My dad has set the standards too high: Imaad Shah

He’s 26 and barely eight films old. However, Imaad Shah speaks with a sort of maturity that lays more emphasis on craft than stardom. Being the son of veteran actors Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah is bound to create pressure but Imaad seems to know how to handle it. Thrilled about his upcoming film The Reluctant Fundamentalist followed by Tasher Desh, the youngster is balancing theatre and music along with cinema. In a candid with SUNDAY MiD DAY, he reveals how…

Imaad Shah will be seen next in Mira Nair’s  The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Q’s Tasher Desh

Did you read Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s novel before you signed up for The Reluctant Fundamentalist?
Actually, I read it twice. Once when it launched in 2007 and later when director Mira Nair approached me for the film. I was delighted to be part of the project, so I went back to the pages to get a better feel of my character and the whole situation.

What was the greatest challenge about playing a Pakistani character in the movie?
Since I’m playing a Lahore-based guy named Samir, I wanted to get under his skin. The Punjabi spoken in Pakistan is quite different as compared to the Indian dialect and the dissimilarity can be noticed even in their Hindi and Urdu. So my part also involved a fair amount of improvisation. Come to think of it, getting the the language right was the biggest challenge for me.

What sets Mira Nair apart from others directors?
Other than being a fabulous collaborator who lets her actors breathe, she simply loves the regional flavours, dialects and the energy mohallas have. You can notice this in all her films. As we weren’t shooting in Pakistan, we had to turn Old Delhi into Lahore. Thankfully, Chandni Chowk and its nearby areas still have that pre-independence charm. However, if it weren’t for Mira’s instincts and her penchant for details, the whole setup would have seemed unconvincing.

How do you prioritise between music, theatre and cinema?
When I’m working on something, I give it my 100 per cent — be it theatre, music or cinema. When I’m in the middle of a shoot, I’m totally consumed by the film. Waking up too early and sleeping really late becomes a norm. Similarly, when I’m touring for our plays or my music band, it’s the same. I tend to lose sleep and all but I don’t complain because I’m doing what I always wanted to do and it’s more about focus than prioritisation.

How difficult is it to have a talented actor such as Naseeruddin Shah as your father?
My dad has set the standards way too high not only for me but also for other actors. It’s natural to find these standards difficult to beat. Yes, there is a level of pressure involved to emulate him as the industry tends to put me in a slot, as I’m his son. But things appear harsher from the outside. It’s far more normal. He and I are friends first. He’s proud of what I’m doing and that’s what matters to me.

What role does Naseer saab play in the choice of your films?
He doesn’t interfere much in the choice of my films. He’s not the kind who would go and launch his sons just for the heck of it. Having said that, we respect each other’s opinion a lot. He obviously wants me to make the right decisions. But like I said, he’s not a pushy person and lets me enjoy my space. Moreover, one can only give one’s best at what one is trying to accomplish.

Speaking of filmmaking, is it true that you’re keen on directing?
Yes, it is. I’ve made some short films earlier that have travelled to film festivals abroad but a feature film is an altogether different ball game. As of now, I’m patiently taking baby steps. The rising power of indie cinema encourages me and I’m looking forward to contribute my bit.

Lastly, tell us something about your character in the Bengali fantasy feature film Tasher Desh?
It’s a Tagore play that is being adopted by Q (Qaushiq Mukherjee of Gandu fame) in Kolkata. Tasher Desh means land of cards. It’s a mix of contemporary and classic and it creates a world where everybody is a part of a card game. Diamonds, Hearts, Spades… my character has a feminist touch and like others in the film, he explores sexuality in his own way.  

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