Paresh Rawal is undoubtedly one of the finest actors in Bollywood who has entertained us through a variety of challenging roles for over three decades. This versatile actor-turned- politician has made his way into our hearts with great ease. From a fearful baddie to amazing comic interludes, Paresh Rawal has always been a delight to watch as he touches us with his amazing acting prowess. And when it comes to comedy, we know that seeing his name in the credits will definitely give us a feeling of complete “paisa-vasool!”
In an exclusive rapport with Anu Gopalakrishnan, Miindia.com, Paresh Rawal speaks about theater, politics, his recent U.S. tour of Kishan vs. Kanhaiya Reloaded and above all his spiritual journey. Here are some excerpts:
Q: A long journey – theater, films, politics. How do you feel about doing theater?
I started my career with theater. It is kind of my life line. I started in 1971, years before I entered cinema. If I don’t do theater or keep in touch with drama, I will fall sick. For every artist, theater means a lot as it is a challenging moment. It evolves us to perform better. What I am today is because of my foundation in theater. When they say Paresh ji, how can you do such challenging roles, I always tell them that any actor who has theatrical experience excels in emoting any scene.
Q: Why did you choose Kishan vs. Kanhaiya (reloaded)?
Well, I instantly liked the subject. There are certain things I want to tell people, but I believe there should be a time and space for that. This play came to me at the right time. As artists, we would like to share our thoughts on subjects that mean so much to us. We have a responsibility of educating the public outside of providing entertainment. The beauty of Kishan vs. Kanhaiya is that no matter who sees it, no matter who has written it, the audience can instantly identify with the subject. We are constantly bogged down by insecurities, fear, ignorance and here is a play that unhesitatingly provides a response in the most unadulterated manner.
Q: And, what is the message?
I don’t want to reveal everything about the play because I want all of you to attend and understand the most repeated question about god and spirituality. The basic message is for people to believe in living species than stone. Belief in humanity is the highlight of the play. The mind of enquiry is one of the most debated phenomena. The mind is often times in conflict about gods, religious places, the calling etc. This play hopes to get the dialog started.
Q: Like your film with Akshay Kumar – Oh My God! - a satirical comedy?
Yes, you can call this play as an extension of it. But it is different because you start enquiring about the existence of god and try to debate about serving humanity. Where there is a real need vs. irrationally spending on religious practices, malpractices in religious places. Again, this is a play for everybody and there is a deliberate use of the comedy vein otherwise the message will be very hard. In other words, it is not mindless comedy, but thought-provoking comedy. When you start questioning the existence of god, your spiritual journey has begun.
Q: Do you get connected to the audience while doing theater, more on an intellectual level?
Firstly, the beauty of the audience is that you get instant approval or rejection. In films, you give a good shot, it is canned for a life time. With theater, the joy of adding, deleting, growing, modifying expressions and performance makes you an evergreen student. I can continue to improve, I am constantly in a process, a continuing momentum and the audience helps with that growth. There is no stagnancy in theater. I really hope we can do more in theater.
Q: What do you see as shortcomings in doing theater, especially in the United States?
There are a few issues when it comes to infrastructure here. We run from one corner to another for light, sound and props. People use the same lighting mechanism for all plays and events. That does not work. We lack total man power. With this play, we provide a complete audio-visual experience. Since we have to work with limited resources as theater is not as prominent as star events, the attention is on story-telling and performance.
Q: Villian, comedy, character roles – which one do you prefer?
I like comedy but I prefer any good challenging role that scares or motivates me. If I don’t do any challenging roles, I get into a shell. I must step out from my comfort zone to always try new roles.
Q: An MP representing the BJP – why did you opt for a political career?
I have a lot of thoughts and a vision for a free India. Instead of asking somebody to do it or challenge people to do it, I thought it would be best to get elected and fulfil the vision I have. People in India are still bogged down by caste and creed. I want to focus on education and awareness to get rid of the caste/creed feeling. A lot of damage has been done by the previous government. This is an able government and people need to wait, keep patience so that we can change the system slowly and effectively. I will move forward with my ideals of getting rid of caste mentality.
Q: And if Politics and Films don’t keep you busy?
I love to read all kinds of books except anything that is mathematical in nature.
Q: What do you wish to tell the Michigan audience?
You work very hard to make money. We bring quality entertainment to you and we want to make sure every hard earned dollar gives you a sense of satisfaction. The play will be complete “manoranjan” for you. The return gift is enlightenment mixed with entertainment. I would love to share my message with you and I hope you come in large numbers to enjoy an evening of fun and laughter.