Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Naseer Saab

Hello Reader,

The curtains were up and the lights turned off, the chattering of people suddenly stopped and then there was silence throughout the hall as a silent background symphony started. I knew I was excited as I was about to experience my first theatre, “Arms and the Man”, a Broadway play by George Bernard Shaw produced by the Motley theatre. It was a periodic-comedy that takes place in early 1885, during Serbo-Bulgarian War. The stage lights were slowly turned on to focus on and reveal the artists. And then the wait was over as the man took his spot on the centre of stage. The crowd once again came back to life and welcomed him with a big applause.  

Naseeruddin Shah, one of India’s most realistic actors ever was before us. And then, the next 2 hours were bliss to watch my favourite actor live on the stage. Playing a militant from the Bulgarian army, he never once let us disagree that he was out of character. Like the numerous roles he played in the Hindi cinema, this one too left a mark in my mind. My first impression, when I heard the title and genre of the play, was I thought that it would a boring play with elderly audience. I was present there only to watch my favourite actor live. But, I was wrong, there was elderly audience but the play was not at all boring. It kept me hung till the end and the dialogues were extremely hilarious. It was like watching an American Sit-com live. The play ended with Naseer Saab, also the director of this play, giving the credits to his fellow artists who included his own wife Ratna Pathak Shah and Randeep Hooda in the leads. End of the day, Naseer Saab was the winner as he proved the fact that a real actor is the one who needs no retakes unlike in movies. Though I wanted to run to the backstage and meet him personally, I somehow controlled myself with just praising him with applause like all others on the cheaper seats.

The first movie I watched of his was probably Masoom and from then on, I have been an ardent fan of his movies. Maybe, also because I like the kind of parallel movies he does. I started collecting his movies where ever I could get them. Some of my commercial-movie-lover friends started joking around for the kind of movies that I watched and I never bothered to explain them what they were missing. One day, a friend asked me which movie did I watch last night and I said, ‘Parzania’. Of course he had never heard of this movie.

Many such movies like Parzania, Firaaq, Mithya, Maqbool , Being Cyrus, Iqbal etc never got much attention to a bigger audience as much as they deserved it. Of course, they did get much of critical acclamation but got overshadowed by the commercialization and ‘brands’ of Indian cinema.
In his early works, the movies like paar, sparsh, nishant, jaane bhi do yaaron, etc in 1970s did get a lot of attention and he also won filmfare and national awards for them. He also played Mahatma Gandhi in Kamal Hassan's 'Hey Raam' and 'Mirza Ghalib' in Gulzar's biopic TV series.
But maybe, after the beginning of the Bacchan and the Khans-era, parallel-cinema somehow got pushed back and people started liking more of commercial, paisa-vasool, movies and remakes of Hollywood and south.
But then, Naseer Saab didn’t stop, neither did he care about awards or length of the role he was offered. Some of his recent notable cameos were in Khuda kay liye, a Pakistani film where he played a wise maulana, Zindagi na milegi dobara, in which he played an arrogant artist and rajneeti in which he played a vocal activist and many others. Apart from these, his work in ‘a Wednesday’ and ‘Ishqiya’ in recent time were praise-worthy.

Somehow, we are again coming back to the era of intelligent cinema and now audience, despite of categorizing a movie, go and watch even an off-beat flick if it is watch-worthy. I see a hope, in the coming ages, when once again, talent/quality will be counted over ‘Brand names’.



  1. he is my favourite too ---the way he executes all his roles the way he gets into them --awesome--and i just forget the name of the movie in which a photographer who blackmails --I think it had Rekha and Shashi Kapoor too

    1. thankyou for reading..
      i think you are talking about his movie 'ijaazat' :)

  2. Hi Ashish,

    You know what, even I watch more of off-beat movies rather than the mainstream ones simply because they offer me a logic, a reason and some thoughts to provoke my mind. I love films which makes you think days after watching the movie. Naseeruddin Shah is indeed a versatile actor, I liked his film Mirch Masala where both he and Smita Patil gave stellar performances.


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    1. true story!

      I have not yet watched mirch masala... :)

  3. He is one of my fav's too. :D
    My first live theater was a year or two back. And I simply loved the experience! :D

    1. yup, it is so much different from the movies.

  4. Well said Ashish. Naseeruddin Shah is truly a Shah of Bollywood. His movies are memorable. Wednesday was such a lovely movie. Media has turned the audience's attention to commercial cinema and hence people are not much interested in Art movies.

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