By Priyanka Khanna, Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) Versatile actor Naseeruddin Shah is ready
with his directorial debut that hits the marquees on Friday, while the
directorial success of former Bollywood actor Rakesh Roshan has reached
Though Naseer's "Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota" is as different from
Roshan's "Krrish" as chalk is from cheese -- both are visions of actors
who made it big in an era when the Mumbai-studio based Hindi film trade
was a far cry from the industry that is has become today.
On the surface, similarities between the two end there.
Naseer never was a fit in the world of larger-than-life escapist
Bollywood films. One cannot help agreeing with him when he says: "How I
have survived (in Bollywood) is a mystery?"
When one thinks of Naseer, offbeat films like "Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron",
"Masoom", "Sparsh", "Monsoon Wedding", "Ijaazat", "Maqbool" and "Iqbal"
come to mind. It is hard to imagine him doing a typical Bollywood song
and dance sequence, though he has.
He has featured in over 120 films and his oeuvre includes typical
Bollywood masala flicks as well. Like when filmmaker Rajiv Rai had cast
him in a romantic role with Sonam decades ago in "Tridev", a villain in
"Mohra" and a play-boyish, flamboyant kind of character in the more
He is among the handful of so-called character actors from India who
have made a mark internationally. In director Stephen Norrington's "The
League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen", he was pitted against international
superstar Sean Connery.
However, neither the US critics nor the US box office was too happy
with the film, but it did bring him international recognition. Acclaim
from overseas came for films like "Monsoon Wedding" and "The Perfect
Naseer had entered films some 25 years when a lot of low-budget,
experimental and realistic films were being made. He later rejected a
lot of them as being trash and unnecessarily dark.
"The mistake we made in the seventies was imagining the movement
would sweep the country and change the course of filmmaking. The
filmmakers had the pretension. Frankly, we all did.
"So when the movement collapsed on its face in five years or so, we
were all shocked. Now I believe when the need for good cinema arises,
we will make good cinema. It is as simple as that," he says.
Mainstream Bollywood had always been his béte noire. He said in an
interview, "Bollywood has become much slicker on the surface, but I
don't think we are making any progress in terms of content. We are just
doing the same old stories."
As Naseer turns director with "Yun Hota To Kya Hota" it will be
interesting to note how he has managed to walk the tight rope between
meaningful and fantasy cinema. Going by the star cast it is evident
that he is trying to target both -- mainstream Bollywood movie
audiences as well as discerning viewers.
He has roped in acting powerhouses Irrfan Khan and Konkona SenSharma
along with popular actors Jimmy Shergill and Ayesha Takia. Both Jimmy
and Ayesha know their craft but have not had many opportunities to
exhibit their prowess.
Not too long ago, another versatile, un-conventional-looking actor
Anupam Kher had gone behind the camera. The debut film of the actor,
who is known for his work in meaningful and powerful films, was the box
office dud "Om Jai Jagdish". The multi-starrer was as mainstream
Bollywood as they come.
Naseer's attempt to marry mainstream and popular cinema is not new.
And that is where the other similarity between him and Roshan comes in.
The latter, who once made archetypical kitsch Bollywood films, no
longer churns out run-of-the-mill fare.
In some way he broke away from the established formula and certainly
served to strengthen the movement for better content and special
Now only if Naseer's "leftist" could become more mainstreamed and
Roshan's "rightist" cinematic visions could be less shallow, Bollywood
would be utopia.
"Yun Hota To Kya Hota" narrates a mélange of tales that are not
always intrinsically related to each other except in a broad thematic
manner. Naseer has gone in for movie medleys at a time when such
portmanteau films are the flavour of the season in Bollywood.
The trend started after, "Darna Mana Hai", a Ram Gopal Varma horror
flick that had five diverse stories and its sequel "Darna Zaroori Hai"
had seven different storylines.
While Nikhil Advani's "Salaam-e-Ishq" and Reema Kagti's "Honeymoon
Travels Pvt. Ltd.," portmanteau films are ready for release, producer-
director Sanjay Gupta is working on a 10-in-one film with different
directors, involving veterans like Shyam Benegal and Sudhir Mishra.
Will Naseer succeed where others failed? The likes of Amitabh
Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and Bipasha Basu had failed to save "Darna
Zaroori Hai" from becoming a dud. Same fate had befallen Khalid
Mohamed's offbeat "Silsilay".
Similarly, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's debut film, "Musafir" which had
three stories about three sets of occupants of a rented house, did not
click despite the presence of actors like Dilip Kumar, Suchitra Sen and
Kishore Kumar in the cast.
In fact, Satyajit Ray's "Teen Kanya", that captured essence of Nobel
laureate Rabindranath Tagore's three stories, was probably the first
Indian film to use the format.
Internationally, Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's
"Amores Perros" and last year's Oscar winner "Crash", which dealt with
the scourge of racism in the US, successfully used the technique for