Why do you think "Bose..." failed commercially in spite of being such an exemplary work?
I've no clue. I poured my heart and soul, sweat and blood into playing Netaji. I researched it thoroughly. It was a complete experience for me as an actor. Not too many actors get such an opportunity. I'm truly blessed. It took away two years of my life, and I'm very pleased with the way critics have responded to my role. I'm grateful to my producer Sahara for venturing so wholeheartedly into something so daringly unconventional.
What was your approach to the role?
I got the hang of his speech and body language. Documentaries and audiotapes helped. I worked hard on Urdu and English, which he spoke fluently and without an accent. He was a distinctive linguist. Shernaz Patel helped me with the English. Shama Zaidi and Atul Tiwari were there on the sets to help with the dialogues. I've spoken Netaji's dialogues and delivered my speeches in different tones.
All this hard work and not enough people to see the film!
It's frustrating. But what can be done about it? I'm baffled by the commercial response. But I'm very happy with the way my producers treated the project.
But you are quoted as saying you are disappointed with Sahara.
Not true at all! I never said that. And I don't know how or why these words were put in my mouth. I'm too small a man to comment on an organization that has given me the biggest role of my life. It's like questioning my peers. Sahara did everything they could to project "Bose..." as the epic that it was.
What do you think of the so-called liberties director Shyam Benegal has taken with Subhas Chandra Bose's character and life?
We've started with the disclaimer that the film is based on a real character. Of course, certain cinematic liberties have to be taken when a film is being made out of a historical character. Those liberties have to be taken to make the story flow well. In "Bose...", the emotional and political sides of Bose's character have been brought together in one flow.
Whether it's Bhagat Singh, Bose or Mangal Pandey, films on our national leaders are the need of the hour. Today's generation has no sense of history. But films of this sort don't seem to have any market. Incidentally, I'm the only actor who got to play such a big part because I look like the real-life character.
Do you look on it as an experience worth going through?
As an actor, "Bose..." gave me the satisfaction that I needed. Acting is all about reacting. And in "Bose..." I came across so many actors who weren't known to me, and yet provided me with such a huge amount of comfort level. After "Bose...", I realized acting is reacting to the unknown. Without knowing any of the actors in "Bose...", I was given such perfect rhythms to follow. I realized how important it is to have responsive colleagues. The only actor who can give an outstanding performance in isolation is Mr Bachchan.
But hardly anyone saw it!
It's very very sad. I've no words to express my disappointment. I guess I'll have nothing worthy to be a follow-up to "Bose...". My next release is Ashwini Chowdhary's "Siskiyan", where I play the husband of a traumatized woman...and then I've Mahesh Manjrekar's "Viruddh", where I play a cop. I'm happy with the progress I've made in my career without any godfather.
People like Mahesh Manjrekar, Guddu Dhanoa and Ravi Rai have tapped the best out me. And now "Bose...". I gave up television - and easy money - to be in films. The struggle hasn't been easy. But in a film like "Tere Naam", I got famous as Salman Khan's brother. Wow! Anil Kapoor once called to say, "Arrey yaar, maine ek aur film dekha jahan tu mar gaya (I have seen another film in which you die)".
Rather sad for an actor of your calibre.
I've always maintained Tom Hanks doesn't have to do a David Dhawan film just to run his kitchen....Over the years I've come to terms with my lack of commercial success. I went to Sanjay Leela Bhansali's office every day asking him to cast me as Chunnilal in "Devdas". He chose Jackie Shroff. I can't compete with that. In any case I don't think I could do what Jackie did. Every actor wants to work with a passionate filmmaker like Bhansali. But such filmmakers only work with stars. Now I look at stars as the people who generate the money. I'm happy to see films are being made with actors rather than stars in the lead. Not that I'm getting too many of them. But I did get "Bose...".
So far, I've lived with my conscience. Maybe I haven't had opportunities to make compromises.