Naseeruddin Shah, who gets a "bigger high" from direction than acting, confesses his adoration for Hema Malini with whom he is paired after a long gap.
About Milan Luthria's new episodic film, he says: "Hema and I are playing an over-the-hill romantic couple who never came together.
"She's still gorgeous, isn't she? I adore her. I think we'll make a good couple," Naseer said.
He is also keen to work with Shabana Azmi again. "The right part hasn't come along recently. She accuses me of not wanting to work with her. I don't want to do crap with her. But it'll happen again.
"I somehow have the feeling that all these years when we haven't worked together has done our pair a whole lot of good," says the actor-director.
As to which is better - acting or directing - he says: "Acting in movies is the most miserable job in the world. Sometimes you've two minutes of work after waiting on the set the whole day. Direction gives me a much bigger high. It feels like my whole career has been a preparation for this."
Excerpts from an interview:
Why direction so late in your life?
For the simple reason that it didn't seem right earlier on. I remember myself as a typical kid with dreams of directing a film starring myself. I had some ideas at 19, which I'd still like to direct. But I never wanted to become a filmmaker earlier. I only wanted to act.
I had no statements to make, no burning messages that I wanted to deliver to the world. I wanted direction to happen organically. That's why Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota took so long.
The film offers an unusual format of presentation.
That's right. It has four different stories, all of which can be defined as love stories, all presenting couples from different age groups. There's a teenage couple, a slightly older couple, then a guy obsessed with a much older woman and finally a middle-aged couple.
The couples and their stories collide at the end. The segmented storytelling isn't so unusual. Mani Ratnam did it in Yuva recently. And long ago, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Musafir. Then the same format was seen in Italian films like Vittorio de Sica's Yesterday Today And Tomorrow and another called Woman Times 7, which had seven separate stories. And now there's Crash. It gave me a complex. I was always fascinated by the episodic format.
So many actors felt left out of your film. Om Puri was complaining.
I'll talk to him about that. It was sweet of him to feel left out. I know he'd have done any part I asked him. But there was no part for him. When I cast him, I'd like to do justice to him.
Everyone who's rallied around has become a friend, like Paresh Rawal, Irrfan Khan and Konkona (SenSharma). They're such marvellous actors. And the novices went through rehearsals before going on the sets.
I had a blast directing them. I may just be doing direction for the rest of my life. Straining myself for a part even for something like Paar doesn't excite me right now. I'd like to help other actors do that kind of stuff. Hence my fascination with teaching.
Is direction as stimulating as acting?
It's much more stimulating than acting. Acting in movies is the most miserable job in the world. Sometimes you've two minutes of work after waiting on the sets the whole day. I enjoyed it while it lasted. But now I want to move on. In fact, I'm not acting in my film. I've dubbed for two or three incidental characters.
Just to be part of the cast?
No. There was no one else to do it. We needed American accents. Okay, I confess I wanted to upstage my actors (laughs).
Are you bored with acting because you aren't getting the right kind of roles?
No. I've enjoyed Monsoon Wedding, Parzania, Valley Of Flowers, even the small parts in Mixed Doubles and Omkara.
Direction gives me a much bigger high. It feels like my whole career has been a preparation for this. Mind you, I still enjoy acting in theatre immensely. Frankly, I wouldn't act in a film unless it really excites me. I'm trying to do small parts in films by friends.
Did you enjoy playing god in Banaras - A Mystic Love Story?
Banaras was a little beyond me, I've to admit. There're many films that I didn't understand while they were being made. But on seeing them finally, I did. I didn't understand Banaras even after I saw the end product. May be I'm not mature enough to understand it.
I loved your goofy villainy in Krrish.
I had a ball doing it. To begin with, the part didn't excite me. But Rakesh Roshan was keen on me. You can't argue with success.
Is it a sorrow that you don't command the same commercial stature as Amitabh Bachchan?
I have never aspired to occupy the position that he does. It's very lonely up there. And I'm sure he has a lot of problems. Becoming a huge star didn't mean the world to me.
I've been doing the kind of work that I want to do. I don't deny that I wanted to be known to the world and that I wanted to lead a cushy life. But I've been ambitious only about finding the right kind of work. For example, at the moment I derive immense pleasure from teaching acting at Subhash Ghai's Whistling Woods institute.
What else are you looking at as an actor?
There's a film by Milan Luthria, which will be shot in November. It's again an episodic film, just like my own Yun Hota.... Hema and I are playing an over-the-hill romantic couple who never came together. She's still gorgeous, isn't she? I adore her. I think we'll make a good couple.
What about Shabana? She's dying to work with you again.
The right part hasn't come along recently. She accuses me of not wanting to work with her. Why should I do that? Why should I do a film just because she's in it, or not do a film that doesn't have her? I don't want to do crap with her. But it'll happen again. I somehow have the feeling that all these years when we haven't worked together has done our pair a whole lot of good.
Are your children interested in acting?
My daughter Heeba is an actress. My son Imaad played a small part in Yun Hota To Kya Hota. He was hanging around home doing nothing. That's how he got into the film. He's interested in a lot of things, including music and movies.
I'll support my children in whatever they want to do. My father didn't want me to be an actor. And there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.