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`I'm feeling stifled by comedy'

No one does it better — sending you into fits of laughter with deadpan humour. But Paresh Rawal is dying to do roles that excite and unnerve him

`Something should be there to make me feel inadequate as an actor. Otherwise, you get stereotyped' — Photo: Bhagya Prakash. K

HE'S ONE of the few actors in Hindi cinema who can say a funny line with deadpan humour and quietly walk away from the scene. And has no qualms about making a mamu of himself.

But the man who gets some of the biggest laughs doesn't find it funny any more. Talk to Paresh Rawal and you find he's a dead serious man. Dead serious about his comedy. Dead serious about his theatre. His acting. One who claims he is a really serious person and loves watching dark, brooding films.

Quite an incredible image for anyone who's seen Hera Pheri, Hungama, Aankhen and the like.

"This husband-wife, man-woman relation is amazing," says Paresh who is married to former Miss India and actor, Swaroop Sampath. "It's of immense possibilities, immense intrigue. Every day you find something new, some new permutation-combination there."

Naughty at 40

"I think everybody is naughty, and I'm naughty at 40 too," he says, and adds defensively, reading my suspicious glance. "Not naughty in that way! No person can be completely pious and clean in his heart and all that. If I see a pretty woman, I will definitely appreciate her: not that I would want to sleep with her. Being naughty keeps everything alive — you as a person, in your relationship with your wife... "

Paresh obviously loves theatre and almost recoils when I ask him how he finds time for it: "It's not a question of balance here because I really love theatre and it's my lifeline. It's the ground where I can experiment with myself as an actor. It's my need to take out time. Cinema is not a compromise at all. If I'm trained in theatre, and I come across roles like I did in Sardar (where he played the lead role of Sardar Patel) or Tamanna (where he was a eunuch), I'll be able to deliver the goods."

A serious believer that theatre is the training ground for actors, he quotes examples of other stars who are theatre's children — Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapoor... even Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan at one point of time. "If you are trained as an actor in theatre, it works to your advantage in films. I believe that all film actors should be trained in theatre," he stresses. But why is a good actor like him not a star? "If you are looking for the conventional looks and running-around-trees kind of stupidity, then it's good we are not stars," he says caustically.

Minting on theatre

He's also distressed that some film actors turn to theatre only to cash in on their popularity, not because they learn from it or love it. "I don't want to name them, but some actors doing theatre now have never heard of theatre. I don't think they have even seen a play. But because they want to encash on their popularity in film or TV, they want to join theatre. It's a noble thought. But the intention is to make money out of their popularity. Nothing wrong in making money, but they are doing it the wrong way."

With his roots in Gujarati theatre, Paresh believes the stage offers enormous scope and freedom to experiment. "This economy will permit me to do a variety of roles and writing in theatre. In films you won't be able to do a Shakespeare or a Chekhov, but you can on stage." The man who makes people laugh in films is itching to do a musical tragedy and a comic thriller on stage.

He firmly accepts that very few in Indian films do good comedy. "Comedy in films is gradually becoming more refined. It's not the same buffoonery or slapstick, or stupid comedy.

But it's being done by few people like Priyadarshan and Neeraj Vora. The role of the comedian has changed too. In old films, there used to be a separate track for the comedian. Now the comedian has been taken into the mainstream. The story may revolve around a comedian too."

Like most good actors, Paresh also admits that for such chemistry to happen, you have to have a good script. "Script is the backbone." Having always done comedy roles largely in a group, he says the most challenging aspect is not to outdo the other comedians.

"You do your own thing, not affected by what the other one does. If he says something and the light boy laughs, I should not try to be one up on him." He also admits that it's really tough to make filmi audience laugh. "It's easier to make them cry."

He's quite happy doing any role that is well written, excites him as an actor and poses some kind of challenge. The introspective khoya-khoya person in him says: "I'm game for it, be it comedy, a villain's role or the so-called positive role.

Challenging roles are those which gives me scope to dig more into myself and know my limitation as an actor and as a human being. Something should be there to make me feel inadequate as an actor. Otherwise, you get stereotyped." He hates it when a director decides: "Yeh admi yeh achcha karta hai, isey yehee karne do."

`I must feel insecure'

"You can't score a century only through square cuts. You have to have a full shot, cover drive in your armoury. But in our industry, if I'm doing something good, they give me that only. I need something that excites and unnerves me. I must be insecure to the extent that I should feel I'll make a fool of myself. Even if I fail in that, I shall be enriched," he says.

He hates branding. "When I was doing villain roles, I was branded a villain. I was then branded in positive roles. Then came Hera Pheri. Now I'm really feeling suffocated in this comedy-comedy thing. I'm looking for something human and solid."


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