Farooque Shaikh- Your regular, everyday STAR
Posted by Vivek on March 4, 2013 | 2 Comment
Every rule in this world has an exception. A saying goes that an actor has to be built up like a star to sustain their box office hold. Then along comes Farooque Shaikh. The actor became a star when the arthouse, Garam Hawa, hit the screens. Not only had we discovered one of the finest actors, but he could also hold the screen. Then he would disappear. Re appear in Chashme Badoor. A story about three ordinary guys with some extraordinary numbers in the box office and driven once more by Farooque. Then when he decided to shift gears to a YashRaj produced Noorie, which was more in the realm of commercial cinema, 1978’s biggest hit was the result. Umrao Jaan, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Saath Saath, in front of each of these classics and their classical directors, has been Farooque Shaikh. You can also catch him performing a play, doing a show on Doordasrshan, the man does some of the most non starry things, but what sets him apart is his realness and his “everydayness,” and of course his intelligence, as apparent when we catch up with him on a Sunday morning:
Whether and whenever, from an audience perspective I see you, be it in Garam Hawa, or Chashme Badoor, or Noorie, or even crossing the street in Pedder Road, the obvious question- where have you been…why these long absences between films?
I tend to do only one film at a time. Coupled with dabbling with television and theater, it is also that I further tend to do only one thing at a time. Hence perhaps the perception that I am not seen that often. Also in the last 40 years I have never done more than 1 film a year.
Whenever you have appeared in front of the camera, in films, for the most part, the project had tended to do well. Never the urge to join the rat race, cash in on it and do more?
Not really. When we started off there were certain things that were drilled into our heads. People like Sathyu who expected you to speak with the director, understand what your role is, satisfy yourself and then you say a yes or a no. So the lesson that we got early on, sort of became difficult to get out of. One has stuck to that and not been driven by the urge to do work just for the sake of it.
Garam Hawa and Chashme Badoor, films so real and the former actually depicting something which was not popular opinion. Are those films passé, in today’s time?
They can and in fact, not identical, but similar films on varied topics are becoming the order of the day, thanks to the multiplexes. A case in point could be the film released last week Kai Po Che. Good subject, nicely handled, complete newcomers and a very engrossing film. The producer and the director deserve a lot of kudos for the courage and competence that they have displayed. The bottleneck is the distribution roadway. The distributor and the exhibitor are completely commerce driven, because they are in the business of making money out of cinema. Money becomes their priority and cinema becomes their secondary objective. That is the disadvantage that the independent filmmaker still suffers from.
One counterpoint to what you just mentioned. A Farooque Shaikh starring Noorie, Chashme Badoor and Garam Hawa did turn in profits, so why have not more of those films been made, in that time frame?
There is so much of the market that is taking away the attention of the audience, be it on Television or the big screen that you need to hammer your pre and post release publicity hugely. So that you are noticed. Or you need breathing space once the film has hit the screen and that breathing space is what is denied to the independents. Even if a Garam Hawa was released with adequate pre release publicity even today, I can assure you that it would do very well.
Unlike a lot of your contemporaries, there is rarely any anger seen in you, as you move quite seamlessly between the Arthouse and the Commercial cinema?
When you take up something that is of interest to you then you put in your best cause you are happy with what you are doing and the happiness that you feel gets transmitted or communicated through the work that you do and that shows on the screen. The great Hrishikesh Mukherjee used to say something very interesting, “We belong to a fraternity where the result of our work is completely out of our control.” We might think we have moved heaven and earth to make a film and sacrificed close to our lives to make it thru but the audience might reject you in five minutes, you cannot control that. But the process of making the project you can control, you can enjoy it, trudge through it, cry through it or whatever. The thing that you can control at least that you should enjoy and you can’t enjoy it if you do it like a 9 to 5 job everyday. That is something that works well for most of us. We should be enjoying what we are doing.
Talk a little about Listen Amaya, how has the response been in the Indian box office?
Interestingly Listen Amaya was the opening film at the Chicago Southeast Asian Film Festival, then it was again the opening film at the NJ Southeast Asian Film Festival. They added a couple of shows for the film at a festival in Florida and it is also playing at a festival in DC. So wherever in the US it has been shown in festivals, the response has been more than overwhelming. The release in India, as I had mentioned, is controlled by people whose interest is largely commercial. In Mumbai they tried to release it on their own. They were given horrid show times like one show in the afternoon that nobody would go to. It ran for 3 weeks and then it got removed. In Delhi it is still running and running in two cinema halls. In Kolkutta it is releasing on March 8th and they are very hopeful. In Chennai it did pretty well for the kind of film it is. The rest of it remains to be seen
Film, theater or television, your choice?
Film. As an actor you have to be on your game in film. In theater and television you can get away with feigning an emotion. In television the screen is too small and often characters many so people don’t watch the emotions with that much of attention span. In theater the people who are sitting beyond the 3rd or 4th row cannot catch the expression in your eyes, if you get your vocal tones and posturing correct, you can get away without getting into the emotion of the character, show after show. In cinema, because the camera catches every little flicker in your eye, there is no escape. Your eye becomes your brain to the world outside and it shows exactly what you are thinking as you are delivering a shot. So the challenge is greater and the facility to cheat an emotion, less so