“We’ve put our heroes on a pedestal for too long… and it’s time that we engaged with them”

Acclaimed actor Naseeruddin Shah has laid the blame of making brain-dead films on film-makers, arguing that these films were a result of concerted efforts by determined speculators.

“In India, we are regurgitating ideas, which are 100 years old. The poor quality of acting in India is a reflection of the quality of writing, sensibility and quality of vision surrounding it. While everyone is concentrating on the lowest common-denominator, an actor’s work is expected to be honest,” he said.

He said an actor was “a messenger entrusted with delivering the goods completely and securely without obstructing or damaging the goods in any way.” He was in the city to deliver the third annual Ray Memorial Lecture on the occasion of celebrated filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s 93 birth anniversary on Friday.

Talking about ‘an honest actor’, he said the only way an actor can be dishonest is by indolently refusing to live up to his/her potential. Acting is a craft, he said.

Elucidating an actor’s responsibilities, he said an actor’s performance in a film was “dependent on factors over which he has no control.”

“Since the actor is the most visible part of the visual presentation, it was the actor who garnered both the bouquets as well as brickbats. Unwittingly, he was held responsible for theatre and its symbol,” he said.

Stating that Indian films made in the past had equally “dreadful acting and writing”, he said sensibilities of the people backed the kind of films made even then. He said Indian films had not gone through much change since then. “We can’t seem to break out of the proscenium mould that we’ve got stuck in. We’ve put our heroes on a pedestal for too long… and it’s time that we got engaged with them… and learn from their strengths and weaknesses.”

Highlighting the quantum leap in American films, thanks to the advent of television, he said better writing and an honest picture of what was false had helped generate innovative writing and better American films.