Naseeruddin Shah’s hushed and rushed trip to Pakistan to shoot a film on illegal immigrants

Naseeruddin Shah
MUMBAI: Naseeruddin Shah’s quiet visit to Pakistan to shoot a feature film had its bouts of boisterousness when everywhere he went the maverick actor was greeted by chants of ‘Ooh la la’.

"It’s a curse, I tell," laughs Naseer sportingly. "Everywhere the sound of ‘Oh la la’ from The Dirty Picture follows me."

Not that Naseer is complaining too much. Happily his trip to the other side of the border was a fabulous experience in an Indo-Pak cultural exchange programme. The film about illegal immigrants features Naseer as a despicably negative character.

Says Naseer, "It’s a really villainous part and I love playing bad guys. It’s a film by first-time filmmakers. Not only am I, an Indian, a part of a Pakistani film. But the film is being made by an Indian-Pakistani couple. The wife Minoo Gauhar is a Hindu from Meerut and her husband Mazhar Zaidi in Muslim from Pakistan. It’s a very interesting subject, and they’ve actually cast a lot of non-actors in the film."

Naseer who has earlier been a pivotal part of another highly-lauded Pakistani film Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Ke liye, says he’s very kicked by the subject and his role. "When Minoo and Zaidi got in touch with me I was very moved by their script and their sincerity. I primarily went to Pakistan to do a workshop with their actors for ten days. I also decided have a part in the film. I play a middleman, an agent who organizes illegal immigration."

Naseer was also supposed to be part of Pakistani director Shoaib Mansoor’s second feature film Bol. "Unfortunately I couldn’t do it. That’s life.You win  some you lose some."

Naseer returns to Pakistan on 17 March to shoot for the film. This time he has travel plans in the country. "This would be my fifth visit to Pakistan. I hope to visit Mohenjo Daro and Taxila which I’ve long wanted to do. I couldn’t do any sight-seeing last month because I was working with these kids. Wonderful bunch of actors."

While conducting an acting workshop for the film by Minoo Gauhar and Mazhar Zaidi Naseer also took time off to visit students at the Pakistan University. "I interacted with the students. I was taken aback by the intensity of their disenchantment against the Establishment. It’s heartening to see a sense of political disillusionment seeping into the arts in Pakistan. I’ve a feeling great films are going to come out of Pakistan."

Back home Naseer is thrilled with the National awards for Vidya Balan and the Marathi film Deool. "I am happy to be part of The Dirty Picture and Deool where I had a small role. I thoroughly enjoyed myself doing The Dirty Picture. The acceptance that the film has received is very gladdening to my heart. The only downside is the chants of ‘Ooh la la’ that I everywhere I go. But that’s part of the film’s success and I can’t resent it. 20 years ago I had similar catch-phrase ‘Oye oye’ from Tridev following me everywhere. 20 years from now I hope to have another ‘Oye oye’ and ‘Ooh la la’ following me." Looking back Naseer has a lot to be happy about. "I feel amply rewarded. The innings as an actor has been satisfactory. I lead  a very comfortable life, at times beyond what I had ever dreamt. I’ve gotten used to fighting for everything that I get. I hope my children too don’t get anything too easily."