Naseeruddin Shah is ready with his directorial debut ...


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

a crescendo.

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

recent "Asambhav".

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

remarkable affects.