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`I'm just another actor'

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

Photo: K. Gopinathan

His father's son: Immaauddin Shah

"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 second year of junior college, which played mostly covers of classic rock such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. But he is 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 has 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, which are just around the corner.

His own films

And he also wants to make his own films. We get talking about `Trainspotting.' "I could 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!" . 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 Uttar Pradesh, 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 am in is about two brothers and examinations, 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 have 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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