INTERVIEW: Naseeruddin Shah – “Acting is a skill, which needs to be learnt and perfected!”

Virendra Rathore: Nasir ji, what one actor should know before becoming an actor?

Naseeruddin Shah: Firstly, any youngster who wants to become an actor should not think that it is a matter of luck or a lottery where his name may appear. This is a wrong method of thinking. Secondly, I feel pity, I feel pity on some parents who bring their children and say that he does not know anything, make him an actor. I really feel angry on such things. I tell them that it is not my responsibility or I have not taken any contract for making everybody an actor. Why do they think that for acting education is not required? This is a wrong thought. Firstly, my advice to all youngsters who wants to become actors is that finish your education first. There is a big difference between educated and uneducated actors. Secondly, one should be very clear in his mind as to what he wants to do in his life. I certainly followed this and when I was in class 8th or 9th, I decided to become an actor.

I had two brothers, one wanted to become a soldier and the other engineer. They became. Both started preparing when they were in class 8th or 9thfor this. I thought that why can’t I start preparing to become an actor if my decision is logical and sensible and when I consider that acting is not different from any other profession.

That Brother, acting is a skill which needs to be learnt and perfected. This is a wrong assumption that only some people can act, and others can’t. This is wrong. I don’t believe this Acting is a skill like carpentry, like pottery making or for that matter any other technical profession where technique need to be learnt.


Part 1 – Acting Lessons From Naseeruddin Shah | Joinfilms

Virendra Rathore:  Whatever preparation is required there is applicable here also?

Naseeruddin Shah: It is a pity that people don’t know how to prepare for becoming an actor?

If you tell somebody that you want to become an actor, firstly, he will laugh, then he will mock and then he will discourage you to do so. This is a strange human mentality. I think that this happens because everybody wants to become an actor truly or wanted to become an actor. This is a very strange way to talk

This is really ironical that Actors can be mocked any time. Actors can be done away with anytime.

Everybody is an authority on acting, not on photography, not on editing or on script writing etc but everybody is an authority on acting for that matter. It is understood that acting is a God’s gift, which may or may not be showered on a person as per God’s wish. I don’t believe this.

Virendra Rathore:  Preparation is required to be done on voice, body language like we prepare for medicine or engineering.

Naseeruddin Shah: Yes of course. My father wanted me to become a doctor. I told him that I couldn’t read fat books for 5 years. And it so happened that I studied acting for 5 years.  Ha Ha

He said to me“You said that you could not study for 5 years. What is there to learn in this acting?” He was an educated man and he understood, had been to London. Even after this he spoke such words.”What is this bloody acting? What is there to learn in this? You keep doing Notanki.”I swallowed all this and kept on my secret preparations continuously on and on until the time I reached to a decision as to what line, I had to go and I am still doing it because this preparation is never-ending.

Virendra Rathore:  In what age do you think this decision came, 8-9 years you thought or so?

Naseeruddin Shah: In class 8, I would have been 12-13 years old, even before that I was fond of films which I watched. We were shown many films and good films. Dramas etc.

Virendra Rathore:  What kind of films?

Naseeruddin Shah: American and British films. No films from other countries were there. Hindi films were strictly disallowed. Speaking in Hindi was disallowed. Even the Hindi classes were conducted in English.Yes, those films deeply impacted me and the dramas, in our school very good people came from outside, they also inspired me and  I believed that I had interest in this line. One, I had interest in cricket and films and theatre and nothing else.

Virendra Rathore:  Now that you decided that you will do films. Did you decide on the medium also whether you will do films or theatre or TV?

Naseeruddin Shah:  I did not know this.

Becoming a film star was a distant dream. I face was also not of that kind that I become a second Shammi Kapoor. I had completely accepted this. I accepted that Okay, I do not have a face like Shammi Kapoor but I had some other qualities which Shammi Kapoor did not have and I worked on those qualities. I realized very early that my face was very flexible and could change completely. One example that once even my mother could not recognize me.

Virendra Rathore:  When?

Naseeruddin Shah:  When I was studying at NSD, I had my head shaved and had beard. For 2 seconds she was zapped and said - “who is there?”

This was the first training which I gave to myself. There will be nobody to show you the way. I also had nobody, I found my own way.

Virendra Rathore:  What was your plan of action?

Naseeruddin Shah: That I had to learn everything about this job and as much as I could. Everybody said that what was there in acting? One has to just stand and speak. Like people say what is there in cricket, only that you have to hit a ball with a bat.

Virendra Rathore:  It involves theory, practical, technique!

Naseeruddin Shah: Yes. It is like a child who wants to become a cricketer. He would look at Sachin Tendulkar or Ricky Ponting playing, or will see Chris Gayle playing and would try to imitate them. He does not know more than that. He would try to hold the bat like them, how they stand like how Sachin stands and so on. An actor should also do this.

Virendra Rathore:  As an actor, especially in media industry when your work started, did your plan of action proved right and in the right direction?

Naseeruddin Shah: Yes. If there is any achievement on my part, it was to make myself present at the right place and right time and I did nothing else. I prepared myself and I always believed that if you work hard on something, it would never go waste. Never. Somewhere it will be of use. I knew that I had worked hard in learning my job.

Co-incidentally, In 1975, Shyam Benegal was starting his career, Govind Nihalani was starting his career, Saeed Mirza, Ketan Mehta, Vinod Chopra, Kundan Shah etc. They were all trying to make a different type of films. I knew that in their films my type of person would be required by them. I believed so because they were trying to make such films which reflect truth and were realistic. I had made myself present, Om Puri was present, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Deepti Naval, Faruk Sheikh we all were present.

When I saw Ankur, I was studying in the film institute

Virendra Rathore:  The one with Sanjeev Kumar?

Naseeruddin Shah: No, with Shyam Benegal Ankur Shabana Azmi and Anant Nag. That boosted my confidence, as that film was a hit. In that era, one Bobby was a hit, the other was Ankur, and both were released at the same time. Ankur was made in 2 Lac and nobody expected it to be hit or anybody would even watch that film. That film ran for 25 weeks in Metro. Shabana Azmi became a star. I thought that I could get a role in such films at least. People thought that I acted in this film. Because there was a person in the film who looked like me, his name was Aga Mohammad Hussain from Hyderabad, no more now. Second reason is that people associate me with that kind of cinema.  




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