A tete-a-tete with Sambha

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Improvising on the bad: Actor Mac Mohan does not mind exploring negative roles in regional films
Improvising on the bad: Actor Mac Mohan does not mind exploring negative roles in regional films

Bollywood’s perennial bad guy Mac Mohan shares his ideas on the current state of Indian cinema with Madhur Tankha


He shot to fame in Bollywood as the gun-toting “Sambha” in the evergreen classic ‘Sholay’. Actor Mac Mohan has since then come a long way, essaying a number of villainous roles and imparting his own personal touch to each character.

Mac Mohan, who was here in the Capital this past week for the release of a regional film, says he is extremely proud to have worked in ‘Sholay’ that was patterned on the American spaghetti Westerns, but was nevertheless a typical Bollywood film with an interesting mix of action, comedy, romance and songs.

“The credit for making ‘Sholay’ a success goes to Salim-Javed who wrote every detail of the script. They created the tobacco-chewing character of Gabbar Singh detailing everything from his mannerisms to his habits. The script portrayed Sambha as a dacoit who was good at his job. Till Sambha was alive, Gabbar’s enemies could never venture into his den. It is only after he is eliminated, that Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra) find out the hideout.”

Mac Mohan feels Hindi classics should not be remade. And he doesn’t approve of filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma’s soon-to-be released remake of ‘Sholay’. “Varma is a businessman, he must have carefully thought out how he wanted to remake the film. He has roped in Amitabh Bachchan, who is a world-class actor. I am sure Amitji will give his own interpretation to the character of Gabbar and not copy Amjad Khan.”

Stating that classics like ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ and ‘Mother India’ should not be re-made by today’s filmmakers, Mac Mohan says: “You have seen recent box-office disasters like ‘Don’ and ‘Umrao Jaan’. The original ‘Umrao Jaan’ was a hit as its director Muzaffar Ali belongs to Uttar Pradesh and was familiar with the tehzeeb of Lucknow. But J.P. Dutta’s re-make of the film was a disaster. Even a nautch girl who is acquainted with the lifestyle of ‘nawabs’ cannot teach you the mannerisms of the bygone days. One wrong gesture can undo everything.”

Admitting that in Bollywood artistes are typecast in a particular role, Mac Mohan says it is a tragedy that he has been slotted as a villain for the past 40 years. “But if I was not improvising and researching on my roles, I would not have been alive on the big screen for so long.”

Macmohan has his roots in theatre. “Theatre was my learning ground. I joined the Filmalaya School of Acting that was then the only acting institute in the whole of Asia. My teacher was P.T. Shenoy. At the school, we were taught to share our acting skills with newcomers. I taught for one and a half years.”

Stating that every director has his own concept of making a film, Mac Mohan says: “Raj Kapoor told me once that an artiste should never argue or question the director. Before the film’s shooting, an actor can discuss his role with the director but not after he arrives on the sets to play his character. I do discuss my role with the director but I don’t want to know everything about the script. I am an actor who can prepare in just five minutes after going through the script and then making a mental preparation.”

Speaking about his upcoming Punjabi film ‘Dil Dariya’, Mac Mohan says: “As usual, I am playing a bad guy. I don’t have a bodybuilder’s physique who can look intimidating on screen, so I am playing a sophisticated villain. My character is of a selfish and scheming sort of person. In the film, my son is an NRI and I want him to get married to a girl from India. But more than a bahu I want a servant at home, who can do all the domestic chores.”

Mac Mohan is not unduly worried that from big-budget Bollywood films he has now been reduced to acting in Punjabi movies. “This is not my first Punjabi film. I have done so many films in this language. And why only Punjabi, I have done movies in Haryanvi, Sindhi, Gujarati, Marathi, English and Russian.”




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