Naseer and his candids

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Naseeruddin Shah’s in town. And he promises ‘stimulating theatre’ at the Chowdiah on August 22. He is helped here by famous Urdu writer Izmat Chughtai (now no more) whose three short stories will be brought to life by Shah, his wife Ratna Pathak and daughter Heeba.

If you find some of the women profiled in the play, zany, over the top and highly entertaining, maybe you should read more of Chughtai and the real women she talks about. The press conference on August 20 was as enlightening. “Bollywood films don’t tax your intellect,” said Shah. “I have never had any idols. Though I do admire some of them, I never found anything inspirational about them.”

When he went to Hollywood (to shoot for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), he was greeted with a startle. “When I said I had done 150 films in 23 years, they were shocked. And when I said, this is nothing, my contemporaries have done over 500, they were completely taken aback.”

But Shah confessed theatre is what has kept him sane. “It’s my equivalent to exercising,” he said. “It keeps me in shape and helps me re-invent myself.” But if there’s one story Shah admits, he never quite understood, it’s Hamlet. And if there’s one person he met but never realised who she was in literary circles, it was Chughtai. “I worked with Izmat apa in Junoon, not knowing who she was,” he admitted. “Looking back, I think she was the only one real in the film. Everone else is acting away.”

(First published in City Reporter, 2003)