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You’ve Got To Set The Challenges For Yourself: Naseeruddin Shah

Well, it’s not every day that you get to meet seasoned actor Naseeruddin Shah. And when you do, it definitely turns out to be an intellectual conversation about being hopeful, life and staying determined. With his film Hope Aur Hum up for a release on May 11, we sit at his palatial abode and talk about the message the film has in store for us, and how it touches base upon the complexities of life through this simple film.

Here are the excerpts from the conversation:

Firstly, the film’s title, Hope Aur Hum is very catchy. Who are the ‘Hum’ here?
It’s a lovely title. ‘Hum’ is the family, the world because this family is a microcosm of different disparate individuals, who make up a unit, and who have different interests and priorities. The woman (Sonali Kulkarni) has the priority to keep the home running and keep everybody harmonious. The father (Aamir Bashir) has the priority to earn the bread, younger brother (Naveen Kasturia) has to get married. The old man (Naseeruddin Shah) feels, it’s his responsibility to continue his artistic endeavours on his old-fashioned machine, which is so unwieldy, it’s like a small car, but he insists on keeping it. So, it’s a parable for not necessarily clinging to what is old but preserving what is worthwhile. Everything that’s old is not necessarily useless; no doubt better versions of it have appeared but it still has its own function and is aesthetic.

The film’s trailer has too many elements, a kid and his passion for cricket, a young lad, and his issues, and a man with his classic printing machine… What is the common thread between all of these elements?
Each one has a hope. The child (Kabir Sajid Shaikh) wants to be a cricketer, his elder sister (Virti Vaghani) wants to study, his uncle wants to find a suitable girl and his phone is a symbol for which is lost for the hope, and the older boy wants to be successful. Each one has his own threat, and with each one, there is an element of wanting to achieve.

Do you believe in destiny? Which one do you think is true- man creates his own destiny or we get what destiny has in store for us, and why?
It is impossible to give a definitive answer to that kind of a question, one doesn’t know. It’s like asking, ‘Does God Exist?’ There’ll never be a definitive answer to that. But, I believe one’s destiny is in one’s own hands to a large extent.

With things becoming so complex in our daily lives or different phases that we go through to, people tend to lose hope, how does one still stay hopeful?
By continuing to practise what you believe in. When photography came in, painters thought that this is the end of the road for us, because what we can do so well – a photograph can do even better, and those were the realistic painters, who made these still lives and so on – and absolutely incredibly beautiful painting. But then, when photography came in, it could do the same thing better. So, the painters resorted to cubism, to expressionism, impressionism, abstraction etc. Even writers resorted to the same things. So, you’ve got to set the challenges for yourself, otherwise, there’s somebody just waiting in line to take your place.

As an actor, you must have seen many highs and lows in your career and life as well. How did you manage to cling on to hope even when the tides were against you?
Because of the fact that I knew that nobody could prevent me from doing the work I love, which is – acting. I may not become a big star or I may not earn lots of money, I may not be the most famous guy in the country but at least, I will be able to do what I love and continued to do, what my passion is, and that is to act. And, that’s what I continued and that is why my association with the theatre continued and today it is too highly beneficial to me and to several others.

How was it working with the little kid, Kabir? You’ll seem to share an endearing chemistry in the trailer of the film.
He’s a brat, and he’s a very seasoned actor and a hard guy but, he’s a very clever actor. He knows what he’s doing. It was fun. I tried to induce a couple of spontaneous reactions from him because he’s done a lot of work. He’s done several advertisements, I believe. Getting into reacting naturally was the challenge there and I think he managed it very well.

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