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`I'm just another actor'

Naseeruddin Shah's son Immaauddin says he won't let comparisons get him down



His father's son: Immaauddin Shah — Photo: K. Gopinathan

"WHICH ONE is Naseer's son?" the photographer hisses. He wouldn't be blamed for asking. But once you see him, there's no doubt who he is. It isn't the eyes or the jawline. It's simply, and unmistakably, the hair. Naseeruddin Shah's curly tangle, subdued with age, is still wild and defiant on his son's head. But apart from that dead giveaway, Immaad is, like his actor sister Heeba Shah, quite his own person. Naseer explains that Immaad has been on stage since he was three, when he debuted in a production of Julius Caesar, and since then was repeatedly dragged on stage to fill child-roles.

Real debut

The play Katha Collage is Immaad's "real" debut on stage, and already he is the keen focus of jostling cameras and TV crews. He poses for the cameras, smiling occasionally, and answering the most intimate rapid-fire questions without batting an eyelid, honestly and simply.

"Girlfriend?"

"Uh, yeah..."

"In Mumbai?"

"She's in Delhi actually..."

"Long distance? Must be hard? And expensive?"

"Yeah! Cell phone bills are very high... but now I'm earning some money..."

Immaad was, until recently part of a college band at Mumbai's St. Xavier's College where he is in his SYJC (Second Year Junior College), which played mostly covers of classic rock such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. But he's more excited about creating new music. Having written 10-15 songs of his own and being a guitar player, he wants to start his own band, which will play original music. He's only been at Xaviers for about a year and a half, and although he was approached by the Drama Club, he couldn't give them time commitments because of clashing rehearsals for Katha Collage. Also restraining him are the Board exams, creeping up around the corner.

"I'll manage by the end of it," he says about juggling theatre and academics. "I haven't really managed to study." He's enrolled for a humanities course, but hasn't decided what he wants to do, "I've thought a lot but I've come to no conclusions," he admits. "I want to act, sing, play the guitar, be a news reporter, be an astronaut..."

And he also wants to make his own films. We get talking about Trainspotting. "I'd make Trainspotting... but better," he exclaims. "My films would be in that mould." Zany and offbeat. The star son has also had some film offers, but his dad has emphasised the need to complete his Undergraduate degree and he adheres to that. And has he been influenced by his father's very vocal disillusionment with mainstream Bollywood masala films? "I really fear it," he says, frankly. "Getting into running around trees for the money!" Reminded that many people would die for such an opportunity to be a Bollywood hero, he smiles wryly. "I'd be terrible at the kind of stuff Shah Rukh Khan does... I'd rather make my money doing five different things." Theatre group Motley's last few productions have adapted short stories by Chughtai, Manto and Premchand to the stage and Naseeruddin Shah has explained that the milieu of small town U.P. they drew on was one that was familiar and natural to him as well. But for Immaad, having been away at boarding school, the same familiarity was missing. What he did relate to was the storyline itself: "The story I'm in is about two brothers and exams, and passing and failing. My part as younger brother reminds me a lot of my younger brother. Also the play talks a lot about the education system, which at the moment frustrates me a lot..."

At an advantage

Although his father is neither partial nor overly critical of him, Immaad can identify some clear advantages of being a legendary actor's son.

Taking part in many of Naseer's exclusive workshops, for one. "I've learnt more from just two to three days of workshops with him than from two to three months of rehearsals," he says. Rehearsals for Katha Collage, which boasts a stellar cast, weren't a cakewalk to start with. "It did intimidate in the beginning," he says.

But, "I was ready for comparison. To communicate the story is more important to me than to prove something about myself, or me in comparison to my dad... I'm just another actor."

HEMANGINI GUPTA

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