How close do you find yourself to the character of this film?
After watching the trailer, someone said that many actors like you will cry after watching this film. This character is very close to me. This is the story of an actor, to whom people say, “Hey sir, have you seen your film, you are a wonderful actor. What is your name?” Everyone wants to be recognized in their field, wants to create an identity, not for the world but for themselves. ‘Success’ does not mean that millions of people are taking photos with you and asking for autographs. Success means satisfaction, your own satisfaction.
Once in an interview you said that ‘we don’t want awards, we want audience’ .. Do you think that the award-winning films fail to reach the audience?
I said this for the National Award. The National Award is from the government, it is not a Filmfare, Zee Cine or Screen Award. So, it should be the duty of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to ensure at least good films reach the audiences across from all over the country. I had a film called Turtle, which was made on water scarcity. It won a National Award, but how many people have seen it? A film like Turtle should have been shown in schools by charging Rs 1 from students. They would then know about water crisis and won’t waste it. So I say that do not just give the award, instead show all the films nominated for the National Award to the audience at a few places once in a year.
Your critically acclaimed films like Ankhon Dekhi, Kadvi Hawa, could not reach a large section of the audience. Do you regret it?
Ankhon Dekhi was not considered worthy at all. Kadvi Hawa got a special mention at the National Awards. But all these films should be seen, these are important films. Today, I am praising Shahrukh Khan all over because he has taken a stand for presenting the best independent films. Such a brave step. His films do business of 200- 300 crores, why would should he support small films like ours? Shahrukh Khan is doing, what the government should be doing for cinema.
Adding the name of Shah Rukh Khan or Red Chillies Entertainment does make a difference?
It makes a lot of difference. The struggle to reach the audiences would have taken much longer time. ‘Kadvi Hawa’ which released a year and a half ago, have not gotten that many views, as the trailer of ‘Kaamyaab’. So, this is Shah Rukh Khan’s magic.
It is often said that the industry also discriminates between actor and character actor. What does your experience say?
Why not? My name will not sell any film. People will not say that the film has Sanjay Mishra as well as Ajay Devgn. I am supporting them. They take the film (earnings) up. So this difference is bound to be there. I agree that people love my work. But one actor sells the film and other supports.
As an actor, are you satisfied with your career, with your films till now?
Honestly, when people in this city start calling you from ‘Aye Bhai’ to ‘Sir’, you do not even realize it. So, now the satisfaction is that people have started calling me ‘Sir’. I have never done a film for money. I have also done many films with no fees. I don’t take fees for short movies I do. Because the characters that I get in those films, I never get that in feature films. There, I feel a satisfaction of playing a character.
What are the key factors you take care of before saying YES to a film?
The Director. I never read scripts. I have not even read the script of ‘Kaamyaab’. I think, a person writes a script in a year or two and brings that to me, so it is not right to make any kind of change in it just after reading it in two hours. You are the director, you make me listen to the script. I will understand what I have to do in the film.
With the changing senario, impressive and strong roles are being written for character actors now in Bollywood films. Are you glad with this positive change?
Yes, audience’s taste is changing as well. The audience now needs different types of content. They’ve had enough of watching the same hero-heroine love story. That is why people like Pankaj Tripathi, Neena Gupta, Sanjay Mishra, Seema Pahwa are also coming forward, because people feel connected to their characters.
Do you think, over the years, character actors in the Hindi film industry have got the recognition they have been entitled to?
Pran has done so many different characters in 60s, 70s, 80s that even the heroes of that time might have been intimidated. Take Mehmood for instance, directors used to wait for him on the sets. There are many actors in this list. Yes, there were ups and downs in between, but character actors got recognition. More changes will be seen in the coming years.
Which is your favorite film among all your movies?
(Laughs) Yet to come. When I did ‘Ankhon Dekhi’, I felt that it was the best. Then came Masaan, then Kadvi Hawa. And at the moment ‘Kaamyaab’ is looking the best. Now the shooting of Anees Bazmee’s ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ has started, I am playing a very interesting character in it.