Naseer replaces Amitabh in 'Maharathi'

Mumbai, Sep 23 (IANS) After Jagmohan Mundhra's "Shoot On Sight", thespian Naseeruddin Shah has once again replaced Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan in the comic thriller "Maharathi", a film inspired by a hit Gujarati play starring Paresh Rawal.

"He (Amitabh) opted out because the role had shades of grey," Paresh, who also directed the play, told IANS.

"Amitji explained his point of view in detail to me. And I agreed with him. So my dear friend Naseer, who was supposed to do another role in the screen adaptation, stepped into the role."

Amitabh opted out of "Shoot On Sight", based on the July 2007 London bombings, because he found it too controversial for his liking.

In the film, Naseer finally played the role of Tariq Ali, a Muslim police officer at Scotland Yard, who is asked to track down suspected suicide bombers involved in the bombings.

Roping in Naseer is not the only change "Maharathi" underwent - originally Vikram Bhatt was to direct it, but he was replaced by Shivum Nair.

Paresh says he avoided directing the movie because he could not remove theatre from his sensibility.

"I've often been asked why I haven't directed the film myself. The truth is the play is still fresh in my mind. But I didn't want the grammar of the stage to be applied to the film version. Then what is the point doing a film? My mind is filled with the play. I couldn't have detached myself from the stage.

"I needed a fresh cinematic vision to improve on the play. After doing plays for 21 years, I can't remove theatre from my sensibility."

All in place, Paresh is now just waiting to wrap up the shooting and see the end result on the big screen.

"It's been a while since I felt this way about any film of mine. 'Maharathi' is based on my own play. When I did the play, I had to hunt around for backers for more than two years. We went on stage with the play in 1987.

"I did more than 700 shows. History repeated itself for the film when I had to hardsell my script for almost three years. Finally, I found a producer in Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision Ltd.," he said.

"Now I'm doing the work that I'd talk about, like 'Maharathi'. It is a very classy comic thriller. And I got to work with actors I really respect, like Naseer, Om Puri, Boman Irani. It's a healthy commercial film. I'm sick of doing the unhealthy kind. I enjoy doing a film that takes me back to my roots and to work with the people I wanted to work with."

Paresh himself plays the same role in the film that he did in the play.

"I play a driver who accidentally meets Naseer's character. 'Maharathi' doesn't sacrifice logic for suspense. The script is watertight. Everyone and everything are in place."

Paresh hopes to repeat the success of the play.

"We used to have audiences coming repeatedly for the play although the suspense was out during the first performance. We had to revive it thrice on public demand. I hope to see the same success for the film."

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