It’s difficult to hold back your surprise when Naseeruddin Shah, one of India’s foremost art house actors, says the film industry doesn’t interest him greatly. In a career spanning almost four decades, Shah has worked with Dadasaheb Phalke Award-winning director Shyam Benegal and James Bond actor Sean Connery, won acclaim for his movie roles and continues to dabble in theatre.
But Shah wasn’t exactly a child prodigy. His grades were the poorest in class and his teachers thought he would “find it difficult to amount even to a small bag of beans,” he writes in his memoir “And Then One Day.”
It took him a long time to grow out of the conviction that he was a “complete idiot,” Shah told me when I met him at The Oberoi, a hotel in central Delhi.
Shah, born in 1949 or 1950 (he isn’t sure) in a small town near Lucknow, began writing “And Then One Day” because he “had nothing else to do” and continued as he found he enjoyed it though he is “still frightened of the computer.” He discussed his autobiography and his life in an interview with India Insight.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
Q: Why did you choose to call your memoir “And Then One Day”?
A: It’s just a “kahani kehne ka jo andaaz hota hai na, ek tha raja ek thi raani” (“It’s just a way of telling a story, there once was a king and a queen”) kind of thing — “once upon a time”. It’s that kind of a phrase which I thought is quite suitable in my case. Because it’s an intriguing title also. Because it might give you the feeling that one day everything suddenly changed “jab ki aisa kuch hua nahi tha kuch meri zindagi mein” (“while nothing like that happened in my life”). So I quoted that verse from that song which I love which is about a person who has wasted a lot of his life. At one stage, I felt that I have done that or at least I got very delayed in starting off my education.