'I Have Been Part of Some Horrendous Films': Naseeruddin Shah
The legendary actorwill be in town to perform his acclaimed play Einstein
Naseeruddin Shah is deeply apologetic these days. His crime? Being part of run-off-the mill commercial cinema that, he feels, more often than not betrays the audience’s intelligence. To compensate for his presence in such films, Shah is back to doing what he does best --- acting in meaningful cinema as well as theatre. After the screening of his new film Waiting opened to unanimous applause at last year’s Dubai International Film Festival, the veteran actor will be in the city to perform Einstein, a play written by Gabriel Emanuel and directed by the legend himself. His striking resemblance to the late scientist has already been one of the play’s major talking points, but in a conversation with Masala!, he talks about the thrills and the challenges of stepping into the shoes of the mad genius that was Albert Einstein
1) How do you describe the Einstein you portray in the play?|
Like any man, he too has two sides to him. At one level, he is a genius who deeply obsesses about his work. And then there is a thinker in him who introspects what impact his body of work has on the society at large, especially after World War II. My attempt has been to portray the latter. Everyone knows about his body of work, but I wanted to portray the man he perhaps was. There are several aspects to him --- he has a sense of humour, for instance, which is not as talked about. He is also eccentric in his own way, which makes it even more challenging for him to reconcile with the society he is part of.
2) Is the story all the more relevant considering the times we are living in?
Absolutely. We are living in culturally and politically ambiguous times, and this definitely calls for a retelling of stories of the men who laid the foundation for the modern world.
3) You resemble the late physicist. Do similarities in physical appearances make it easy for you as an actor to get into the skin of the character?
Well, the good part is I have had nothing to do with this (laughs). Having said that, yes it makes the job easier, especially when you are performing to a live audience. When they see a play based on a person who’s existed in history, they want to see how he may have been, how would he laugh, how would he react to the different circumstances. As actors, we definitely seek to adapt certain mannerisms. But when there are physical similarities, people tend to relate more to your portrayal.
4) What does it mean for you as an artist to showcase your work in this region?
The real reason is to get across the message because I think Dubai is a place where Indians and Pakistanis live in harmony and the play is based on a subject that I feel must be talked about.
5) You have a fairly robust body of work in both films and theatre. In which medium, have you found your true calling?
That is difficult to say, but I must admit that I am getting fed up of the quality of films we make in India. So I am doing fewer movies; in fact in the last year or so I have been part of some absolutely horrendous films. I apologise to those who went to see those movies (laughs). But hopefully the ones that are coming, which will be fewer, are better. I enjoy both equally. I would say marginally I enjoy theatre more. There is more of a team spirit in the theatre, everyone is equally involved. There is a sense of shared energy, which movies can never have.
INFO: January 28, Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Theatre, 7.30 pm onwards;
January 29 and 30, DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, 7.30 pm onwards. Dhs 150 (silver), Dhs300 (gold), Dhs500 (diamond) and Dhs700 (VIP). Contact: +971 4 341 4777, +971 4 457 3212