Imaad Shah, the son of Ratna Pathak and Naseeruddin Shah, was his usual irreverent and unapologetic self when we met him on the sets of his next, “M Cream”, in Delhi recently.
The actor told us why he didn’t want a ‘launchpad’ like star kids and why he can’t hang out with most actors .
On doing very few mainstream films
I am trying to play my career as low-key as possible, because I want to do the kind of films I believe in, and I strongly believe in independent cinema. The kind of films that are coming out now are definitely improving over the last generation, but I still feel that there’s a lot of room for improvement. I’m trying to stay away from the whole over-exposed stardom kind of space, and I’ve turned down a lot of work that could have made me very powerful and rich, but there’s a right time for everything. I think the lines between commercial and parallel cinema that used to exist in the 70s – that strict divide – is gone now. And that’s a good thing.
I have done a couple of films in the last couple of years, which should release this year, and I think they are going to do very well in the international film festival circuit. One is “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, and there’s another Bengali film, “Tasher Desh”, that I did with this director called Q in Calcutta, who made “Gandu”.
On star kids
I don’t really ask my parents for advice. I do ask for advice on a more intellectual level, like, ‘what do you think of this dialogue? What do you think of this script?’ But as far as planning my career goes, we don’t do that. There are all kinds of star kids these days, whose parents give them launches and big production houses. But that’s just char din ki chandni. I am in no way interested in taking help from old people, you know, like the ‘dinosaurs’ of the film industry – people who are launching their kids. I don’t want to take names, but that’s generally the scene. You can see a kid who has absolutely no talent in him, but then all these rich, fat guys around him are trying to plot some way in which they are going to save his career. I make my own films.I’ve made a few that have gone to a few festivals.
On friends from Bollywood
I am quite detached, but I do have a lot of friends in the film world. But the ones I find fascinating are the camera men and the director. Among actors, I have a lot of friends, of course, but not a lot of them are worth spending much time with, because of their levels of intelligence, very generally speaking. But I do feel there are a lot of interesting people in films, and always have been. Even though the kind of films we were making 10 or 20 years ago were really fake and staid, there were still some wonderful people. My nani used to take me to Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s house. They were really close friends, and I spent a lot of time with him as a child. There are definitely some wonderful people in Indian cinema today, even the younger lot.
On not wanting to be a star
I really want to make my own films, and I see myself as a director and a writer. And music is a very integral part of it. I feel that stardom would just be counter-productive. I feel like seeing the whole country just the way it is, all its nooks and crannies and bellies. A lot of young people have really embraced this whole Bollywood dream. It might seem lucrative and rosy to start with, but I don’t know how many of them have a view of the country the way it is. That kind of thing will only strengthen my vision as a director. I travel the country in the way I want, and I live the way I want, so my privacy and my way of living is very important to me. I guess that’s why I stayed away from stardom. But in spite of that, I feel that there is definitely a niche that is being created for me with the films I am doing. The kind of following that my films have – a lot of small town boys, and a lot of young boys, the real population of the country, have seen my films. The Hindi-speaking population, the real population, that’s the kind of target audience I see for my films.
On not being from a ‘typical cinema family’
In some ways, we are completely opposite of the average Indian cinema family. My folks are very removed from the whole rat race of Bollywood, they’ve had their own theatre company now for over 30 years and they just do what they believe in. They are very literary people, their main thing is theatre and text, and they are very cerebral in their own way. Being part of the whole Bollywood scene is very disillusioning for them. They stay as far away from it as they can, and despite that, keep doing really interesting work. In some ways, I have definitely taken that from them, but I do feel that my worldview is my own.
On wanting to be a director, writer, music producer
When you have that sort of keeda, you just have to do it. There are no plans, you go with what you have to do. It’s very frustrating to have ideas and not be able to realize them. And cinema is a form where lots of interesting things come together. A command over film forms is very important and only adds to the texture of your films. So, my music and songwriting are definitely going to be a very key part of the films I make. Camera work, literature, writing, dance, music, acting… all these things really come together in the form of cinema.
Acting happened to me by default. I was born into this theatre company, so the first few plays I did, I must have been around four or five. I grew up around this atmosphere of theatre and rehearsals. Being on the stage, being back stage, I was constantly around my parents and their friends. They were always working on a new play, so my home was like a rehearsal stage. They were also doing independent-style back then. Costume ki silaayi ho rahi thi, props were being sourced out, a young theatre group had no option but to do it all on their own. It was a very fertile environment.
On doing his latest film and his role
My character in “M Cream” is very interesting. I felt that I am the only guy who could do it. He’s very cynical and hates the double standards of these so-called intellectual people in Delhi, who go about this cause and that cause and do nothing about it – basically the upper-class fake people. He kinda sees through all of that. He’s also a struggling writer, stuck in the capitalist system, rebelling against society.