Consider the two sides of Shatrughan Sinha. Heads, it’s mischief. Tails, it’s maturity. Over the years, he has retained his teenager-like enthusiasm and yet, he’s the senior statesman who knows all the whirls and eddies of shows-yo-political business.
Indeed, he’s a recurrent-dream-come-true interview with his vibgyor quotes. Bonus points: he possesses a flair for drama (“Khamosssssh! To yeh hai kaneez ki arzoo,” he whoops) and that ability to laugh out loud as much at himself as at the peccadilloes of assorted bigwigs.
Right now, he’s about to announce that he will contest the upcoming general elections from Patna. Clearly, the BJP would have given him a carte blanche to contest from anywhere in the country because the actor is roundly acknowledged as a Mark Anthony-like orator. Pan over, then, to our Shakespearesque Sinha: I’ve always wondered why you didn’t market yourself as an actor. Umm, you could have been seen in the over-50 roles like Baghban and Cheeni Kum.
Fiffffteeee? Chalo, thank god you didn’t say over 60. Yes, I would have been in many more films if I had been market savvy. But at what cost? Like no one from the film industry has ever been in a cabinet post. I’ve been Health Minister and Shipping Minister which I’m sure is far more important than Namak Kum ya Zyaada. But of course, cinema is my first weakness.. it has been my entry point to politics.
And? And ka
And. Wah, liffafe ko sungh kar khat padh liya hamne (I’ve read the letter by smelling the envelope). I know what you want to dig out.. and I’ll say it today. Yes, I would have been the hero of Deewaar as well as Sholay but then something went wrong. I suddenly became a loser at the height of my success. Phir jo hua so hua. I know I was in the running for both the roles. I guess I didn’t beg like a kid does for lollipops. Later, if I was in Kala Patthar and Dostana, it was only thanks to the insistence of Salim-Javed who went against everyone’s wishes.
Listen, you’ve stepped on a raw nerve. From now on, I’ve resolved to do one film a year.. just like I’m a one-woman man. Ha!
What is that “something that went wrong” in the cases of Deewaar and Sholay?
Please find me a detective agency which can investigate this. All I know is that Salim-Javed saw me in both the roles.. then poof!.. they had differences with the producers on this count. I wasn’t even cast in Shor which had Jaya Bhaduri as its heroine. Again, never mind. I gained by such losses. I did Khudgarz because Rakesh Roshan refused to be pressurised to cast Rajnikant.. even if he had to change the character from a south Indian to a Bihari.
Has Rajnikant ever accepted the fact that he would copy you?
Come, come, he’s just been inspired by me. He has told me that he saw Rampur ka Lakshman 32 times because of me. Now he says he wants to quit smoking because I have.. he has reduced his daily quota of cigarettes.. (laughs) he doesn’t throw them in the air and catch them between his teeth.. because all those Mugugam Smokum MTV kids have been doing that.
Why are your wife (Punam) and you into film production now?
See the production company has been set up and is handled by my wife. Her friend Kamya Malhotra is with her. We’ve completed Aaj Phir Jeene ki Tamanna Hai, a mature romantic comedy with Rekha, directed by Ramesh Talwar. And there’s Sadiyaan with my son Luv, Hema Malini, Rekha and Rishi Kapoor. A project is also being planned by Shotgun Productions with Sanjay Dutt and Luv.
Didn’t Rekha have serious issues with you?
Mature comedy kar ke hum bhi mature ho gaye hain. Now we’re a mutual admiration society.. on the sets at least.
What were the issues?
We were friends, then we weren’t on talking terms for 20 years! I had teased her about something.. don’t ask about what or whom.. and she got offended. Punam organised the patch-up. With meditation and yoga, Rekha has changed.. and khabardar.. khamosh.. don’t ask me if I meditate. I can’t.
Is LK Advani okay with you acting again?
Yes, yes, I’d got the formal permission of both Advaniji and Vajpayeeji when I did Aan: Men at Work.. khabardar, I know, I know, I know, I know, it wasn’t the right choice. Today, since I’m not a minister I don’t have to get permission.
But that doesn’t mean it’ll stay this way. Today I’ve spent the entire day in political meetings. I’ll be contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Patna, where I was born and brought up. The party said I could fight from anywhere.. Delhi, Bihar or Maharashtra.. but there’s no place like home. (Beaming) I pull in the crowds effortlessly.. the effort to be effortless comes naturally to me.
What has politics taught you?
Believe it or not, punctuality. I was ready for this interview ten minutes before you came.. and you were a minute late. I’ve even worn a suit!
Sorry, sorry. So what’s the status of your friendship with the Bachchans?
Hmmm. We’re cordial when we meet. But to be honest, it’s an issue-based friendship. Mithai hasn’t come from their house for a long time.. so I don’t know whether I would accept the pedhas or not today. Also, I’d like to say I’m not in awe of Mr Bachchan. Only his chamchas are.. and it’s sad that they keep changing like cutlery sets.
Go on.. who’s the better actor?
Modesty doesn’t allow me to answer that question. But of course he has done many more roles, TV and ads for colas and chocolates than I ever could. Still without any pride or prejudice, I can say that I would have been far more superior in a film like Sarkar.
Nahin, nahin, nahin. That was bilkul ashleel. I would rather do Phoonk than Nishabd.
Are you a happy man?
I’m a married man. I think I’ve heard that one before. As long as my wife hasn’t, that’s okay.