Naseeruddin Shah, one of the finest actors in filmdom, has a major career problem - he says he is being offered the films that are rejected by Amitabh Bachchan.
This embarrassing state of affairs just after having delivered a hit like A Wednesday at the box office is quite intolerable to Naseer whose follow-up to A Wednesday is Jagmohan Mundra's Shoot On Sight, a film which was first offered to Amitabh.
"There's no change at all. I'm still being offered films turned down by Mr. Bachchan. In fact, I'm surprised that A Wednesday proved a survivor. I thought it'd get killed," said Naseer.
After that Paresh Rawal's Maharathi too was offered to Amitabh first. When he refused to play the role, Naseer was roped in to do it.
But isn't Naseer being slightly cynical in his opinion that all the offers coming his way first go to the Big B?
"It doesn't take too much imagination to know whom a role is written for when the character being offered to me is described as 'a towering personality with a baritone'," he said.<b1>
Naseer even gets offers for characters with physical attributes defined by the Big B's personality.
"One script actually said 'with a neat white goatee'. Can it get any clearer? I can show you the scripts. And these scripts don't even bother to disguise whom they really want for the part. They feel I should be 'honoured' to be getting these roles!"
It isn't as if Naseer is resentful. But he is well within his rights to wonder why he has not been able to stake a claim to an individual and unique position in the film industry after 30 years of superlative performances.
In fact, the Big B recently said he wished to share screen space with Naseer, an eventuality that hasn't occurred after so many years in the industry and careers that started at about the same time.
"While I am getting all these rejects of Mr Bachchan, there's one role that I rejected and he eventually accepted. It's Kaizad Gustad's Boom."
Ask Naseer why he rejected that one. "It stank," comes the prompt and straight reply.