Interviewing Naseeruddin: The Lion Roars

Well, he was really incredibly nice…but he certainly had little patience for stupid people asking stupid questions, so the possibility that he would lose his temper lent a certain charge to the proceedings.


I’m talking about Naseeruddin Shah, of course. The yin to Big B’s yang, the iconoclast, the evergreen, the lion of Indian cinema with over 150 films to his credit. From Umrao Jaan to Monsoon Wedding to Omkara, he disappears into a role so thoroughly, I usually have to check IMDB frequently to make sure it’s really him.

It’s just so refreshing when famous people turn out to be intelligent and really engage in a conversation. All too often it’s just rote PR fluff. Many mutineers seemed to like the Vik Sahay interview for that reason, so I thought I’d bring over these two Naseerudin Shah interview clips: Anurag Kashyap’s got “testicular strength” and first time directors make for the best experiences:

MTV IggyInnerView > Naseeruddin Shah – Bollywood? "I hate it!"
Naseeruddin Shah

Snarking on the Big B:

MTV IggyInnerView > Naseeruddin Shah – "No Indian thought of making a film on Gandhi!"
Naseeruddin Shah

He said he dyed his hair for a new role –for those of you wondering about his suddenly more youthful appearance. The full interview is not up yet, but let me know if you guys are interested and I’ll keep you posted.

44 thoughts on “Interviewing Naseeruddin: The Lion Roars

  1. The full interview is cut into segments, and these two are the only ones we’ve got up right now. I’ll bring over the rest in sequence when I get them. Or did you mean that you want an account of the full interview with all the behind the scenes details?

  2. without a shadow of a doubt may we see the full interview uncut and direct. very interested. bit of class is mr shah.

  3. I meant the interview, but now that you mention it, your account would be just as much fun. In the meanwhile I has lynx 1 2 and really old 3.

  4. That was awesome – love his frankness and candor.

    I remember watching Karma as a kid – great score and emotional scenes with Nutan Behl. Was also fun seeing him as Captain Nemo in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

    Would love to see the rest of the interview. Wish I could see his stage performances. He’d be great as King Lear or Richard III.

  5. A fantastic actor, and a very intelligent and articulate man. I guess intellectual acuity, more specifically emotional intelligence is what raises an actor to brilliance (above the merely competent). I wonder what he had to say about his ‘commercial’ roles (like Hero Hiralal, Tridev, Vishwatma and the cringe-worthy part in Krrish)? Did he just do them for the money? So good to hear him talk about the ridiculous Bollywood nomenclature. I think his views match those of Amitabh on this matter. Who is the interviewer, btw? She is pretty good.

  6. Wish I could see his stage performances.

    There’s nothing quite like it, Naseer on the stage, in English or Hindi must be seen if you can. I am lucky, I have seen it.

  7. Definatly put the whole interview up..he is right..Slumdog is not a Desi film..and Khamosh Pani was an excellent Punjabi Film

  8. Lupus, the interviewer is Shibani Dandekar, sister of MTV India VJ Anusha Dandekar. She’s really good, isn’t she? We provided the questions, but she came thoroughly prepared and has a great presence. It wasn’t easy to find someone who could sit next to Naseeruddin Shah and not sound like an idiot.

    I’m really glad you guys like this interview. I don’t know if I can get my hands on the full interview uncut (they cut things bite-sized for the kidz) but I’ll post all the segments in sequence when they’re done with post-production.

    Bit of backstory: he came in with only two people, didn’t fuss over lighting and whatever, really low key. He looked a little amused/wary when Shibani approached (she’s very attractive!) but then relaxed when he realized he didn’t have to dumb his comments down for us. Calm, gracious, very professional. Low tolerance for BS was about it. Like rudie c said, bit of class is Mr. Shah.

  9. Yes, more please. I was surprised he did not mention Abhay Deol, along with KK Menon, Arshad Warsi etc.

  10. Didn’t agree with everything he said ( I feel like there’s gotta be an audience for better Lollywood films in Pakistan, for instance), but would love to see the entire interview. Follywood, lol.

  11. By picking Clint Eastwood and Audrey Hepburn, Naseer made this auntie happy :-)

    Seriously, great interview. Thanks for posting. What a fantastic actor! Wishing many many more years of productive work from Naseer.

  12. I’d like to see more of this too… When I the text of your post initially I half thought it was going to be you, Cicatrix, interviewing him!

  13. Amardeep, no one in their right mind would let me in front of a camera. I’m bad even in still photos — all twitchy and blinky and I think I pull faces. Anyway, this was my first time writing the questions, so I haunted the studio breathing down everyone’s back…

    Had a classic moment during a Youssou N’Dour interview — I spilled a packet of round hard cough lozenges by accident during this intense moment in the conversation. The effn things clattered all over the floor like marbles. So, um, yeah.

  14. I am so impressed with him! His answers were so original, and he’s a very smart and articulate man. I respect that he doesn’t necessarily appreciate SRK’s acting, and that he HATES Bollywood. So do I! It’s so unoriginal, and it shows how us desis ape the west.

    Mubarak Eid Ul Fitr Naseerji.

  15. Now, I’ve watched both of the clips. The intereviewer was also good. Amitabh hated Slumdog because he was jealous. The movie far surpassed anything that Amitabh and son has ever done, and he’s jealous that first-time actors have it this easy.

  16. I rmember watching some 80s Naseeruddin Shah movie ,Albert Pinto ka Gussa Kyo Atha Hai,(why did Albert Pinto Get angry?). Not a classic, but it is actually pretty similar in spirit to a lot of the Buscemi-Kevin Corrigan type 90s indie movies some of us have been amused by in the U.S. Not your typical Indian dry art fare.

    He plays this perpetually annoyed 20 something guy. The guy is versatile.

  17. I love how he’s so straight up about SRK – “I don’t like his acting, but respect the guy”. I mean, you can’t even get away with saying something like that here in Hollywood – Imagine if someone like Sean Connery or Michael Douglas said something about Colin Farrel or Brad Pitt – all the entertainment shows would be like Oh Snap ! No he didn’t ! (Not trying to compare talents the actors I use as examples with Mr. Shah or SRK). But the way he says it, just comes across so casually.

  18. that he HATES Bollywood

    No, he doesn’t. In fact, he parted ways from the parallel cinema movement in the 80s while expressing his disdain for the film makers of that genre. His disillusionment with that form smoldered for a long time. His periodic forays into commercial cinema notwithstanding (he has acted in thoroughly rubbish commercial and art cinema), it is his “mainstream” parallel cinema films, commercial drama (Masoom, Sarfarosh, Ijaazat), parallel comedies/satire (e.g. Katha, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron) and a brilliant serialized version of the life of Ghalib, that really stand out. Obviously, he is also a stage legend from his NSD days where he learnt under the great Ibrahim Elkazi.

    Here’s a brilliant song from Ijaazat:

  19. he HATES Bollywood.

    He hates the term ‘Bollywood’ and not the hindi film industry. I totally agree that the terminology is absolutely derogatory (including tollywood, kollywood etc), and that everything has to be quantified to Hollywood. Different cultures can’t be quantified.

  20. As I have posted here many moons ago, Naseer made a decisive break with the “parallelwallahs” over 20 years back. After a disappointing experience with the overrated mediocrity wannabe pretentious pompous Mrinal Sen in Genesis (which he described as a pile of xxxx) and dubbing parallel cinema – Mareez nahi hai, murda hai – he turned to the mainstream, and has never looked back. Much like Sai Paranjpe (with whom he acted in Sparsh and Katha – two films as different as chalk and cheese but brilliant in their own way) who has said good films are well made, artistic, and commercially successful, Naseer threw caution to the winds. He saw up close and personal something he knew all along but but was experiencing only now. Commitment, expertise, and devotion to art and craft, comes in many different ways. Clapper boys, makeup artists, stand-ins, stuntmen (not the ones who leap from buildings, but the ones who will slip on a banana peel for the leading man 50 times o get the take right), extras, are the shared talent bank for all film makers, art, mainstream, commercial, etc., So when he expresses his distaste for the term Bollywood he is being no different from any other person in the Indian movie profession. It is OK to like or dislike some variety of cinema, but not diss an entire profession – the business of making Indian movies – as something that is not an art form. Take that favorite target of derision – the song and dance routine. Really, how often do you see a couple running around trees? Telugu movies if anything have been counter-parodying the stereotype for over 20 years now.

  21. Loved it, and his acting really made me cry in Monsoon W. I know, not this best, but still. One thing, can someone please tell the interviewer to stop waving with her hands all the time? Quite disturbing.

  22. One thing, can someone please tell the interviewer to stop waving with her hands all the time? Quite disturbing.

    You must be a woman, because we dudes are simply knocked out looking at her, missed all that hand waving and all that…

  23. I concur, Jyotsana. Hands…. what hands? I admire Naseer even more seeing how comfortable he looks while being interviewed by her. Me, I would be wringing my hands and fumbling for words, frequently opening and closing my mouth like a fish out of water. Like I said earlier, she is pretty good.

  24. Many mutineers seemed to like the Vik Sahay interview for that reason, so I thought I’d bring over these two Naseerudin Shah interview clips.

    Wow, no excuses are needed to bring in an interview clip like this. Thanks for posting! After Masoom, the first Hindi movie I ever saw, I always thought he was an amazing actor. Naseer’s unassuming manner sort of reminds me of one of those really well-read “uncles” rather than a “big-shot” in parallel and borderline art cinema (anyways, I wasn’t too crazy about Vik Sahay’s interview in his MTV Iggy clips- for someone who has so much less acting experience and recognition, he certainly seemed to have a little too much attitude).

  25. Years ago, i mean years ago,when some mutineers weren’t born yet, I attended a meet and greet session with Kamalahasan at my college- Loyola,Madras. When we asked Kamal who he looks up to among his contemporaries, without hesitation he said, “Naseeruddin Shah”

  26. I’m thrilled at the response, thank you for supporting/appreciating. We wanted to make sure this would be worth his time, and he seemed to enjoy the conversation. The remainder of the interview was cut into four segments, and I’ll post as soon as possible.

  27. OT, Ultrabrown seems to be a step ahead of SM… saw this a while ago via a link there… or may be it was an avatar of cicatrix posting there.

  28. Well, some people are institution in themselves and they cannot be wrong :) ! I think Naseeruddin Shah has come up through all ups and down and yet like the streak of ray he is different, unique and a true winner in Industry. I have more respect for him than anyother celebrity actor. More over his choices over good actors these days – so true when he calls the names like Irfan Khan and KK Menon – I appreciate when he gives opportunity and recognition to the new comers.

    Kudos to his interview… Cheers

  29. Naseer graciously as is his wont praises his contemporaries who have started making it into bigger time – Bohman Irani and particularly Akash Khurana. Bohman is a late entrant to the movies after several years on the stage. Akash, about 10 years younger than Anupam Kher began his career in much the same way – playing an old man.

  30. he is a great actor….but no one in India takes his comments seriously. forget about main stream media but even 3rd grade media channels like star news etc doesn’t even cover his statements, interviews.Unfortunatly that is the reputuiton and image he got in India.