Actor-writer-director Saurabh Shukla is a veteran of nearly three decades in this industry. Shukla, who is known for his diverse and exceptional portrayal of his characters, is all set with his next films, Jolly LLB 2 and Jagga Jasoos. Here’s Shukla in conversation with Rohini Nag Madnani
From Bandit Queen to Jagga Jasoos, how would you sum up your journey in the industry?
On a personal note, my journey has been nothing but wonderful because the audience has loved my appearances. I started with a film like Bandit Queen and I could have easily been stereotyped. Luckily, that did not happen and I got diverse roles to play. If people had limited me according to my first film, I wouldn’t have had such a variety of roles in my kitty. But I was accepted as an actor, not just as a character, and therefore got the chance to work with talented directors and actors, in diverse genres.
Since I’ve worked in this industry for a long time, I am a recognisable face. Earlier, when my fans used to praise me, I felt they were doing so only because they knew me by face. But, today, with cinema changing and people getting educated about films, I meet people who tell me about my role and which appearance of mine they liked. They even tell me that they now expect a certain kind of performance from me! So I feel my work is being acknowledged. I have started getting offers where my roles are lengthier and my characters have a central place.
You have been in some cult classics, content-oriented films; and the ` 100-crore, ` 200-crore and ` 300-crore clubs. Does your approach to each film or character change?
My approach to work is the same, it never changes. I am just very lucky to have worked with the best directors and co-actors. I have been in Mumbai for 23 or 24 years and each time I am offered a film, I get the script first and then I am asked to play the part. Being a writer helps me while I approach different roles. All that matters is what my role demands from me, whether sublime acting or an over-the-top approach, where I need to invest more energy in my part.
You won a National Award for Best Supporting Actor for your role in Jolly LLB. Do you believe awards bring validation to your work?
I wouldn’t say validation, but acceptance, for sure. Awards are a kind of a reward; they are like gifts. My principle is, if people bring gifts, then celebrate with them and if no one brings gifts, then celebrate alone.
Do you believe it’s the character that makes the actor or does the actor make the character?
I believe it’s the character that makes the actor. An actor has a lot of things to back him, from the story to the director to an editor and much more. But if the character lacks conviction, then no actor can work their charm on the screen.
What can the audience look forward to from your upcoming releases, Jolly LLB 2 and Jagga Jasoos?
Jolly LLB is already a great property with a successful prequel behind it. With its second part, the film has only got bigger. This part has Akshay Kumar, who is a huge star and a brilliant actor. This part is much more emotional and it has a dramatic story. The film will definitely attract the audience for two reasons, the first is Akshay Kumar and the second is the honesty in its narrative.
Anurag Basu is known to create a different world with each of his films, a world which is real but also surreal. We say, ‘films are about creating magic on the big screen’, and he does just that. His films are larger than life. Just like Barfi!, Jagga Jasoos is a larger-than-life world set in a very real world. His way of filmmaking always attracts the audience.
When will we see you direct and write a film again?
I have finished writing three scripts and want to direct them soon. I am pitching them to people. But making a film is an altogether different animal; it is a much bigger beast. Meanwhile, I am doing theatre and am currently working on a play as well. My play is titled Barf, a thriller based in Kashmir during the winter. It has been written and directed by me.