Naseeruddin Shah.- File Photo

With his second Pakistani film that is slated for a release soon, veteran and versatile actor Naseeruddin Shah shares his view on Pakistani cinema, cinema as a means to promote cultural ties and why Indian cinema will never make great films! In conversation.

(Click here to read the Zinda Bhaag's director and producer's interview)

What is Zinda Bhaag about?

Zinda Bhaag's a Pakistani film I shot last year and it's made by a first time film maker. It's about illegal immigrants in Pakistan and a satire on the national anthem of Pakistan. Pakistan Zinda bad- Pakistan Zinda Bhaag! It's the story of unemployed guys who see no future, no prospects and they get a few lakhs by begging, borrowing, stealing and scraping from wherever they can.

They are trying to escape on a ship. These are tragic events that occur in real life. I know of incidents where people have boarded the ship hiding in drums. When they leave Karachi, their ship is only taking circles and comes back to Pakistan. These people are then told they have arrived in Dubai but are finally apprehended in court. I'm playing an agent who helps these 4-5 youngsters escape.

After Khuda Ke Liye, this will be your second Pakistani film. Many Pakistani actors have also made their careers in India. Will this help in promoting cultural ties between the two countries?

Cinema is the only way I know that will promote cultural ties between India Pakistan. I did plays there and workshops with university students where I spent time with them and played cricket. The kids are very bright like our generation here. There's great curiosity, awe and envy of India and they are fascinated by our country.

The tables have turned completely. When we were young we heard stories of how they had imported cars in Pakistan. Whatever happens between our countries is so tragic. We can't do anything about it. All we can do is encourage person to person contact. Few people in India have met Pakistanis or interacted with them. If you meet one, you will really change your opinion to some extent.

How do you view Pakistani cinema?

I feel great cinema will emerge from Pakistan in the near future. Great cinema will also emerge from Bangladesh and Nepal because these are countries which have been through hell. It will be these tortured countries which will produce great cinema, literature, poetry and paintings. I really feel that. It will emerge in the same manner as it did from Italy and Germany after World War II and even from countries like France, Poland and former Czechoslovakia. They really suffered.

Is Indian cinema any different from its' neighbour? We are just too fat and contented with our selves. We'll never make a great film in our country.

Have you faced any flak for doing Pakistani films or received any threats so far? Not yet and hope it doesn't happen. I won't stop. I don't go there to preach about India love or make these statements. I want to go there to meet the people, the younger generation.

(A report published in TOI)

Updated Feb 18, 2013 11:51am

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Comments (50) (Closed)

Feb 19, 2013 04:58am
I guess people should be exposed to Satyajit Ray film. It was not by mere coincidence that he received Oscar for life time achievement which was delivered at his home by none other than Audrey Hepburn.I would ask people to name another personality who received the award like that, be it Indian or Pakistani or Bangladeshi or whatever. So people please watch his films and then speak about great films. Bollywood films doesn't only mean Indian films for your kind info. They are commercialized junks but still they are popular in Pakistan. I don't know how.
Feb 19, 2013 10:36pm
Nasiruddin ! Why don't you stay back in pakistan ,even better in Karachi and wait for great Pakistani film
Avishek Roy
Feb 19, 2013 06:37am
you remember "One Common Man" from "A Wednesday"?? :) It was Naseeruddin Shah ji who acted in that great role in the great movie...
Feb 19, 2013 01:25am
Great film according to whose standards is the question. If you mean by western standards , then it must appeal to their sensibilities and way of thinking. India has so many movie industries, each catering to its own set of audience - what they deem as great in one state does not even run for 2 weeks in a nearby state. what makes a movie great?
Feb 19, 2013 04:37am
The question is what do you consider as a great film? For me, a great film can be from any subject. Not just from realities or sufferings of people. A great film can be a love story, a science fiction, a comedy movie, an art film, a political film,an action film , a maula jatt or anything. even a ramgopalverma film( sorry). I even prefer plain entertainment films, pure din ki tension ke baad agar cinema hall me bhi wohi ronadhona aur tension dekhna hai? I go to cinema to get relaxed. I don't want munnabhai bothering me, I want munnabhai entertaining me. If great movies come out of sufferings, Hollywood might have produced just trash. But in reality, hollywood has produced many of the greatest movies of the history. Forget about Indian film industry, even bollywood makes nice movies even these days. Vidhu Vinod Chopra,Farhan? And by the ways how can NS insult Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan in such a manner? one way he denies preaching India , and his comments suggest something else. Anyways, Naseerbhai is one of the greatest actors. If I start quoting nice films, I have to name many of his films. Janebhido yaaro to Mithya to The league,
Feb 19, 2013 01:59am
I find it hard to believe that Mr. Shah said this. He has been part of many brilliant projects himself. Anyways, to each, their own. Anyway, I like Bollywood movies. Especially the recent trend of arty or biographical or history based movies. Also dramas. They have evolved considerably and are getting better. Massive projects with technologically superior cinematography and intelligent story-telling, I think Indian cinema is awesomely bringing many of us back to theaters who had started to replace it with the movies of the west. Especially love the new brand of actors who choose to work in highly meaningful movies like Vidya Balan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Ranbir Kapoor, Abhay Deol and the likes. Of-course you can absolutely differ in your opinion and not endorse Bollywood. But I certainly dont.
Irfan (Lucknow)
Feb 18, 2013 03:07pm
It is not about past. Films like "Shatranj Ke Khiladi" are master piece. He is saying in future we will not make great films, our priorities and thinking are not in line with the idea of great films. He almost said that great cinema and suffering are synonym. I don't agree 100% with him, but for practical purposes he is right.
Feb 18, 2013 02:52pm
why?? Can you recount few great films from anywhere?? And now, any great film from South Asia??
Feb 18, 2013 02:48pm
zahid great film means
Feb 18, 2013 01:00pm
and still Pakistani people stand in line to watch Indian movies
Feb 18, 2013 01:04pm
Say something more, something substantive, Zahid. Without any further justification, your "sentiment" appears to come straight out of India hate rather than logic or evidence.
Feb 18, 2013 12:52pm
They had wonderful movies in the past but now their time is over. Indian film industry has started using too many crutches. Reality is totally missing.
Feb 18, 2013 03:58pm
What cultural ties ..Mr Shah ? Pakistani claim that they are different from Indians in every aspect..they call themselves...descendents of Arabs..and not South Asians and it is better that way. Artists want more and more viewers... is all business for them.
Feb 18, 2013 03:38pm
haha chalo pakistanio ko issi se maja le lene do.
Feb 18, 2013 03:33pm
Nazirji should have think about other regional films before making comments about great films.Malayalam,Tamil,Kannada and Bengal had produced great cinemas.perhaps Hindi film industry will not accept it.
andy (ON, Canada)
Feb 18, 2013 03:29pm
you don't think, you wish! this is the problem of the whole pakistani society. Dude, we don't want to make great film. We make films to be happy and to enjoy.
Feb 19, 2013 06:15am
Gee these dawn people take a long time moderating comments. Its good though. Other newspaper websites dont moderate comments at all and you can see all sorts of stuff being written there. Including blasphemy.
Hussain Ali
Feb 18, 2013 07:06pm
Just for everyone else's information. By 'maja' this Gentleman is referring to Maza.... what a joke that dawn published this ignorant comment.
Feb 19, 2013 06:09am
I thought gangs of wasseypur and peepli live were great films. And I am not even counting regional cinema that are, in general, better than bollywood products.
Feb 19, 2013 06:00am
By the way we keep hearing about this film Zinda Bhaag but when will we see it?
Feb 18, 2013 02:07pm
great films are not made, they just happen
Feb 18, 2013 06:33pm
I think we shouldn't react so harshly. journalists always sensationalize. I think he is tired of the bollywood fare thats all and he was excited about doing this pakistani film as a change.
Feb 18, 2013 06:35pm
That means American should not have produced any great movies according to his logic. Hollywood is a mith for him then.
Feb 18, 2013 02:30pm
Indians will never make a good film and pakistani fanatics will burn all their cinema halls.
Feb 18, 2013 05:26pm
Pls request everyone here, including Mr Shah, to restrict their comments to the "Hindi" film industry / Bollywood... and not the "Indian" film industry... It is evident that even his knowledge is woefully short... and he, sure as hell, doesn't have the authority to speak for all the other film industries that are thriving in India...
P N Eswaran
Feb 18, 2013 06:30pm
Yes. Transformation may follow suffering but self inflicted wounds will only produce insanity.
Feb 18, 2013 06:28pm
aur tum jaise indians maja (read maza) kirkira kardo.. :D
Himanshu Pandey
Feb 18, 2013 06:17pm
Absolutely believe what Naseer has to say,There s no reason why Pakistan can't make great films.Looking forward to see some of the from across the border.Please let us see what Pakistan is all about. About India never being able to produce an outstanding film,guess real film-making is getting lost in making crores and we are ourselves to blame,nevertheless i am an eternal optimist and refuse to believe we can't do it.Its just the matter of time folks!! Meanwhile don't hate our films they are'nt so bad after all.
Feb 18, 2013 12:21pm
India will never make a great film. My sentiment as well.
Feb 18, 2013 12:24pm
I think Mr. Shah is one of the best actors of India, perhaps the best male actor. But I do not agree with his comments that Indian movie industry is too fat and no great work will come from there. There are examples of directors like Shyam Benegal, Satyajit Ray, that have done great work.
Feb 18, 2013 05:39pm
Zahid, Tell me honestly how much you have seen India movies? By Indian movies I don't mean just Bollywood but the regional movies.It may be hard for you to believe but India's regional movies has a equally stronger heritage compared to Bollywood if not more. Most Pakistanis are only exposed to Hindi movies and that's all they know about Indian cinema. Its not their fault but credit goes to marketing and sales team of Bollywood coupled with close similarity between Urdu and Hindi. However now and then India's regional film industries produce gem of movies. They may not be flashy enough as Bollywood or may not get an oscar nomination(India's oscar nominations totally depends on internal lobbying with lot of favours in cash and kin) but rich in content as well as versatile with respect to the subject. Its only 5-7 years that Bollywood have started producing different flavours of mainstream movies but it still has a lot to go.
Feb 18, 2013 12:36pm
Have had this feeling over longer periods of time that now pakistan will be the one producing excellent art. Without suffering nothing good can be produced. And no country has the talent and suffering like pakistan.
Feb 18, 2013 05:42pm
If by India you mean just Hindi films, you are looking at a narrow range of artistic work. South Indian films are a league apart, technically and aesthetically.
Komal S
Feb 18, 2013 04:50pm
Mr. Shah is a great actor. But reading this article you might feel like India is some rich country surrounded by poor countries. Millions of Indians go through pain and hell every day. If that is your criteria for producing great movies, sorry we have plenty of them. We have religion politics, caste politics, regional politics, rich-poor divide, crime against women, urban-rural divide. The common man in India is no different from other countries in south asia.
Feb 19, 2013 08:51pm
He acted very well in a movie called "Wednesday". It was a remake of Tamil movie where Kamalahasan acted Mr. Shah's role
Feb 19, 2013 02:52pm
Khuda Ke Liye is a great movie , i liked it alot. Naseeruddin Shah is a great actor but he should be optimistic as a proud son in raising Indian Cinema to new heights rather putting his frustration out.
Avishek Roy
Feb 19, 2013 06:41am
Jalaluddin S. Hussain
Feb 19, 2013 06:45am
I, as a Canadian Pakistani, also agree with you that the purpose of films and documentaries should be mainly entertaining, but since Pakistan is a young State we also need to have, once in while,moral-boosting and nation-building films and documentaries
Feb 19, 2013 04:59pm
I am a major lover of cinema, but I must say that Bollywood (and also regional cinema) standards have degraded over the years. There are still a few gems in terms of pure quality and using our way of story telling (as opposed to Hollywood style) but more and more I believe "Bollywood" is living in a world of its own and does not truly represent Indian Cinema.
Feb 19, 2013 08:02am
great films are those which gives good returns to the producers. Period.
alien brahmin
Feb 19, 2013 08:46am
He aint speaking his mind - the anger bollywood film makers have for pakistan , the way pakistan is famous for making pirated CDs of hindi films and music . Few pakistani websites even post the entire film within weeks of its release .
filmy buff
Feb 19, 2013 11:20am
INDIA will continue to make best films irrespective whether nasseruddin acts or not ...he himself has acted in some of the great films ....
Feb 19, 2013 03:11pm
There is no much tv dramas and whats the point of cinema industry which was never a good one even when it was thriving.
Feb 19, 2013 11:53am
You may be exposed to only Hindi films....But India has a vibrant regional film industry,where lot of experimentation goes on and great films get produced. Even Hindi films...there is a change in trend and recent films like Gangs of Wasseypur, Viswaroop etc. are examples of this change in trend.
Feb 19, 2013 01:18pm
I think they make wonderful art movies in India although majority are for glamour and escapism. However, social issues maybe similar between India and Pakistan but the current ideological issues Pakistan is facing throw up a lot of questions especially with respect to religion and dogma. Exploring these through self-reflections is what may lead to excellent, out-of-the-box-thinking kind of films.
A Bhalla
Feb 19, 2013 12:48pm
Pakistan will make great films . Like Son of Pakistan, Billu da kharak and Channa sacchi mucchi
K G Surendran
Feb 20, 2013 04:40am
Great films from anywhere are welcome and Naseeruddin Shah is one of the greatest of our times but would like to disagree with him, good and great films are being made in India not only in Hindi but also in a number of vernacular languages. Possibly he is disappointed with the number of shoddy movies that make it to the screen but cinema is all about creativity and all products of creative minds need not be very good for a variety of factors.
Feb 20, 2013 06:12am
Yes, Avishek Wednesday is superb movie and it was a great success, i urge everbody should see this great film and Indian Cinema is 100 Year old so on comparision with Pak the wasy all the best and we will welcome if any Pak movie will release in India and ofcouse we will watch...
Feb 20, 2013 06:14am
Mr Atif, People do not like your comment, see the dislike, why what happend, Is something Wrong with your Thinking...i am true indian and want to see Happy Pak, but felling pitty about you comment...
Feb 20, 2013 06:16am
Ha ha ha ha...Nice one Hussain Shab :) God bless you