By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service
Mumbai, (IANS) Versatile actor Paresh Rawal is upset with the poor state of comedy in Bollywood and says it is heading towards doom.
"There's a serious scarcity of writers in Bollywood, especially comedy writers. Drama and villainy can be managed without good writing. But not comedy! I
never felt as suffocated doing villainy as I do now in doing comedy," Rawal told IANS in an interview.
Paresh, who stars in the newly released comedy "Malamaal Weekly", desperately wants to move on to serious roles - but the lack of interest of serious
filmmakers in him perturbs the prolific actor.
"I'd like to work with a filmmaker with convictions like Sudhir Mishra, Prakash Jha, Raj Santoshi...Why aren't these people coming to me?" asks
Q: You have yet another comic release coming up.
A: I have just returned from shooting for Ahmed Khan's "Fool & Final", which is another caper...I'm seriously fed up...I won't touch anything dubious. But
"Malamaal Weekly" was enjoyable.
The flavour is not farcical. It's not just a comedy, or a family film or a thriller. The pleasure of working with Omji (Om Puri) in an entire film is
rare. It gave me a chance to rejuvenate myself as an actor. I am his fan. It's very rare to come across actors who aren't selfish.
Q: But your director, Priyadarshan, tells me there was healthy rivalry between you and Om?
A: Oh yes, it was great fun improvising between the two of us, and to see who would get the last word in. There are only a few people in the film industry
whom I admire as actors and human beings. Omji is one of them. He is such a sweetheart.
Q: Are you tired of shouldering the entire responsibility of films?
A: I have worked so hard to arrive at this juncture in my career where I can shoulder whole films. But it depends on what you are shouldering.
I have been in the industry for so long. Films sometimes don't work even when I am convinced of the storyline. At times I do films because of the set-up
or to be part of a good film. But yes, I am completely bored with comedy. I want filmmakers to know that I am open to doing serious, non-comic roles. My
doors are wide open for them.
Q: It's believed you have hiked your price.
A: No, it all depends on the set-up. For a film like "Iqbal" I won't ask my market price. But if it's an out-and-out commercial film, why shouldn't I ask
for what I think I deserve? But I know my limitations. It's the conventional leading man who draws the audience. I'm not insecure about money. I'm insecure
about good actors.
After I watch Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) or Om perform, I stay awake the whole night. My values are middleclass. I don't want to be rich. I want to be
Q: Most of the comedy today is vulgar.
A: I don't go into vulgar double-meanings at all. Thankfully, they don't come to me. And by chance, if I end up with something vulgar, I modify it to suit
my sensitivities. I change the words to take the sting out of the double meaning.
I've a couple of really decent comedies coming up. After "Malamaal Weekly" it will be "Phir Hera Pheri". That will create a bang. Neeraj Vora, who has
directed "Phir Hera Pheri", has a lot of wisdom in his comedy that he isn't allowed to show on screen. Producers don't want to go to the source of the punch
line. That's why from now on I'll say a flat no to farcical comedies.
There's a serious scarcity of writers in Bollywood, especially comedy writers. Drama and villainy can be managed without good writing. But not comedy! I
never felt as suffocated doing villainy as I do now in doing comedy. I am afraid comedy in our cinema is heading towards doom. Even Neeraj Vora is fed up of
the comedy he's forced to write.
Q: But you bring variation to all your comedies?
A: I try to make it interesting by trying to find something interesting in the plot. Now I find a lot of imitators. That's understandable. If you hit a
good square-cut, others are bound to learn it too. Even I've been inspired by Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Amitabh Bachchan. But I've never imitated
Q: Any serious roles coming up?
A: In Abbas-Mastan's "36 China Town" I have different shades to perform. Abbas and Mustan are so untouched by the trappings of showbiz. In Naseer bhai's
"Yun Hota To Kya Hota" I have a role that's comic but it's a serious kind of comedy. But I want to do a human drama.
When I was doing villains' roles Ketan Mehta came along and offered me "Sardar Patel". People thought he was crazy but Ketan was convinced. Then Mahesh
Bhatt came into my life to give me "Sir", "Tamanna" and "Kabzaa". I'm waiting for another Ketan Mehta and Mahesh Bhatt to come into my life.
Q: You have hardly done any offbeat cinema?
A: It's very strange, but at the beginning of my career I struggled to get into art films... I didn't get any roles in films by Govind Nihalani, Shyam
Benegal and Kumar Shahane. Then I went into commercial cinema and became successful when in 1984 Karim Morani saw a play and recommended me to Rahul Rawail
Q: Why did you stop working for Mahesh Bhatt?
A: Even today I'd happily work with him. But not when someone else directs his productions. I have to trust my director. If I am stripping myself
emotionally for a man he better deserve my respect.
I'd like to work with a filmmaker with convictions like Sudhir Mishra, Prakash Jha, Raj Santoshi... Why aren't these people coming to me? I have no ego
problems in calling up a director 10 times a day. But at the end of the day, I should have a role to show for it. I don't have a secretary. I handle my own
career. I don't want to fire my gun from another person's shoulder. I take my own decisions and live by them.
Q: What are you now looking for?
A: I need challenges as an actor. I feel the comic period in my career has harmed the actor in me. I don't know what to do...Give me just two solid
scenes. But give me something to do. Something meaningful. I am hopeful about "Malaamal Weekly". It's a remarkable con game. It dispels the notion of
villagers being simpletons. I don't get turned on by being the leading man. But if it works, filmmakers would be encouraged to do a different kind of