VIRENDRA SAXENA – NEVER BIGGER THAN THE CHARACTER POTRAYED
Posted by barkha on August 13, 2012 | 2 Comment
The first time I saw Virendra Saxena as Shahrukh’s father in DIL DARIYA, he stayed with me. There was a certain depth, certain believability he brought to the character. This has proved to be this thespian’s forte, as he has left his stamp of quality on many films and serials. Arguably the greatest TV show ever made in India, TAMAS, had one of the finest performances by him. But he has also proved to be a man for all seasons, and his innings continues, with films as recent as HouseFull 2. Here is picking the brains of one, who has seen and given some fine performances:
I am from Mathura, from a non-film family and had humble means. Mathura being the birthplace of Lord Krishna, the city had artistic ramifications back then. So I grew up in that environment, used to play the flute, paint, write and being the youngest in the family had its own advantages. Academically I was also not bad. What is generally my observation in a very religious place is that it has its share of Hoodlums. So needless to say, I also experienced and was a part of that. All of which were my growing up experiences. I was enrolled in a Political Science degree, but the realization dawned that I needed to leave Mathura; least I also become part of that Goondagardi cycle. So using some family and friends connection, I secured myself a job in Delhi, as a secretary, on a salary of Rs 100 per month. In the first three months itself in Delhi, people found me very interesting and liked hanging out with me and nicknamed me Veeru the Actor and would say I should go to Mumbai. I realized right away, that whatever one needs to pursue, one needs to be trained in that field. Same was the case with my interest in acting. I wanted to train to covert this interest into a profession. A senior and a friend of mine from Mathura, who had joined NSD, were doing a play and he offered me a part. My first play was with the likes of Neena Gupta, Pankaj Kapoor, and Deepak Kejriwal. My part was quite significant and people liked my performance. So I quit my job, moved into the palatial house of my brother’s friend, a rich exporter, started making posters at Rs 2 per posters, this paid my expenses. A year and a half later I ended up joining NSD. Post NSD, I formed a new theater group, it had amongst others Gyan Shivpuri. During this time I got my first film offer, Massey Saheb. My work in Massey Saheb was appreciated.
Mumbai abhi door hain.. (Mumbai is not on the charts)
Post Massey Saheb, I was reluctant to move to Mumbai. Delhi was home for me. I didn’t think I was ready for Mumbai because by nature I do something only when I feel I am totally ready and prepared. I kept doing films on and off in Mumbai, including with people like Vidhu Vinod Chopra, but maintained my base in Delhi. During this time I was offered TAMAS, by Govind Nihalani. TAMAS got me tremendous recognition, but I did not capitalize on it, since I did not move to Mumbai right away. Mumbai filmmakers were looking for me, but I was not to be found. But 1.5 years later I did make to Mumbai, but everyone said, that when we desperately wanted to cast you, where were you?
I have established my own place in the Film and Television world of Mumbai. Mumbai Theater, the Hindi Mumbai Theater does not excite me, as the Hindi Delhi Theater did. Whatever work I have done, have given it my heart and soul. There has never been an instance where I have sought work; luckily, work has always come to me. At this stage I go to work, only to be excited by work, not just to show up on sets.
An objective assessment of Television from the heydays of Tamas and Dil Dariya, to now.
Dil Dariya was Shahrukh’s first serial. He played my son. Fauji may have come out first, but Dil Dariya was where it all started. TV now has become only about TRP. Initially in TV the actors would not perform “greater than the character,” now the acting has become a little loud. My assessment is that a good performance is one, where the people don’t even realize that you just gave a performance. Back then also, don’t get me wrong, people worked in Television for their livelihood, but there was certain purity in intention. Be it writer, director, cinematographer, actor, they would utilize television to really showcase their craft, imbibe some and learn some more. Now because of the TRP pressure, every four days, stories and characters get changed, sequences of serials get changed, treatments get amended on the spur of the moment, stories are made on a weekly basis as opposed to having a pre existing story line. Fine writers; get pressurized by Channels to change stories. Unfortunately the blame game then begins and recipients of pressure get more blame, then the originator.
Is there a director here?
See Acting is my bread and butter and always will be. Having said that I have written a film, which Prasoon Pandey is expected to direct and Mr. Bachchan is potentially going to star in it. Offers to direct have always been there. Perhaps some day I will, only when I am totally convinced that it is the right thing to do. Merely because I am getting an opportunity and somebody is willing to put money in it, won’t be reason enough for me.