LAHORE: Veteran Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah says he first came to know about legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz when he was in class nine.
“I was introduced to Faiz through film Janwar in which my most favourite actor Shami Kapoor sang Faiz’s verses: Raat Yun Dil Mein Teri Khoie Huwi Yaad Ai (Last night, your long-lost memory came back to me),” he said at the Durab Patel Auditorium of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Tuesday. Adeel Hashmi, actor and grandson of Faiz, moderated the dialogue where Mr Shah spoke on a variety of issues raised by the audience.
To a question that would he ever act Faiz in some play, Mr Shah said he would do it though the role would have some limitations. He said that Ghalib’s role was easy to do as his photograph, physical description and how he talked were not available. In the case of Faiz, there were limitations because enough photographs and video record of Faiz was there.
To another question how he imitated Ghalib in the play Mirza Ghalib, he said that he had done enough research on Ghalib’s personality and had seen a few of his portraits.
He visited the neighbourhood Bilimaran where Ghalib lived for years and found Ghalib’s house in a bad shape. He added Ghalib’s personality could not be understood as “it will take me seven lifetimes to understand the poet”.
He said he started off from serious cinema and then moved to popular cinema as he wanted to be a popular actor. If someone says he doesn’t want to be a popular actor is lying, he said.
He said directing a film was a very hard task. “And making a bad film is even harder,” he said in a light vein. But to him theatre direction was where he felt at home.
Mr Shah, who is in Lahore to act in plays based on stories by Ismat Chugtai, said the masterpieces of classic writers such as Chugtai could not be put in films as a great literature had its descriptive beauty.
When asked what inspired him to present Ismat Chugtai’s work on theatre, he said that he met her in 1979 during the shooting of film Janoon. She was very talkative and lively and loved gossiping.
“I read Manto and Munshi Perm Chand on the persuasion of Chugtai”, he added. Mr Shah said the rich literature of sub-continent was not included in school syllabus while in India even studying Shakespeare was compulsory but not Ghalib.
When asked what is vulgarity to him he said as to many a naked woman is vulgarity, but to him not watering a dry plant and denying food to a hungry kitten are also vulgarity. In film or theatre, vulgarity is what one feels ashamed while presenting it.
Mr Shah, a frequent visitor to Lahore, says Indian city Patiala and his childhood’s Delhi remind him of Lahore.