All his films may not have been brilliant, but Arshad Warsi has rarely disappointed. Be it comedy or the serious stuff, he brings alive the character every time. Last year, he completely a silver jubilee run and looking back, the actor and aspiring director shares what keeps him going.
Starting with Tere Mere Sapne in 1996, you have been an actor for 26 years now. How has the journey been so far?
No complaints, life is beautiful. Every film has been an enriching experience. I’ve learnt so much from the people I have worked with. Even when I was not working, I learnt so much about myself. I think I’ve become a better person, maybe even a better actor.
Fortunately, I got to do such varied roles and I’m still getting ventures that excite me. That is why I love every moment of this journey, the moments when I have excelled on screen, and also the moments when people have hated me.
You were compelling in intense roles like Sehar and Asur, yet you continue to be associated with comedy, primarily because of the Munnabhai, Dhamaal and Golmaal franchises. Does that bother you?
Sadly, even though it is a creative profession, filmmaking is a business too. And when someone is investing money in you, they will always play safe and go by numbers. They will say, “Hey, this guy has done so many comedies, let’s cast him in another.” But let me tell you something weird. If I’ve done say a 100 films, of these only five-six were serious stuff, the rest were mostly comedies. Now, here’s the catch. Almost all the films in the first lot were well liked while among the comedies, only three-four were blockbusters. So, my success ratio is almost 90 per cent for intense roles. If it was left to me, I would judge an actor from this point of view.But Circuit has short-circuited people minds…
(Laughs) It’s okay, Munna Bhai MBBS resurrected my career. I had no movies for three-four years before that. I was out of sight, gone! When will the next film in the Munnabhai series return? We have been waiting for 16 years since Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Honestly, I don’t think Part 3 will happen. I wish it would, that we could have a proper closure. We owe that much to the audience, but it’s been too long.
A creative person feels claustrophobic if he is asked to do the same thing over and over again. As an actor, I want to move on. I’m sure Raju (writer-director Rajkumar Hirani) wants to do different things too, more so because for a director each film takes a few years of his life.
I do, and I will. I don’t know what I will make. (Laughs) I just hope it’s not a terrible film.Why haven’t you produced another film after Hum Tum Aur Ghost, whose story, screenplay and dialogues were penned by you?
I’m terrible at business, I have no idea how to handle it. So, I think I will steer clear of production. But I will write.So, what’s coming up next?
Season Two of the web series Asur should be out by August-September, if not earlier. And I promise you, the Second Season will be even better.There are two films, both diametrically opposite to each other. Banda Singh is a lovely story of a simple man who stands up to what he thinks is wrong and confronts terrorists. And Jeevan Beema Yojana is about two people who will do anything to get their life back after a financial setback. It’s a rollercoaster ride and everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. I have enjoyed doing both films.
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Why did you and Shreyas Talpade drop out of Salman Khan’s Kabhi Eid Kabhi Diwali?
To be dropped, I had to be picked first. No one asked me to do the film. It’s insane the kind of rubbish that is written.
No matter what the role, your performances have always been so natural…
Acting comes naturally to me and I like my acting to be natural. I don’t stress too much over it, don’t try too hard. Bas, when I hear a role, the character stays in my head till I finish the film. And when you think about it so much, you automatically become the person. You start thinking and feeling like him. (Laughs) And people say, “Yeh to aisa hi hai. (He is like this guy himself)”, which isn’t always true.
But isn’t an actor only supposed to follow the cues inherent in the script and the director’s instructions. Are you allowed to improvise?
Yes, I improvise all the time. All actors should. I have a good sense of humour and an eye for what people like. So, there are times when I go up to the director and say, “Should we try this? Or do the scene this way? It might look nice?” I’ve done it in all my movies. After that I leave it to the director to decide if they want to act on my suggestions or not.
So, what would be your advice to younger actors?
I tell them that your mind is your biggest tool, your biggest teacher.