Naseeruddin Shah is always known to call a spade a spade. All hell broke loose when in a self-penned tribute to the great Dilip Kumar in the Indian Express, Naseer said, “It’s incomprehensible why an actor of such immaculate craft, one whose very presence elevated any film he was in, one who just had to nod his head to set any project he fancied into motion, one justly acclaimed as the finest in the country, one financially secure for several generations, chose to play safe the way he did…
. It is also no mystery why, instead of using his clout to encourage filmmakers deviating from the norm, to scripts depicting the truth of their times, and thus to films which may have altered his understanding of the actor’s contribution, he opted instead for a series of indulgent, clunky embarrassments some of which did set the box-office on fire, but also compelled many ardent admirers, myself very much included, to perceive him anew… If being a star does curious things to people, being resident legend does even curiouser things I suppose.”
The country known to worship the dead couldn’t take the criticism of the acting God in their stride. Now clearing the air once and for all Naseer says, “Those who decided to take offence at what I said about Dilip Saab should have read the entire article and they would have realised that my praise, though conditional, for his acting chops was nothing less than glowing. I practically ran out of superlatives when describing his acting abilities.”
So what exactly was Naseer’s complaint? “My ‘complaint’ had nothing to do with that at all. However the reaction of people who choose to see meanings where there are none doesn’t bother me.”
Reacting to my query if he stands by what he said Naseer replies, “I said what I had to say, and if I hadn’t meant it I wouldn’t have said it.”It was widely rumoured that there were problems between Dilip Saab and Naseer Saab during the shooting of Subhash Ghai’s Karma, the only films in which the two brilliant actors came together?
Replies Naseer, “The supposed problems we had during the making of a film which I’d rather forget, was all the invention of the media and some vested interests who made our working together sound like some sort of acting duel that was to take place, when considering the nature of our respective roles, I actually didn’t stand a chance. All this fanned the non-existent flames when the fact was we hardly even met including in the scenes we had together.”
For Naseer acting is never about one-upmanship. “I don’t consider acting to be a contest or a game of one-upmanship and I was far from happy with all the talk of Dilip Kumar Versus Me. I have never denied that it was my childhood dream to act with and not opposite, him.”