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'What's the big deal in using the word 'Saali'?'

Last updated on: February 3, 2011 14:11 IST

'What's the big deal in using the word 'Saali'?'

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Shaikh Ayaz in Mumbai

With dynastic politics assuming grander proportions in a nation of billion-plus people, sons of politicians usually follow in their father and grandfather's shoes.

Yet, there are exceptions.

Arunoday Singh, veteran Congress politician Arjun Singh's grandson and the young actor of Sudhir Mishra's new film Yeh Saali Zindagi, is one such example who chose the film studio over slogan-spouting in the Capital.

The actor, who moonlights as a writer-poet with few works published in literary magazines under pseudonyms, talks to Shaikh Ayaz about cinema, politics, writing and everything in between.

You never thought of getting into politics?

(Laughs) I actually wanted to be a writer, poet, musician, song-writer and travel writer. You'd have found me in a beach in some part of the world lost in thought. But I love cinema and chose this. Politics was never on my mind.

Cinema, like politics, is embroiled in controversies sometimes. There are uncomfortable noises about the word 'Saali' in Yeh Saali Zindagi.

Yeah, it's strange. The idea was not to offend anyone. I don't know what has got people up in arms over a title, especially because that's how people speak. The title beautifully conveys the fitrat (mood) of the film and the nature of the characters if you know what I mean. Instead of Yeh Saali Zindagi, suppose we'd have called it This Damn Life or something, it would have seemed forced.

The word 'Saali' is used with love, irritation, a mixture of affection and helplessness. So what's the big deal? The desperate characters are only asking, Bas ek baar yeh bata de zindagi ki tu jaa kahan rahi hai (please tell us, life, where are you going). I don't understand what is controversial in it.

Of course, everybody has the right to speak but I'm telling you the characters speak today's language. They are not Shakespearean characters that will talk in clipped English. If I play this launda from old Delhi, obviously I will speak in a certain lingo. Similarly, if Sudhir had made a film on some other society, he'd have remained true to that part of the society.


Image: Arunoday Singh in Yeh Saali Zindagi

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'Sudhir Mishra understands cinema very well'

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What attracted you to Yeh Saali Zindagi?

I'm not saying this because I'm in the film. But Yeh Saali Zindagi really has a marvellous story. I've been travelling for the promotions and most people are intrigued and want to see the film. They are getting a good sense of what the film is going to be like.

You've worked with Sudhir in Sikander, which he produced. How's your equation with him?

I love his work. I've seen them all -- Dharavi, Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin, Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin and Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. He makes artistic films and the best thing about him is that he understands cinema very well.

Sudhir Mishra's grandfather D P Mishra was a politician too. Was politics the topic of dinner conversations between you and him?

You know I found that out halfway through the film. I was like, 'Oh, it's good to know our history.'

In fact, our grandfathers had worked together in Madhya Pradesh. So it's cool. But we'd talk about everything. Cinema, politics, everything.


Image: A scene from Yeh Saali Zindagi

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'I don't know how good I'm at it but I love writing'

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So far, you've been inclined towards art house cinema. What do you think of commercial cinema?

Admittedly, what I have done so far isn't the so-called commercial cinema. I don't deny that they have been offbeat films but I can't help if I was attracted to them, can I? I want to work in good films. If a commercial film comes along and I like it, I'll be happy to do it.

What sort of films or performances excite you?

I love actors in different roles. For instance, I'm fond of Naseeruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan and the early films of Om Puri and Amitabh Bachchan.

Abroad, I like Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn. De Niro and Al Pacino. But I don't like them in every film they do. In fact, there are films of theirs I can't stand. So it's the performances that I'm drawn to.

You wanted to be a writer. Do you still write?

Oh yes. I run a blog and I have a few followers, who are fellow writers. I've written under pseudonyms for some literary magazines here and there. I write poems and fiction. I don't know how good I'm at it but I love writing.

Maybe a script or direction someday?

(Laughs) Never say never. That would be fun. For now, let me just be a good actor first.

Image: A scene from Yeh Saali Zindagi

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'I don't have the ego that desires to be marketed all the time'

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Speaking of Aisha, you were given a raw deal. You weren't even part of the publicity campaign.

Let's look at it this way: I was not the main lead and so the publicity campaign won't be focused on me. Look, I don't have the ego that desires to be marketed all the time.

Finally, has your grandfather, Arjun Singh, seen any of your films?

He's seen Aisha. Obviously, he saw it because I was in it and he liked... (Pauses) yes, he liked it. But I think it gave him a headache. (Laughs) But that's because he's not interested in cinema.


Image: A scene from Yeh Saali Zindagi

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