Interview with Saurabh Shukla – The Kallu Mama of Bollywood

Q8india.com, The well-known news portal in Kuwait recently had the pleasure of having a chat with Saurabh Shukla , an Indian film, theatre and television actor, director and screenwriter. He is best known for his work in films like Satya (1998), Barfi! (2012), Jolly LLB (2013), Kick (2014), and PK (2014). He is a  National Film Award winner & has acted in several hit films.

He was in Kuwait to perform for his play ,BARFF .He talks to Q8India about his childhood, his journey and much more..

Q. Tell us something about your family.

A. I was born in an artistes’ family. Both my parents were Indian classical musicians. My mother happens to be the very first lady tabla player on professional stage in the world. And tabla used to be mostly played by men, very rarely by women in her time. But now, many women are coming forward to play the tabla. I was educated in the Indian capital, Delhi. So there was an atmosphere of art at home, we were never stopped from participating in art. Later, I got interested in theatrical art and performing arts. So, I started doing theatre. I was always fascinated by movies. I always wanted to act in movies. And I am very lucky that I got a chance to go to Mumbai and make a career.

Q. We all know you as kallumama. How was your experience in such a movie?

A. It was amazing, an iconic film in my career graph. I co-wrote the film and also acted in it. So my participation was at 2 levels, as a writer and an actor. It was wonderful because when we made that film, we started in around 1997 and completed in 1998. In those times, no one was making realistic , under-belly films about the Mumbai underworld. So, a couple of things were shocking for people, at the same time they were very informative. And it made people look into another side of a world which they don’t usually encounter. And yes, there were great actors, great director . So everybody came together and the film happened. It became a cult film, over a period of time, as it was a pioneering film in those days. The characters were very new and unapologetic. Usually there’s always a pressure in a Bollywood film, that if you are showing your protagonist, your hero as a criminal, you have to justify. Whereas we said that its not always that because the world did wrong to you , you become wrong. Many a times there’s lust and greed involved in it, so we portrayed that and it was the people in the central characters whether it is kallumama or bhiku matre or mulle they were all unapologetic about their criminality. So Mumbai underworld at that point of time, it was not a reaction, it was an industry in itself, it had its rules and ethics, it was an industry of crimes.

Q. Tell us something about your play Barff.

A. Its an interesting play. I have been working on this idea since a very long time. It took me almost 7 years to write that play, because there was one story that came in my mind, and I thought its an interesting story to tell. But as I kept writing it ,it kept demanding, as to where the voice of the story lies. It’s a thriller , set in Kashmir, in the winters and in the middle of the mountains . So what I wanted to achieve in this play was an experience, that as an audience you feel the chill, you feel you are in a secluded place and then there is the story. What I am very happy about is it did not remain only at the level of a thriller, but it had a voice in the script which has meanings.

Q. What are your future plans?

A. I am very busy currently with films. And I am very happy about a number of films that I have done . I got to work with very interesting directors. Like Amar Kaushik has just made Bala, which is a very interesting film. I got to work with a veteran director, Anees Bazmee , an interesting person. Then another one with Milan Lutharia ,which is Sunil Shetty’s son Ahan Shetty’s debut film . And it’s a special film for me too. Then another one Shamshera, a Yashraj production featuring Ranbir Kapoor. And there are many others too. So this doesn’t leave me much time to do theatre right now. But I do make time for theatre whenever I get a chance, like I am in Kuwait right now for Barff.

Q. Apart from acting and direction, what does Saurabh Shukla do?

A. I play table tennis, and I am pretty good at it. I am very sincere about table tennis. I always say that at heart, you should be an artist. But at the physical level, you should be a sports person. And in your mind you should be a scientist.

Q. If you weren’t in Bollywood, where would you be?

A. I have no idea. I don’t know. I don’t even want to imagine that. I have never even thought of it. But yes, whatever I would have been doing, or would do if not where I am today, I’ll look for calmness and happiness.

Q. Your 5 favourite characters you have played.

A. I’ll tell you a secret. Never ask actors the favourite characters they have played because characters are like girl friends, you always like the latest one. So the films that are coming up, they are my favourite characters, not the earlier ones. Characters in isolation are nothing,it is based on the story, what film do you make, so it is immaterial what kind if a character you play. What is important is what kind of a script you choose and I focus on that, other than just the character.

Q. Your 5 favourite characters others have played.

A. More than characters, it is the performances that are memorable. There are many of them. My most favorite performance is, in childhood I saw a film, Sholay, one of my favourite films, and Gabbar Singh , which was played by Amjad Khan. Apart from that, Mr. Bacchchan , not in one film, but many films, he has so many great performances, but his recent performance in Piku is one of my most favourite performances. Then, Ranbir Kapoor in Barfi, he was amazing. Next would be Vicky Kaushal in Masaan, another of my most favourite films. Lastly, I think Ayushhmaan Khurana is just great .Every film of his , he is amazing . I got to work with him in Bala, he played my son. That was a great performance.

Q. Choose 5 favourite colleagues you would like to work again with.

A. Shekhar Kapoor, to start with, he gave me my first feature film, Bandit Queen. Then Mr. Kamal Haasan , Sudhir Mishra, Anurag Basu and Subhash Kapoor.

Q. What message you want to give your fans?

A. Wherever I go and I see a piece of art in any place in the world, its very strange that we see an emotional piece, an emotional film, we all cry, doesn’t matter from where you are. Somewhere as a race, we are very closely knit to each other. Let’s find ways to connect and not disconnect.

Q. Is it your first time in Kuwait?

A. Yes, I am performing for the first time. I am very happy to be here. It’s a beautiful country and it’s very calm.

We at Q8India would like to Thank ICS team, Specially Mr. Ashwaque Khan and Mr. Rajesh for providing us an opportunity to do this interview. 

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