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'I want to get more work done before my time is up'

By SUBHASH K JHA
July 26, 2021 11:26 IST
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'The thought of death doesn't scare me, but the possibility of becoming an invalid does.'

IMAGE: Naseeruddin Shah, acting legend, with Ratna Pathak Shah. Photograph: Kind courtesy Naseeruddin Shah/Instagram

Naseeruddin Shah turned 71 on July 20, and he was very candid about what that meant to him.

"Thoughts of mortality have been in my head since I turned 50," he tells Subhash K Jha.

What did your birthday mean to you?

Each birthday mainly means the tolling of the bell!

I was shooting in the day and in the evening, my children and a few close friends gathered to celebrate while I sat around as sober as a judge and watched indulgently.

What are your childhood recollections of your birthday?

In my childhood, we never celebrated birthdays as we'd be in school.

At the most, a card and an extra rupee for pocket money would arrive from home.

IMAGE: Naseeruddin Shah with Jugal Hansraj in Shekhar Kapur's Masoom.

We are living through uncertain times. You recently went though a health scare. What are you thoughts on mortality and immortality through one's art?

Thoughts of mortality have been in my head since I turned 50.

Each new decade introduces one to newer bodily frailties, and I want to get more work done before my time is up.

The thought of death doesn't scare me, but the possibility of becoming an invalid does.

You are among the five greatest actors of Indian cinema. Which are your favourite performances?

When asked to name the three greatest writers of all time, George Bernard Shaw began his answer with 'The other two are....?' Not saying that though.

My favourites are Nishant, Sparsh, Masoom, Mandi and Bombay Boys.

IMAGE: Naseeruddin Shah in Baba Azmi's Mee Raqsam.

We saw you in brief roles in Mee Raqsam and Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi in the past year. In one of them, your character was dead at the start. When do we see you again in a solid author-backed part?

Probably never!

I have had more than my share of great parts and am perfectly happy to participate in projects which I enjoy doing.

Theatre has always been more fascinating to you than cinema. Why? Are you looking at another play soon?

Theatre, like a tree, is a living thing which continues to organically evolve, unlike films where once it's done, it's done.

Also, in theatre, one can engage with the greatest texts in the world whereas in our cinema we have to mostly make do with the work of hacks and plagiarists.

There are a couple of things that I have in mind for future theatre productions, but everything depends on Shri COVIDji!

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SUBHASH K JHA