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Wisdom of remakes

David can pull off 'Chashme Buddoor' with a good script

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Farooque Shaikh dreads seeing his younger self when his old films air on TV. In the 1970s and '80s, Shaikh was the poster boy of alternative cinema with films like 'Gaman', 'Chashme Buddoor', 'Umrao Jaan', 'Bazaar' and 'Katha' to his credit. He returned to the limelight in the 2000s with a talk show 'Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai' and critically acclaimed films like 'Shanghai' and 'Lahore'. In 2010, he was honoured with a National Award for playing a kickboxing coach in 'Lahore'. Shaikh's 'Chashme Buddoor' (made by Sai Paranjape in 1981) is being remade by David Dhawan and has triggered a fresh debate on the wisdom of such remakes. But Shaikh, a qualified lawyer, tells TOI-Crest that the challenge lies in the writing.

What are your thoughts on the 'Chashme Buddoor' remake?

A remake is a great opportunity and also a big challenge. Opportunity because you already have a platform to stand on and the challenge is that people remember the original. So, you better be as good or you will get the eggs and tomatoes reception. Personally, I have nothing against remakes. Mughal-E-Azam was a kind of a remake of Anarkali, so was Mother India (of Aurat, 1940). Umrao Jaan had been made thrice before Muzaffar Ali did. As far as Chashme Buddoor is concerned, the challenge before David is to match Sai's script. If he fails, then he is in for flak. David is an editor and an editor invariably makes a good filmmaker. Hrishida (Hrishikesh Mukherjee ) is a good example. So, technically, David is more qualified than Sai was. But as I said, if he has a good script, then he has a winner on hand.

How often do you revisit your earlier films?


(Laughs) As a matter of fact, I don't. I dread the thought of seeing myself on screen. Every time Chashme Buddoor or any other film airs on TV, I switch the channel. Most actors will tell you that it is impossible to be satisfied with a performance because the doing and viewing happens over a period of time. When I see Chashme Buddoor today, I realise that my thought process and my way of looking at things has changed. I see the mistakes. By the way, I haven't seen Shanghai, yet.

How did 'Shanghai' happen?


I loved Dibakar Banerjee's Khosla Ka Ghosla. But I didn't know we would work together someday. One day, he came and said he is making a film on the Greek novel Z. When he said that he has bought the rights - which was a very honourable thing to do - he moved one rung up in my estimation. I liked the character he offered me - a bureaucrat who turns negative in the end.

And 'Lahore' ?


This first-time director, Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan, came with a script which I found interesting. He said it's a small role that could be shot within ten days. I thought it exemplary that he was trying to show amity through kickboxing. It's rewarding to work with first-time filmmakers because their attitude is, 'Nothing like this was made before and nothing will be made ever after'. Some of their passion rubs off.

What do you look for in a script?


The overview - my role and the director. Also, I won't abuse on screen. I think you can show anger, discontent, annoyance and even rage without resorting to abusive language. Sadly, abusive language has been glamourised in the name of realism.

What is the essence of good acting?


You have to always approach it as if you are doing it for the first time. I lean on my directors for guidance. You should drill it into your head that nobody on the sets has a clearer idea of a film than the director. People say, 'Oh, you have acted in so many films, it must be easy for you'. That's wrong. You develop a false sense of confidence. Everybody can act. You can. You may hate the sight of my face but on meeting me, you will put on act that you like me. Many in our profession can act well. But less than a handful can make it seem natural. The best performance is where there is no acting. And it comes to very few.

Like who?


Daniel Day-Lewis in today's time, or Dilip Kumar, Balraj Sahni and Naseeruddin Shah. I will give you a small example. Naseer was cast against his accepted type in Katha. Usually, he is famous for doing these angry, outraged characters but Sai cast him as a soft, underplayed character. He was a foil for my character. All the laughs and excitement comes from me. But until Naseer gets his act right, whatever I do will not work because he is the victim of my mischief. The victim has to be more convincing than the victimiser. And I think Naseer was magnificent.

What do you make of today's Hindi cinema?


It's a terrific time for Hindi cinema. We are doing much better than earlier in every department - except writing. We are losing out on the value of good writing because we aren't giving enough respect and remuneration to writers. Today's actors are a delight to watch. When I see Ranbir Kapoor act I think I was nothing. These young guys have so much exposure. When they come on set, it is as if they are here to conquer the world.

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