'Ek Mulaqat’ is a weekly chat show presented by BBC Hindi India Editor, Sanjeev Srivastava. The programme brings lively and informative interviews with some of India’s most famous people, including politicians, artists, sports personalities and Bollywood stars.
Below are excerpts from Shatrughan Sinha's interview on BBC Ek Mulaqat on 94.3 FM that was telecast on Sunday 7th October 2007:
Which role do you like better – that of a politician or an actor?
Shatrughan Sinha: All these roles are connected to one another. The love that people showered on me made me an actor. Then I felt that I should do something for the people who have given me so much love. I entered politics due to my responsibilities towards society. But it is true that I have gained recognition due to my acting. Films are my first love. At the same time, I have also gained respect due to my social and political life.
You are also addressed as Shotgun. Why?
SS: I am quiet in my personal life as opposed to the roles I play in my films. Actually my name is slightly difficult – Shatrughan Prasad Sinha. I have shortened that name. People have distorted my name and called me by different names. But some newspapers and magazines started addressing me as ‘Shotgun’. That’s when this name became popular.
Didn’t this name appear in the film magazine ‘Star Dust’?
When you entered the film industry all the actors were clean-shaven, sans beard and moustache. In that scenario, you made a name for yourself. You must have wondered – what is so unique about me?
SS: I used to say that if I can become an actor, so can anybody else. When I went to the Pune Film Institute to do my graduation, I wondered how to carve a niche for myself in this dream world of Mumbai. Leave aside a godfather; I didn’t even have an acquaintance in the entire film industry. Some people told me to get plastic surgery done to hide the scar on my face. But Dev Anand told me that when you become successful, your shortcomings would become your style. But I decided that I would neither change my name nor my face. Then when I wondered how I would establish myself here, some one gave me a mantra. I would like to share those words with everybody through Ek Mulaqat. If you want to be successful in life, prove yourself and if you are not able to do so for any reason, then show how distinct you are from others. Now you see people imitating/mimicking me. But you would have never seen me imitating others. That’s because of that mantra.
Your film Mere Apne was terrific! It had Mr. Vinod Khanna as well. Share with us the experiences of those times.
SS: By that time many of my films had been released. But Mere Apne established me in the industry. It was the first time that people started cheering when a villain entered the scene. I had seen the Bengali version of Mere Apne. It was called Aapan Jaan. I don’t understand why I was so confident that this film would come to me. That film also had a character called Chenu. Tapan Sinha had made the film in Bengali. Initially, this film had gone to Jalal. But only a week later, I was selected for this film made by Gulzar. This was Gulzar’s first film too. In one of the scenes in the film I had to fight with Vinod Khanna. Within one to one and a half minutes during the fight scene, we started panting heavily. I wondered how in the prime of our youth we were panting so heavily. The only reason I could think of was that we smoked cigarettes. From that moment I felt that one shouldn’t smoke cigarettes. Then I quit smoking cigarettes within a few years.
How and when did you feel that you had to become a film actor?
SS: We are four brothers. Their names are Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan. My father’s name is B. P. Sinha. He did his BSc and MSc from America. He wanted two of us to become scientists and two to become doctors. Today two of my brothers are successful scientists and the other is a doctor. But Shatrughan Sinha was not fit to become a compounder. Now it’s a different thing that I became India’s health minister one day. He tried his best, but he didn’t succeed in making me a doctor. I had seen a film Shree 420 in my childhood. I liked Raj Kapoor a lot and still do. Then I started acting and began imitating actors. Someone suggested that I get trained in Film & Television Institute of India, Pune. My father didn’t understand why anybody needed to get trained to be an actor. Many people didn’t know about this institute. Father didn’t agree. He was very sad and didn’t sign my form. My brother signed on my form. But later my father liked my work.
Tell us a song of your choice.
SS: ‘Chodo kal ki baatein…’
One more song.
SS: ‘Mujhko mere baad zamaana dhoondega’ - one more song from the film Buniyaad – ‘Pukaro mujhe phir pukaro’…
Which is your favourite amongst your films?
SS: There was a Bengali film Antarjali Yatra. It received an international award. It was also made in Hindi as ‘Mahayatra’. This was made by Gautam Ghosh. This is considered to be an art film. Then I like films like Samjhauta, Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Mere Apne and Dost. Dharmendra and Hema Malini were my co-stars in Dost. The film has a song…’ Aa bataa dein ki kaise jiya jaata hai’…I worked with Amitabh Bachchan in films like Kaala Pathar, Dostana, Naseeb and Shaan. All the films were successful. There is a song from Dostana – ‘salamat rahe dostana hamaara’….Kaalicharan and Vishwanath are also among my favourite films. Many directors began their careers with me. Subhash Ghai made Kaalicharan and Vishwanath. Rakesh Roshan made Khudgarz. David Dhawan also started his career with me. In my roles as a villain, people showered me with so much love that producers and directors made me a hero. As a hero, I think my first film was Milap and Ek Naari Do Roop.
Some people say that only as a villain did your character flourish in its entirety. By the way, you would turn out to be the hero even in the films that you played the villain?
SS: Yes, you could call it a negative role instead of a villain. It was that of a rebel character. Like the ones in Kaala Pathar and Dostana. I like these roles.
One more song of your choice.
SS: The song from my first film Milap, which was sung by Mukesh. ‘Kayi sadiyon se, kayi janmon se aa ja ke adhura hai Milan’
Who is your favourite singer?
SS: Mukesh is my favourite singer. That was also because he was associated with Raj Kapoor. I knew every one who was associated with Raj Kapoor. Since childhood I knew all the people who worked with Raj Kapoor like Radhu Karmaakar, Alladin Khan, Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. I also have great regard for Kishore Kumar. I regard Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar as institutions. I also respect Hemant Kumar and Manna Dey a lot. These people play a very big role in building bonds between countries. I have seen during my visits to Pakistan that they are as popular in Pakistan as in India.
Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand were also famous during Raj Kapoor’s time. Were you fond of them too or was it just Raj Kapoor?
SS: Raj Kapoor was my favourite. My golden moments were when I worked with him in the film Khan Dost. Its song ‘kaahe ki dosti, kaahe ki yaari’ also became very popular. But I also like Dilip Kumar a lot. I keep getting his blessings. I have also worked with Ashok Kumar. I think I am an artist who has had the opportunity of working with actors of every period.
There were many films that you declined and which went to become hits?
SS: Deewaar and Sholay were the prominent ones. I was to play the role enacted by Amitabh Bachchan. Even in the film Sholay, I was to get the role played by Amitabh. Some people also wanted me to play the role played by Amjad Khan. But by then I had got established as a hero. Ramesh Sippy had written in his book that he wanted me to act in Sholay. But that was the past and one mustn’t regret things that have happened in the past.
Tell me one more song of your choice.
SS: The song from the film Khilona- ‘Khilona jaankar tum kyon meraa dil tod jaate ho’….This will be a true homage/tribute to Sanjeev Kumar and L. V. Prasad.
One more song of your choice.
SS: I want to play one song each for my wife and my family. My wife used to sing one song – ‘Jaise radha ne maala japi shyam ki…’ and the second song is ‘tere sur aur mere geet dono milkar banenge preet’. Earlier, we used to have excellent lyricists and composers. Nowadays one does not know what kind of music is played.
It has been said that you had very good relationship with Zia-Ul-Haq.
SS: Yes, we were like family. His daughter Zain Zia initiated this relationship. She was his favourite daughter. She ties me rakhi to this day.
Whom do you consider your biggest rival in films?
SS: Many people have considered me as their rival. Mahatma Gandhi had said that to succeed in any movement or campaign you have to encounter and go past four things. Firstly - ridicule, secondly - contempt, thirdly – censure, and lastly- oppression. If you are able to face these four difficulties then success and honour will be yours.
I have a list, which has the names of the actresses who have acted with you - Jaya Bhaduri, Reena Roy, Moushmi Chatterjee and Zeenat Aman. Of these who according to you was the most talented actress?
SS: All of them are excellent actresses. Be it Jaya Bhaduri, Reena Roy or Moushmi Chatterjee each had her own charisma. Reena Roy was very hard working and Zeenat Aman again a fabulous actress was famous for her fashion and design.
Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi figured amongst the modern kind of actresses of that period.
SS: They made a special place for themselves. However, they also maintained their prestige.
Another song of your choice?
SS: Its a song from the film Mahal – ‘Aayega aane waala…
Who, in your opinion was the most talented of all the actors you worked with?
SS: Sanjeev Kumar and Rajesh Khanna were excellent actors. Rajesh Khanna had his own style and completely enjoyed working with him. No one else has gained the kind of popularity he got when he was a super-star. Today, Amitabh Bachchan is not only one of the most respected persons in India but also in Asia. Jeetendra was a sociable, quick-tempered actor. I really enjoyed working with him.
In which films did you work with him?
SS: I have worked with him in films like Dil-e-nadaan and Paapi pet ka sawaal.
You have always been large-hearted when it comes to praising others.
SS: I try to be honest and forthright when I speak
So many girls have been crazy about you. Who’s been the craziest of them all?
SS: Look, I have got married to one of the crazy girls. Many people have been crazy about me. Also, some did not even get married. I tried to make them understand that love should be positive, constructive, and not destructive.
Your wife, Poonam Sinha is working in Ashutosh Gowrikar’s film - Jodhaa Akbar?
SS: Yes, Ashutosh had come up to me and said that he wanted somebody like Poonam to enact the role of Hrithik’s mother. Then, a few days later, he said that if he wouldn’t mind, he would like Poonam to play the part. Jodhaa Akbar is a special film and Poonam had to play a prominent character, so I had to agree.
It seems you are also introducing your son into films?
SS: Now that the boys have grown up I am planning to do that.
How do you plan your day? Do you wake up at one in the afternoon like the other artists?
SS: These artistes have their own reason for getting up at one in the afternoon. They have late night schedule to work. I tell people to do Yoga. Though I am not able to do so regularly, I still take sometime for it. Yoga has kept my BP under control. Even now my BP is 120/80 like any other 12 year old. I don’t wear glasses. I believe that Yoga has contributed a lot towards this. Ever since I entered politics I have not been doing Yoga regularly.
So, this is the secret of your beauty.
SS: Yoga and Pranayam.
How do you spend your time?
SS: I listen to music, read and write and meet my friends.
What can we expect from Shatrughan Sinha in the days to come?
SS: I wish to work for the people and make them happy. This has always been my endeavour. If I am able to keep people happy with my work, then I will feel that I have accomplished the mission of my life.
Finally, tell me one more song.
SS: ‘Phoolon ke rang se’ and Dil ki kalam se’.