On the second or third day in a new school, my teacher read out my essay in class, as a gesture of appreciation. Later, he asked me to read a few books that were unrelated to our curriculum. Looking back, I feel grateful to my teacher who opened my eyes to the treasures of literature and enriched my life. He also showed me the real path of learning. As a young boy, I was always interested in drawing and used to sketch a lot. Later, I watched my friend’s father, a celebrity sculptor who used to work with clay. I recollect wanting to be an artist at that point.
Painting is an inward journey, which is commensurate with my nature. Dealing with the least number of people is quite attractive to me. I have many who have inspired my paintings, but my favourite painters are Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani and India’s foremost abstract painter Vasudeo Gaitonde.
I don’t believe the myth that an artist is born and cannot be made. I have always taken the plunge against the mainstream, not knowing whether I have the strength to reach the unseen horizon and knowing full well that it is going to be a lonesome journey. But, halfway through, when I’ve looked back, I’ve found quite a few following me as well as encouraging me. Ultimately, we’ve reached the shore. I think that is success.
To stop acting was one of the many big decisions I had taken. I’m an actor by accident, producer by compulsion and director by choice. I never thought of making a hit movie. I always wanted to share the story that I was obsessed with at that point of time. I also tried to do it in a different way than the one tried earlier. Going beyond the script/dialogue, tips by the co-actors and guidance by the director, an actor must find out how and in which manner he or she can contribute to the play or film.
A Hindi play called Chup, Court Chalu Hai, written by Vijay Tendulkar and directed by Satyadev Dubey, was my first theatre experience, in 1967. After my performance was appreciated by the audience as well as the critics, Dubeyji said, “Now start learning the ABCs of acting.” And, then, he started teaching me the fundamentals. Later, in 1972, he gave me the opportunity to do a triple role in Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana — I played the role of a sensitive person called Devdutt. It was a very challenging task to handle all the three characters, more so since Dubeyji didn’t want us to use any external help, such as make-up, wigs and so on. So, we were required to bring out different characters through sheer performing skills alone. It was a high point in my acting career, as I was able to perform with stalwarts such as Amrish Puri and Dina Pathak. I still remember our performance in Delhi. Indira Gandhi, who was in the audience, refused to leave earlier as she had planned. She congratulated the cast personally after the show.
We tend to take our mother tongue for granted. One is also relaxed with the known language. When I acted in languages I didn’t know, I not only enjoyed learning a new language, but I also liked the additional challenge of being alive and alert to what my co-actor was saying. I am privileged to be in the show business for 45 years, despite doing things only as I wanted to do and on my terms, without ever succumbing to market pressures. I did not compromise.
I am very fortunate and blessed. My personal needs and demands are very minimal. I do splurge many times, but having money does not give me a sense of fulfilment or strength. Learning new things brings me happiness. If I could turn back time, I would want to learn a new musical instrument. It isn’t too late now, either.
Men are terrible at multitasking compared to women. I am worse. Work itself is a great stress buster when one loves the work one does. Nonetheless, spending time with my wife and daughter and going away on tours of different countries are things very dear to me.