‘Stardom is time-bound – it comes with an expiry date’ – Paresh Rawal

He has played a gamut of roles, the villain in Dacait, the comedian in Hera Pheri and the dadaji in Hero No 1. But after being appreciated in several super-hit films like Aankhen, Aawara Pagal Deewana, Hungama and Hulchul, in which he has played the comedian with elan, the versatile actor seems to have found his calling in comedy. With the forthcoming UTV film, Chup Chup Ke, another Priyadarshan laugh riot ready for release on June 9, we met the much-in-demand actor, Paresh Rawal, for a tete-a-tete.

Today you are best known as a comedian. How comfortable are you with the label?
Frankly, I consider myself an actor, and don’t like being branded as Paresh Rawal the comedian or Paresh Rawal the villain. If I am doing so many light roles, it is only because they are all interesting. And as an actor I am comfortable as long as the role is interestin – whether it is comic, villainous or romantic!

And how interesting is your part in Chup Chup Ke?
Well, I play a fisherman who together with another fisherman (played by Rajpal Yadav) tries and helps this boy (played by Shahid Kapur) who is always getting into trouble. In the process of sorting things out for him, there is a lot of confusion and madness. What I like is that our roles, as fishermen are not caricatures, they are realistic and believable!

You have worked with the noted Priyadarshan in several films before your next release, Chup Chup Ke. What is his most outstanding quality as a director?
Priyadarshan uses his camera without his actors knowing it, and that is his most outstanding quality! Also there is clarity in his mind about what he wants from his artistes which makes our work so much easier.

You mentioned that you only do roles that are interesting. What else do you consider before signing a film?
Besides a well-written role, I also take into consideration the director and then of course the money! If I have any doubts about the two former then the money should tempt me.

Fortunately Chup Chup Ke meets all three requirements!

Do you still harbour a passion for theatre?
When I joined professional theatre in 1973 I had no intention of joining films. I was very happy doing plays. As Naseeruddin Shah once said, “In theatre like-minded people come together to create something.” The comfort level is high as after a show all the artistes get together and share coffee and ideas, while after a film shoot everyone goes home!

Then I saw Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Amitabh Bachchan in films, and I wanted to be with them, and worked towards that. I still call myself a theatre person but I don’t have the passion and honesty like Naseer and Om Puri have. I guess the money offered in films inspired me to stick to them!

Which has been your most memorable role till date?
My role in Sardar! What an awesome personality! As an actor, it was the biggest challenge of my career, and though I was not satisfied, I am very proud of my performance. The film is also memorable because I learnt a bit of history, became more aware as a citizen and understood the unity of India, and Sardar’s contribution to it.

What would be your message to your overseas fans?
Keep watching Hindi films regardless of which country you live in and always continue to love your country!

How would you like to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as an actor’s actor. That is how audiences will remember Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, and to an extent, Amitabh Bachchan. An actor survives but stars don’t. Stardom is time-bound – it comes with an expiry date.