Unlike the yesteryears, when filmmakers didn’t want to experiment due to the fear of losing the interest of the masses, now they are looking for original content, says Actor-director Saurabh Shukla, in conversation with Ayushi Sharma.
It was 25 years ago when Saurabh first came to Mumbai to become an actor. But because of his physique and appearance, actor-director Saurabh Shukla was offered roles which were funny and comic. As he came from a theatre background so he didn’t want to do just that. “I have refused a lot of work in my initial years. It makes sense if I do it now. But it did not then. People think I am choosy but back then when I did that, they probably would have thought that I do not have brains.” Narrating an instance, he says, “This incident probably sums up my whole journey in the industry. I was coming back from New York. I was at the airport, there were a lot of Indians. Just being in virtue of films and seemingly star-struck, some of them came up to me and said that they are a big fan of mine. You definitely respect that and you have a constant smile on your face. And I can recall a man saying ‘Mr Shukla, I am a big fan of yours’. I gently thanked him. I moved ahead. But this man came back to me and told me that he wanted to make a correction. He said ‘more than you, I am a big fan of your choices.’ And that’s about it,” he says.
And indeed Shukla is known for his extraordinary film choices, be it Kallu Mama of Satya, Judge Tripathy of Jolly LLB, Tapasvi Maharaj of PK or an antagonist in Ajay Devgn-starrer Raid. No matter if it’s a negative character or a positive one, the actor, who is all set for Family of Thakurganj, knows how to slay it rather effortlessly.
Shukla tells us that he loves acting to the core. He feels alive when he’s at it. He says, “When I practice my art, I love being part of the whole process. I have a warm corner towards it. I don’t adore anything more than acting, not writing and not even directing.” In a bid to put it in a more refined way, he explains, “I love cars. I drive them myself. But more than the cars, what I love is the fact that where the car is taking me. The destination matters. So instead of a swanky car, which doesn’t take me anywhere, I would rather prefer a simple one, which takes me to different places.”
The actor shares that it was the storyline that first fascinated him towards the film. “It has so many characters and that too, very well astounded ones,” says he. Another thing that grabbed his attention were its screenplay and dialogues. The language that has been used, he says, is quite ornamental. “Dialogue-baazi jisse bolte hain,” he says it as if he was putting it forth as one of his dialogues of a film. He adds, “It has been a tradition in India since the beginning. People still remember Raj Kumar sahab’s dailogue, ‘Sheeshon ke gharon mein rehene vaale log dusron ke gharon par pathar nahi mara karte.’ Such dialogues stay with the audience and become household phrases. My previous roles have been a lot different. The language has been simpler and realistic. Surely, it also has dialogue-baazi but in a very hidden and subtle manner. So, that way, the film is an interesting combination of ornamented language played in a realistic way.”
Shukla has backed films which didn’t necessarily have commercial scripts and they have turned out magnificently. So what has been his process of choosing a script? He answers swiftly, “Every actor has a different criteria of picking it. First, the storyline has to be strong. Second, the character. I examine whether my character is interesting and important. Third, you need to know your co-actors. Will they be able to reach at a certain point? You need to be one of them and simultaneously shine with them. It’s a choice and trust me, it’s not an easy one.”
There would have been countless theories on evolution and how a person transforms with time. But the actor believes that evolution is simply a natural process and one cannot plan it. “It takes its own course. We all move towards evolution and it is because of our surroundings and the choices that you make. And in turn, it’s always those choices that make us and help us evolve.”
Talking about how original content has become the most important thing for both filmmakers as well as actors, and even the viewers, Shukla says that it was not the case previously. Sharing another instance, he says, “In 1993, when I came to Mumbai, I wrote for Satya, Kamal Haasan, Sudhir Mishra and even Rajat Kapoor. My writing has always been appreciated but I never claimed myself as a professional writer. Me and my friends, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Victor (Vijay Krishna Acharya) and Kannan Iyer used to discuss stories together and then go to different producers with our respective stories. We used to tell them that this is our original story ideas and how can we work on it. The producers questioned that why should they do experiments with our stories which are so new and fresh? Please come up with something that has been done earlier. They were afraid to invest in something that might not land them desired results. This was the real issue that we were facing. And then we came up with a strategy. We went to the producers with our original story ideas but tell them that the story was a Romanian film, which no one has seen.”
However, today, he says, the same producers talk about originality. “They tell us that please come to us with something original and new, which is a great transition. So what we saw and felt decades ago has come alive today,” he adds.
The web platform has been allowing many to push boundaries. Shukla agrees. “It’s a wonderful space. But one must understand that a medium is never good or bad. It’s the people who make it through the content. So it’s not necessary that bad work cannot be done on a digital medium too. It just depends on the content,” says Shukla as he signs off with a huge smile on his face.
(The film releases on July 19.)
Writer: Ayushi Sharma
Courtesy: The Pioneer