Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval in Listen Amaya
Adaab. I am free now,” says Farooque Shaikh on the phone. The veteran actor sounds happy, having recently relived his screen romance with “dear friend” and co-star of seven films, Deepti Naval. In Geeta and Avinash Singh’s relationship tale Listen Amaya, which releases in Calcutta on Friday, the Chashme Buddoor duo play stranger-turned-lovers of a different kind. A t2 chat with Farooque Shaikh…
You’ve teamed up with Deepti Naval 27 years after your last film Faasle (1985). How was it working together after so many years?
It’s always a comfortable thing to work with somebody you like and have known over the years. We keep getting offers but neither of us finds it worth our time and energy. I don’t do more than a film a year and I don’t think Deeptiji is hung up on doing one hundred films in the next two years. So we both are a little wary of taking on too much work. Deeptiji is a happy person to work with, she knows the job very well. I still believe that she is one of the most versatile actresses and I wish the film industry had given her a lot more. I think she deserved more. She is a cut above the ordinary…. But it’s not like we met on the sets of Listen Amaya after many years. Deeptiji and I are in touch even when we are not working together because she lives about 20 minutes from where I live in Mumbai and now — God bless the SMS system — we can always keep in touch. She keeps me informed about her work.
Did you say yes to Listen Amaya because Deepti was in it?
(Laughs) See, neither Deeptiji nor I would say yes to a film only because we would have the pleasure of working with each other. It has to be a script that can satisfy both of us. The role has to offer us something that enthuses us and the director has to arouse confidence. Unless that happens neither of us would say yes.
A still from Chashme Buddoor
So what prompted you to do Listen Amaya?
Well, the script is very interesting. It’s a very doable, positive, easy-to-believe-that-such-a-thing-could-have-happened kind of plot. But even in the most simple relationships, problems can arise. As they do in this story and how you deal with the fact that you could not really sort out the problem is what the film is about. It’s a very mature and interesting look at relationships, specifically man-woman relationships. I play Jayant Sinha who loves photography and meets young Amaya (Deepti’s daughter, played by Swara Bhaskar) and through her, he meets her interesting and free-spirited mother Leela (Deepti). The two become friends and fall in love and then, of course, one thing leads to another.
Looking back, what according to you is the reason behind the sparkling screen chemistry you had with Deepti?
I think any actor needs two things to succeed — a good writer and a good director. When we started working together, we began with Chashme Buddoor, which was written and directed by Sai Paranjpye. If the writer and the director do their work well, you already have a strong platform to stand on. It doesn’t matter how good, bad or indifferent you are as an actor, the structure stands on what the writer and the director have been able to do. Coincidentally, Deeptiji and I had met much before we worked together. Vinod Pande was making a film called Ek Baar Phir and he was looking for a young, attractive lady to play the central character of a woman caught between a not-so-attentive husband and a very attentive artist who becomes her romantic interest. He had approached me to play the artist. Suresh Oberoisaab was supposed to play the husband. I suggested Deeptiji, who had come down from New York. She was very attractive and interested in doing films. Vinodsaab met and cast her immediately. Unfortunately I couldn’t do the film because I had committed to Noorie. So that’s how I knew Deeptiji before we met for Chashme Buddoor. We shot Chashme Buddoor continuously for two months in Delhi. So we obviously spent a lot of time with each other. And since Chashme Buddoor did well, we kept getting offers.
David Dhawan is making a remake of Chashme Buddoor...
Of course, of course. Davidsaab is a friend.
Do you think there should be remakes of successful films?
(Pauses) I don’t think there’s any problem with that. It depends on how good you can make your version. But it becomes a challenge because people remember the success and the merit of the earlier film. So if David Dhawansaab has been able to put together an able script and an interesting narrative, he has a winner. If, God forbid, he has not then he will face criticism.
Do you find anything missing in today’s romcoms when compared to the ones made in your times?
See, for love to bear fruit and have any kind of lasting value, you have to give time. You cannot treat love like a hamburger — grab a bite and throw away the wrapper! That is strangely and sadly lacking in today’s cinema. We don’t have the time to, sort of, pause and enjoy the space and time with each other.
Of the recent actors, whose screen chemistry do you like best?
Oh, there are so many. There are a number of people who are very good. They are much better prepared than somebody like me when I had started out.
You have a Calcutta connection, having acted in Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khilari. Are you in touch with his family?
Unfortunately, not. But I have great fondness for the city. I think it is one of the last big cities that has maintained some level of sanity. We seem to have lost the art of enjoying life. Thankfully, Bengalis seem to remember that. I thoroughly enjoy every minute I spend in Calcutta. I enjoy meeting my friends in Calcutta.
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