya released, but do you think it has helped you break out of that image?
The appreciation I’ve received for this movie has outdone the appreciation for Circuit, and that’s a huge compliment for me. People have approached me with fresh scripts. But only the younger, brighter people have faith in me, yaar. The big banners still stick to the formula. For romantic films, they’ll take Shah Rukh, for action, they’ll take someone else, and for comedy, they’ll call me. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a solo film or multi-starrer, as long as it’s a good script. I have a good car and a good house, so what difference does it make if I don’t do solo projects?
So how did you feed off the acting of a co-star like Naseeruddin Shah, in Ishqiya?
(Laughs) The only thing on my mind when working with him was not to screw up the scene and get my lines right. Other than that, to be honest, I don’t know what you learn when watching someone act. Maybe it’s a subconscious influence, but I don’t know about it.
But I think, after many years of acting, I actually learnt something from Vidya Balan. I learnt how to market your film. I’d always play my role and move on, but when I saw her running helter skelter to promote it, I realised that my work doesn’t stop with the shooting.
What was the toughest part of shooting Ishiqya?
The love scenes, man! (Laughs) I was honestly s**ting bricks before it. Nothing has ever scared me in acting, as much as the kiss scared me. I tried convincing Abhishek to forget it, but I also understood that it was important to show the difference between the love stories of two generations – one is soft and sweet, the other is wild and passionate.
Vidya and I finally decided not to embarrass ourselves. If we were in it, we had to do it right. And you know, I shouldn’t be saying it, but I think it’s one of the best kisses I’ve seen on screen. We were both doing our job, not trying to show the world how well we can kiss. You’ve got your home production, Hum, Tum Aur Ghost, coming in the meanwhile.
Yeah, that’s a really cute, feel-good movie. I play a character who’s almost exactly like me in real life. His life goes for a toss when he starts seeing dead people. He can’t tell anyone and doesn’t know why it’s happening to him.
What’s happening with Munnabhai 3 this year? There are rumours that it will star different actors?
(Laughs) That’s such bulls**t, man. I have read it too, but tell me, why would anyone in their right minds mess with a fabulous brand equity? Raju (Hirani) is reworking the script because he’s taking the America angle out of it. We may start shooting at the end of this year.