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I have to give my 100 per cent to any project, says Paresh

He has clout, demands a fee which he thinks he deserves and gets it too. He’s the darling of the janta and critics. Here’s Paresh Rawal in an interface with Vajir Singh...

india Updated: Dec 03, 2008 14:09 IST
Vajir Singh
Vajir Singh
Hindustan Times

He has clout.. he demands a fee which he thinks he deserves and gets it too. Unarguably one of our finest and most versatile actors, he’s open to experimental cinema and theatre too. He’s the darling of the janta as well as the critics. Without any more ado, then, here’s Paresh Rawal in an interface with Vajir Singh...

Are you aware that you’ve been acting in films for nearly 25 years now?
(Pause) Oh, yaaa.. I started in 1984 with Holi.. there’s just a month to go for my silver jubilee here. It’s been a fruitful 25 years. I only hope that in my journey I haven’t harmed anyone. For the record, though, I started doing theatre in the early 70s which means that I’ve been around for almost four decades.

In all these years, did you ever have to approach a filmmaker for work?
Never and I never will. After Holi, Lorie and Mirch Masala, I was accepted as an actor. In fact, after Arjun, Rahul Rawail and Javed Akhtar told me that they would always like to work with me.

Any mistakes committed?
(Pause) I was to do Anupam Kher’s role in Khosla Ka Ghosla. I also feel bad that I couldn’t do Shyam Benegal’s Subhash Chandra Bose.

Okay, for the first time why are you going out of your way to promote Maharathi? Anything special?
Not just Maharathi, I also did my bit to promote Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Mumbai Meri Jaan. If someone is making good cinema.. paying my price.. I have to give my 100 per cent to the project.

Or is it because Maharathi is based on the Gujarati play you directed and acted in 1987.
I struggled a lot to stage the play. No producer was ready to put in money, I had to roam around with the script for almost three years. So, I became the producer, invested my own money and it was an instant hit. So many film industry people wanted to turn it into a film but no one was ready to invest in me in the main role. Mansoor Khan wanted to make it with Shah Rukh Khan. Even Aamir Khan was interested in it.

Around 2000, Vipul Amrutlal Shah wanted to make it with Akshay Kumar. When I told Vipul that I wanted to make it some day, he dropped his plans. Then I went to Bhatt-saheb (Mahesh Bhatt). He even paid money to my writer, Vikram Bhatt was to direct. But than there was a fall-out between them.. Vikram walked out of the Bhatt camp. Ultimately, I went to Shree Ashtavinayak and they agreed to make it.

Aren’t you part-producer?
(Smiles) I didn’t charge my market price and became part of the production. We’ve tried to make the film on a limited budget. Most of the actors — Omji (Om Puri), Boman (Boman Irani) and Naseer bhai (Naseeruddin Shah) have not charged their market price. These are super star actors , not superstars.. there’s a big difference yaar.

Any script changes?
It was a three-hour-play.. dramas are meant to be full of dialogue. Without damaging the script, we have shortened the film by an hour and enhanced the sharpness.

You seem to have lost quite a few kilos lately. Why?
I lost weight for Mumbai Meri Jaan. Honestly, I was bored with myself and the roles I was getting. So I wanted to change even physically. Priyadarshan asked me to put on weight for Mere Baap Pahle Aap.

He said, “You’re so thin that you’re looking like the younger brother of Akshaye Khanna.” So I put on some weight. But I don’t understand what has weight got to do with a father’s character? Aren’t there thin fathers?

Will you retain the lean look?
I’m not a six-pack person but yes, I would like to be like this.

Wasn’t Amitabh Bachchan the first choice for the role that’s been played by Naseeruddin Shah?
Initially, Mr Bachchan said he would do the film. But later, he said people wouldn’t like him playing a negative role. I told him, “No problem, sir.”

Wasn’t Naseeruddin Shah hesitant because he was the second choice?
No way. Naseer bhai isn’t insecure or petty. He’s the only actor we have. Show me one person who’s as talented as Naseer bhai.. no one!

Like these actors, have you ever reduced your price?
Of course. For Nandita Das’s Firaq, Naseer bhai’s Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota. I never take my market price from Ketan bhai (Ketan Mehta). I love to reduce my price if the project has substance.

You’re widely praised for Mumbai Meri Jaan but you’re criticised for films like One Two Three.
Arrey, who knows how a film will shape up? In my gym, a woman actually told me that I was fantastic in One Two Three.

Do you take on such movies only for the money?
Someone asked me the same thing when I was doing Sardar and Mohra at the same time. I said I’ve allotted 140 days for Sardar for just Rs 7 lakh.

If I only do that, how will I run the house? Like all fathers, I also want my kids to go for higher education and get themselves a better lifestyle some day. If I only did films like Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota and Firaq, I’d go mad.

How come you’ve never been seen in international films?
Tell me..what kind of role do they offer us? They offer us roles of junior artistes. I don’t want to become a glorified junior artiste abroad. I was called to audition for Bricklane. I asked them if they’d seen my work, they said yes they had. End of story.

On account of the recession, have you also been asked to cut your price?
If they don’t want to give you what you deserve, they say there’s a recession going around. First let them correct the inflated prices of some stars and then talk.

Do you ever feel like returning to Gujarati theatre?
I’m working on that. I’ll be producing and directing a Gujarati play some time in March.

Why didn’t you direct Maharathi?
Simply because I haven’t been trained as a film director.

Do you ever see yourself directing a film in the future?
Yes, for sure.

With yours sons Aditya and Anirudh as leading men?
Ha ha. I don’t think they want to get into films. If they want to follow their father, they’ll have to follow their own path.

First Published: Dec 03, 2008 13:25 IST