Paresh Rawal is now an acknowledged character artist and the comedy roles he played are quite memorable. He is now making a film Maharathi, which promises to be full of frills and thrills of a laugh-riot. Paresh has turned producer with this film
On his new film Maharathi
Maharathi is a hugely-successful Gujarati play that has done more than 700 shows since we first showcased it in 1987. We have already revived it twice in 1995 and in 2005 and it did well both times. Its success prompted me to recreate it on the big screen.
Maharathi is a thriller with a good dose of comedy. It is the story of a simple man named Saurabh, played by me, who comes to Mumbai to be an actor. He sets up base in the city by assisting an old man, played by Naseeruddin Shah in the film and his young wife, Neha Dhupia. But Saurabh gets caught up in a murder mystery when his boss ends up dead and he is blamed for it. There is a wily investigating officer who is desperate to pin the murder on Saurabh and then there is a lawyer friend of Saurabh’s who’s trying to bail him out of trouble. Om Puri and Boman Irani play the officer and lawyer respectively.
On casting veteran theatre actors
I know that Naseerbhai, Boman and Ombhai all have a theatre background, but the reason I chose them to be a part of this film is because I admire and look up to their talents. I have done theatre too, and I know actors from that medium have serious acting talents. This film needed good actors, and I thought the actors were perfect.
Also, Maharathi was my play, I have been doing it for 30 years and it becomes easy for me to overlook its creative shortcomings. Having creative powerhouses like Naseerbhai and Ombhai helped me with an outsider’s objectivity and to review several aspects of the story that might not work in a film.
On adapting theatre to films
Maharathi was revived twice after its initial phase and it has now run through three different decades. Audiences have changed radically in 30 years but the response to this play in every single show remains the same. I thought this play’s theme and message is eternal and that it will still work wonders.
On his comic talents
I started off in films as a villain, right? Well, the first part of being a good actor is doing all sorts of roles. Maharathi gave me a chance to explore the genre of thrillers and I jumped at it. Also, to make this film a complete thriller, we have chosen not to have songs in it.
On the idea of acting in a thriller
If I sat down one day to count the truly remarkable thrillers in Hindi cinema I’ll hardly be able to count three or four films. In fact, I can count them right now. Jewel Thief, Teesri Manzil, Johnny Mera Naam and that’s about it. Maharathi has given me a chance to explore this genre.
On Johnny Lever
Johnny Lever is a name that defines comedy in Hindi cinema. Trust me, the observational power and talent that Johnnybhai has is phenomenal. You can sit with him for ten minutes and on the eleventh minute he will be mimicking every gesture of yours! Johnny bhai was made to play the characters that he did. Had he been given better characters you would not have remembered him as just a mimic.
I have strived hard to do roles that appeal to me and I have been lucky enough to do some really good films and make my mark as a comedian.
On his favourite co-stars
I treasure working with every actor because everyone has a talent unique to him or her. I try to observe and imbibe as much as I can from every actor I work with. But I do enjoy the company of Naseerbhai, Ombhai, Akshaye Khanna and Akshay Kumar.
You can count me as one of the happiest persons on earth to see Akshay at the pinnacle of his career. Akshay is someone who suffered the agony of being labeled as just another action junkie. He went from being the modern-day Dara Singh to a mega-star. I saw Akshay act in films like Aitraaz and Khakhi and I said to myself, “If given the chance this guy will make it big”. He deserves every bit of his stardom.
On future plans
Filmmaking will be another dimension of creativity and although I am not focusing on it too much, I hope perhaps by 2010 I will be directing a film.