In the 14 years of his acting career, Ali Asgar is glad that he hasn’t changed much.
Whether it comes to prioritising comic roles over others, or maintaining his youthful, effervescent on-screen image, the actor has been able to carve a niche for himself in the industry.
And if the popularity of his character, Dadi, on the hit show Comedy Nights With Kapil is anything to go by, Ali has enough reasons to feel happy.
We chat with him about his experience of playing the irreverent, hip-shaking grandmother.
How does it feel to play a character that has become such a big hit?
I get a high when a character becomes a hit. I also feel it brings more responsibility as I have to work harder; there’s only a thin line between being funny and becoming caricature-ish. But I’ll never play Dadi again, as I don’t like repeating roles.
One of Dadi’s signature antics is to plant a kiss on the cheeks of the celebrities that come on the show. Have you ever been nervous while doing that?
No. The idea of having a shagun ki pappi (kiss for good luck) was mine, and it happened impromptu. But I never force anyone. Most celebrities are comfortable, and that puts me at ease. But sometimes, it is the celebrities’ managers who put restrictions. At the same time, I, too, ensure that I don’t cross the limit. There are many who I didn’t kiss, like Jeetuji (Jeetendra). I remember that I was told not to ask Amitabh Bachchan for a kiss, so I didn’t. But he himself came up and kissed me. Salman (Khan) isn’t comfortable with a guy in drag touching or hugging him, so I didn’t force him for a kiss.
In real life, have fans ever asked you to give them kisses?
No, who will? (laughs). But yes, fans often kiss me when they meet me at airports, events and malls. I find it odd to kiss people in real life, but, oddly, when I’m in Dadi’s garb, I don’t feel any inhibitions about kissing others.
What do you think of Sunil Grover’s exit from the show?
It was his wish. I don’t know why he took the decision of quitting. If his show had become a hit, today, people would have been asking me why I don’t host a comedy show of my own. And although I do get offers, I don’t want to. It’s not fair.
Do you ever feel you are yet to reach the height of your success?
I’m not into the numbers game. Unlike others, I’m unable to market myself. But I’ve no regrets as I’ve never had to ask for work. I like experimenting. I was doing comedy till Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki (KGGK) happened. On that show, I played Kamal for eight years. Despite being the second lead, Kamal was more popular than Om (the lead character). Then I took up Jeannie Aur Juju because I got a chance to play the lead.