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Yashpal awaits big break

Yashpal Sharma has the talent and flair to be a star, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

entertainment Updated: Sep 21, 2005 20:29 IST
Saibal Chatterjee| Wide angle
Saibal Chatterjee| Wide angle

He isn't quite a big-time movie star who can sell a film on his own steam. Yashpal Sharma certainly has the talent and flair to be one. The NSD-trained actor from small town Haryana has a way of filling up the screen with crackling energy every time he walks across it. But where is the breakthrough film that can do full justice to his histrionic abilities?

Yashpal made a low-key Bollywood debut with a barely noticed cameo in Govind Nihalani's Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa. Then came a far more substantial role in Shyam Benegal's National Award-winning Samar. It was however his performance as a roguish member of Bhuvan's band of boys in Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan that swung the spotlight on to him for the first time.

The Hisar-born Yashpal has since been seen to great effect in films as varied as Shool, Dum, Gangaajal, Chameli and Dhoop. He also played a substantial role in the recently released Yahaan, directed by debutant Shoojit Sircar.

Says Yashpal: "There is no denying that mainstream Hindi films have given me numerous roles of substance. But I still haven't been lucky enough to get a film that would make people sit up and say, 'this is Yashpal Sharma's film'."

That is probably why he so readily agreed to devote well over a month to Brainchild, a play staged in Delhi recently under the direction of Roysten Abel. "I am not completely satisfied with the roles that I get in commercial cinema. That is why I am stay involved with theatre and a different kind of cinema as well," says Yashpal.

"I have become very choosy of late," he continues. "I reject many offers because I am looking for more than what has come my way so far." Yashpal insists that his decision to do a film depends entirely on the quality of the script and the narration that he hears. "Shoojit Sircar was new, but I could see the passion and commitment in his narration. That is why I accepted Yahaan," says the unassuming actor.

Yashpal quells all suggestions that he may be getting a trifle typecast as a cop or a ruffian. "I don't think I have been slotted," he asserts. "I may have played a cop in both Chameli and Dhoop, but the nuances of those characters were completely different. Not all screen cops are the same. The policemen-heroes of Shool, Ab Tak Chappan and Gangaajal were certainly not run-of-the-mill, predictable characters."

The character of the terrorist that he plays in Yahaan, too, is in a league of its own, says Yashpal. "There is organic growth within the character. He comes out looking positive by the end of the film."

Any mention of his part in the raucous 'Babuji dhire chalo' item number with Yana Gupta in Dum does, however, leave Yashpal a little embarrassed. "I did that number without thinking about the consequences," he admits. "People who know me were surprised that I agreed to be part of that song. I know I will have to carry the slur all my life," he says.

On the list of Yashpal's upcoming releases is Prakash Jha's Apaharan, an off-mainstream drama in which he plays a politically influential muscleman who masterminds kidnappings from behind the bars of a prison.

"Thanks to my theatre training, I believe in never going to the sets of a film without doing my homework," says the actor. "But when I work with Prakash Jha, things are different. "His scripting is so thorough that the actor's job becomes much easier. I did not have to prepare myself for Gangaajal and Apaharan. I merely read the scripts once and returned them to the director," he adds.

Also in the pipeline is celebrated Assamese director Jahnu Barua's Butterfly Chase, the sensitive story of a former terrorist, his wife and their little deaf-mute girl who is abducted by a militant. "The film pits the unalloyed innocence of a silent child against the complexities of people who live and breathe in a climate of violence and confrontation," he explains.

"It was a truly wonderful experience working with Jahnu Barua. He knows exactly what he wants," says Yashpal, who feels that too many of Mumbai's filmmakers are too easily satisfied. "That is probably why my suggestions are accepted 90 per cent of the time," he jokes.

He says: "The actor in you may not be too happy after a shot but the director invariably okays it because he's in a hurry to get on with the film." Yashpal, however, hastens to add that directors like Ashutosh Gowariker, Prakash Jha and Shoojit Sarkar are different: they constantly push their actors to excel themselves.

Among the films that Yashpal is keenly looking forward are two low budget features - Trisha and Johnny Johnny Yes Papa. He plays the male lead in both films. Trisha, directed by erstwhile Subhash Ghai assistant Anant Kamat, co-stars Divya Dutta and Rajit Kapur.

Johnny Johnny Yes Papa, helmed by Paresh Kamdar, is an unusual story about a simpleton-father and his street-smart son. The father suffers because of his honesty and straightforwardness; the young boy guides him out of that state with his ready wiles.

First Published: Sep 21, 2005 19:51 IST