Imaad Shah lost the lead role in The Reluctant Fundamentalist because of his hair. Samir was a character written for him

His trademark wild mop of hair may have lost him the role of the lead character in The Reluctant Fundamentalist but Imaad Shah appears to have taken it in his stride, going on to play Samir, a role scripted exclusively for him in the movie. Over an e-mail interview, this 27-year-old actor and musician, son of veteran actor Nasseruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah talks about the character he plays, working with Mira Nair, his diverse interests and his future plans.

I heard your role in the film was created exclusively for you because your appearance didn’t match that of the lead character. Can you tell me a little about that?

Mira had called me to audition for the lead initially and though she loved the read we did, I had long hair back then and she felt that I looked too anti-establishment to play an Americanized Wall Street shark. I heard from her again a few months down the line saying there was another new character in the script that she wanted to me to read for, and that turned out to be Samir, the guy that I play in the film.

You tend to play dark, complex characters. Is that a reflection of your personality or do you simply find those roles more challenging?

I suppose you could say that I am naturally drawn towards such characters, maybe because of my own personality and taste, but the same sense of aesthetics or taste also tells me that I want to explore the entire spectrum as an actor.

The cliche but oh-so-necessary question — does the fact that you are the son of a highly acclaimed actor reflect in the way the world perceives you? Does it impact your career at any level?

I don’t think too much about this. Of course, the pressure I apply on myself to be really good at whatever I do is immense. But when you’re putting all your energy into doing the best you can and working towards constantly improving and reinventing yourself, I don’t think there is much time left to think about how the world “perceives” you.

What was it like working with Mira Nair?

It was great — she really pushes her actors to create believable moments and expects only the best. We worked with a fair bit of improvisation too that ultimately gave the dialogue a very naturalistic style. She has a real love and flair for local culture and constantly wants it in her films.

Besides acting what are the other things that drive you? What you are passionate about and why?

I work with a theatre company Motley and we are extremely active and travel a lot with our productions.

I am also a music producer and am constantly working from my home studio. Of late I’ve been concentrating a lot on a new act that I’ve been touring with called “Madboy/Mink”.

It is a duo with singer Saba Azad and we play high energy Electro Funk and Electro Swing. I’ve also made a couple of short films that have travelled to festivals abroad. Making my own films is definitely something very important to me.

Have you read the book? If you have, what did you think of it?

Yes, I read it ages ago when it first came out; the film probably wasn’t even thought of at that time. I read it because I loved Moth Smoke back then, Mohsin’s first novel.

What next?

I’ve worked on a couple more films last year, which will be out sometime soon including Q’s Tasher Desh. There are other projects being finalised and I’ve been working with very varied people. I want to make my own films and I’m working towards it.

Did you face any issues/challenges in this movie? How did you overcome them?

Not really. Samir is a fairly endearing and easygoing character but as I said earlier, it was a fun challenge to get the speech pattern right. I also happened to visit Lahore and got the chance to meet some lovely Pakistani people.

We are not at all different at heart, and if anything, they are a far more tasteful and aesthetic bunch than us Indians.