Naseer annoyed by Muslim stereotypes

Sep 9, 2008 Subhash K Jha

Mumbai, Sep 9 (IANS) Thespian Naseeruddin Shah is appalled at the way minority communities are still stereotyped in Hindi films and says that he consciously chose to play a suave, articulate, bomb-planting mastermind in "A Wednesday".

"The bearded, hitched-pyjama look for the Muslim always annoys me," Naseer told IANS.

Being an Indian Muslim, wouldn't it seem outwardly incorrect, at least politically, for him to play the role he essays in "A Wednesday"?

"When I heard the role I immediately said yes. Just because I'm playing a terrorist doesn't mean I become one," he quipped.

"Decades ago, I did a film called 'Adharshila' that had a young filmmaker being humiliated by a top industrialist. When we asked this gentleman to play the part, he suggested he play someone who helps rather than humiliates the filmmaker. The point is by playing a part an actor doesn't subscribe to its philosophy. I had no hesitation in doing 'A Wednesday'. My character is named Anonymous. Till the end his name isn't mentioned."

Naseer had earlier created ripples by playing a progressive maulvi (Muslim cleric) in the Pakistani film "Khuda Ke Liye".

"The fact that such provocative parts of people who stand up and state their point of view heedless of the consequences are being written is heartening. Surprisingly there were no protests in India against the arguments in 'Khuda Ke Liye'," said the actor, who won much critical acclaim for his performance in the film.

"Filmmakers just need to get their research right and there's no need to get unnecessarily provocative. If you end up with a bullet in your head, you aren't there to fight for the cause you believe in. My character in 'Khuda Ke Liye' knew the Koran in and out."

Naseer admitted that he discovered aspects of the Koran while doing director Shoaib Mansoor's "Khuda Ke Liye".

"Like most Muslims I had read the holy Koran as a child without understanding it. The problem with a majority of Muslims in India is that we read the Koran without understanding it and we allow the so-called authorities to interpret it for us. The first thing every Muslim needs to do is to understand the Koran more deeply and not allow others to interpret it for them. I've read the Koran but I'm far from being an authority on it."

"A Wednesday" released along with two other films on terrorism - "Hijack" and "Tahaan" - and "Mumbai Meri Jaan", which has a similar theme, was out two weeks ago. Aren't there too many films on terrorism?

Said Naseer: "Hopefully they aren't meant to titillate. Maybe five-six films on the after-effects of extremism in a few months would be a case of overkill. 'A Wednesday' was ready for a year. For some reason it's being released weeks after another film 'Mumbai Meri Jaan' with a similar backdrop."

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