Actors are basically narcissists: Naseeruddin Shah
The veteran actor, at the screening of his latest film, The Hungry, opened up about his longevity and his distaste for film reviews
The films that an actor chooses reflect on not just their political and social beliefs but also serves in establishing individuality, says Naseeruddin Shah. "If I agree with the vision of the director, then and only then will I do the film. Therefore, an actor's individuality comes from his choices. The film you choose reflects your own political beliefs and social expression," he said.
At the same time, even if sounds a tad contradictory, Naseeruddin Shah believes that the job of an actor is to be the messenger of the writer and the director. "My definition of acting might make many actors uncomfortable, but the fact is an actor's role is to follow and execute the vision of the writer and the director who have created the character. With time, cinema has changed, but my approach hasn't because I always attempted to tune in with the idea of the creator. I, an actor, am just the messenger. I am not there to establish my individuality. Yes, my signature could come from my means of expression, but those expressions are of the director," he added.
With a career that spans over three decades, Naseeruddin is among the prominent faces of India's parallel cinema. He has also been a part of 'commercial' films, but fascinatingly enough, he has always stayed outside the purview of star power. Does he not get seduced by fame and power? "Actors are basically narcissists; they love themselves. Not that I am not, but over a period of time, I realised there are a lot more qualities that are required to be an actor. Narcissism is just one of them."
Naseeruddin spoke on the sidelines of his film, The Hungry, getting screened in Mumbai. The actor plays a dark character in the Bornila Chatterjee directorial. He also opened up on how he internalises a character. "I don't look outward for inspiration. I look within to find a connection with the character. I try to find the potential of the character within me, I try to understand how I would react if I were in that situation. If I can, I agree to do the role. I do not believe in taking references from others," said the actor, whose contribution to cinema has been recognised with a Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.
The actor debuted in 1980 with Hum Paanch, and has since gone on to act in films like Karma, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Masoom, Hey Ram, Monsoon Wedding, Sarfarosh, A Wednesday and The Dirty Picture. His filmography is laced with projects with iconic directors like Shyam Benegal, Sai Paranjpye, Govind Nihalani and commercial filmmakers like Anees Bazmee, Zoya Akhtar and Vishal Bhardwaj, to name a few. How has he managed to stay relevant across such a long period? "I keep trying to inculcate my thoughts and ideas of acting in youngsters. I think acting is a means of expression, a tool of communication. Sadly, in films, actors are conditioned to believe that they are the centre, that their performance is everything for the film. This is not right. Therefore, they cannot take criticism and failure, because being the most visible component of a film, they face the criticism first."
But film reviews are not something he takes seriously himself. "For me, reviews are as good as the opinion of a taxi driver... Pardon me, but reviews are nothing but another piece of opinion on our film. Half of the reviewers do not critically analyse every aspect of the film but write about the plot in their review. And then half of the reviewers condemn a film for what it is not. I mean, what is the point of finding social relevance in David Dhawan's film when he himself never claimed to have one? Or, of calling a Mani Kaul film 'too heavy' for not having song and dance? You tell me, is it right to take these reviews seriously?" the actor questioned.