By Devansh Patel,
As Arshad Warsi's career has expanded beyond the kinds of over the top comedies that he first became famous for earlier in his career with Tere Mere Sapne, he has done a great job of bouncing back and forth between edgier material such as Waisa Bhi Hota Hai: Part 2, Kabul Express and the more commercial mainstream like Golmaal. But Munnabhai MBBS and his role of 'Circuit' was a perfect project for Arshad because it provided an outlet for him to explore his more manic comic tendencies. He could also create a character that he could return to should 'Circuit' develop into a franchise. And believe it or not...it did with Lage Raho Munnabhai. In London filming for his next release 'Goal', the actor talks to IndiaFM's London correspondent Devansh Patel about his climbing career graph, the prank he played on his director and what he felt like when he was called a racist in London. Excerpts from the interview:
After your portrayal of Circuit, you have become an asset to the producers and directors. Did Munnabhai change your career graph?
Yes it pretty much did. Before Munnabhai, my career was at a standstill. Munnabhai MBBS re-started everything and then Lage Raho Munnabhai speeded up the proceedings. Zor ka jhatka dheere se laga (It was quite shocking). Now, everything seems to be going in the right direction.
You and Boman have many things in common. Munnabhai films, sense of humour and change of professions which led you both into films. Anything else we am missing out on?
You are right. Before joining films, Boman Irani was a photographer and I was a choreographer. We both were into English plays. Boman's first play was choreographed by me. Then, when I got into films, I used to tell Boman to join in and he refused. Last but not the least, this time around, we both were involved in a prank which we played on Vivek, the director.
The last thing you want is your critics and fans tag you with an image of a comic actor. When are we going to see a serious Arshad on screen?
I did a film called Sehar which was seriously serious. It was an autobiographical story because I was enacting the role of Lucknow's SSP Ajay Kumar who was instrumental in bringing together a group of committed police officers under the aegis of Special Task Force. Throughout the film, I've only smiled twice, so you can imagine how serious the role was. Infact, Sehar got critical acclaim for me as an actor but did not quite work at the box office.
You've worked with Vivek Agnihotri in Chocolate which was shot in London. In Goal, how do you gel along with him?
In Chocolate, Vivek was a director and now in Goal we have grown to be friends. He is very committed and focused and loves to shoot in London. This film is one of the very few Indian films to be shot and finished in London which is commendable. Hats off to him for making it possible!
On the not-so-serious side, I played a prank on Vivek by hiring two police officers who come to arrest him. He nearly died because there was no escape and he had to believe that the cops were real and had a reason to arrest him. End of the day, it was just a joke but I am happy I planned it for all the crew members who were feeling a bit low after spending couple of months in London away from their actual home in Mumbai.
Describe your role in Goal.
My characters name is Shaan who is a very passionate guy who wants to bring the community together by trying to win a football match for his team. Shaan has one dream. A dream to save his football club and for that, he puts his family behind too. He goes out of his way to achieve his dream.
Has the experience of Kabul Express changed your perception towards cinema?
No it hasn't changed. That is my perception of cinema which was brought out in Kabul Express. I like that kind of cinema. I like real people in a film. For super-heroes, we have Superman and Batman, but in a movie I like to see people who are ordinary, regular and doing what they do in their real life. Kabul Express is my kind of cinema with a good dose of realism and commercialism. It's glossy with real performances. Same applies to Munnabhai.
Goal is like a family affair. You, John Abraham, Boman Irani and Vivek Agnihotri. You've worked with all of them. Tell our readers about John off the screen and on-screen.
John on the screen will always stick to some format of acting. In real life, he has a sense of humour, is funny, he cracks jokes and is quite a relaxed and a comfortable, chilled-out guy. I have noticed that on screen he will never perform relaxed. In all his past performances, he has built a very tough-guy image. I am not complaining about John here but giving my take on this person who is a gentleman. I love working with him because he is a great person and that reflects in his work. It's easy to work with him because he is a nice chap. So, if I had to give John an advice, I would tell him to be a person on-screen what he is off screen.
I have noticed that on screen John Abraham will never perform relaxed.
What attracts you towards the city of London?
I feel I am in Mumbai sometimes. It's the cross culture, the number of people, the architecture...it has more or less everything what you want. If I go on a holiday, London will be the best place to go because it's got the night life, the museums, different cuisines, shopping...you name it and you'll get it.
The grapevine hears that you, in your wacky sense of humour complained about John and the rest of the cast that they get to play football and you don't. What was that all about?
Oh my God! Please don't take this in a wrong way. I was just fooling around. I told my director that you guys made me train for football and now because I play an injured footballer I have a plaster around my leg. Now you only tell me, how fare is this? (Laughs) There is a song I can't dance to, there's a fight scene where I can't fight and the only thing remaining to happen is an injury to my mouth so I don't have anymore dialogues. I just took the conversation on a light and funny mode.
The trilogy of Munnabhai continues in America. Are we going to see a different Circuit without his black kurta (outfit)?
Not at all! I don't want to see a Superman in any other outfit except his blue and red attire. The moment he switches to a yellow outfit I am not going to like him anymore. That's a set format. In the same way, people identify with my black kurta, gold chain and my accent. So this is to all my fans: Apun aarela hai agle saal, kya! (Circuit will be coming next year)
Munnabhai and Rang De Basanti has been influential in changing the mindset of the Indian public. Whether it's the candle-lit vigil for Jessica Lal murder case or to apply the Gandhian philosophy to deal with problems. What's your take on the change?
I hope the change works for good. I know it has started but it should happen more often. If a film can provoke youngsters to do something good by choosing the path of non-violence, I think it's great but the only thing they should not forget is that films will come and go but the good things taken from the film should not be erased from ones mind. I would also advice people not to take the Rang De Basanti route because in today's time no one can take such drastic measures by killing a politician. The Munnabhai way of approach to life is the best example as it is the route which Gandhiji applied - the path of non-violence and honesty.
Does that mean you did not like Rang De Basanti?
No. Rang De… was a very well made film but the path the college students take to punish the political system was wrong and cannot possibly happen. That's the only negative aspect about Rang De Basanti.
How would you sum up your last five years in the Indian cinema?
It's been a roller coaster ride after Munnabhai MBBS released in 2003. Before that it was terrible. I am the only actor who has gone out of the industry and come back. Mr Bachchan was the only one before me to have made a come back. I was out of the film industry for three years. The truth is that if you are not seen for one year then you are out. Nobody wants you back and is going to invest in you. Munnabhai proved it wrong and made the impossible, possible.
Tell us something about your forthcoming films.
Goal will be the first one out this year. After that there's a film called Sunday directed by Rohit Shetty which stars Ajay Devgan. It is a thriller. Then there is Shortcut which is produced by Anil Kapoor and stars Akshaye Khanna. It's a story of a director and an actor who cannot act. I'm playing the actor in the film (laughs). He doesn't want to be an actor but wants to be a star and somehow he makes it. He wants to choose the shorter way to success.
Krazy For is next which is produced by Rakesh Roshan in which I play an angry man who has anger problem. He looses his cool and is in a mental asylum. How he comes out and faces the world is what the film is all about. Then I start Golmaal sequel with a whole new story. It's got all four of us again. Ajay Devgan, Tusshar Kapoor and Sharman Joshi. I play a cop in the film who has a Amitabh Bachchan hangover. Can you imagine? Every time he wears his uniform, he thinks he is Mr Bachchan. It's going to be hilarious. And my last film for which I start shooting in April 2008 is Munnabhai Chale America. We have only made the promo of the film which is out.
Any message for your fans?
Please watch my movies because I work very hard on them. But there is something which I would love to convey to a girl who wrote a letter to me in Mumbai. I was hosting the reality T.V show Big Boss, the Indian version of the Big Brother. During that time the racism issue was brought to my attention and I supported Shilpa Shetty for it. Then somebody asked me whether I had experienced racism, and I replied by saying 'No' because I live in India. But there was one girl who wrote a letter saying that the racism issue is quite big in London and we sitting in India can't imagine what one goes through here in London. But during the shooting of Goal, I have experienced racism myself and just want to pass on an important message to that girl by saying that I do understand what she goes through.