Naseeruddin Shah is an actor par excellence, with his exploits spanning across stage and silver screen. His book—“And then one day: A memoir”— gives a detailed account of his formative years as an actor, his struggles to become better at his craft and his efforts to gain a footing in the transient film industry. The best part of the book is his realisation about the hard work that goes in any craft especially acting (when he observes his friend and fellow actor Om Puri’s splendid performance in a play), and his realisation that talent just is a window opener, and it takes a lot of persistent effort to open doors.
An actor by nature is a drifter, as he moves from one role to another, yet latching onto something that he can call his/her own self, to use the learning in the subsequent roles. Naseeruddin Shah does just that, learning everything he can right from his school days to his stint at NSD and FTII, and movies, all the while trying to make sense of the ups and downs of his personal life.
There is a lovely scene in Shyam Benegal’s ‘Nishant’ where Naseeruddin Shah has to look at Shabana Azmi furtively. One would be led to believe that Mr.Shah had actually done this scene during the course of the movie and hence in the character by then, so it came natural to him. However, it is one of the first scenes that Shyam Benegal had shot for the film. This speaks volumes about the director and the actor and their film making techniques.
Actors like Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah, with their unconventional approach to acting (at the beginning of their careers) still bagged leading roles in films that would be known as parallel cinema and then became popular in mainstream as well. Directors like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Mrinal sen etc, helped them secure a position in the ever changing film industry and they built on it, and won international fame.
The book ends with his marriage to Ratna Pathak, but it has a few limited references to the later period during the course of it. The book is a must read for all prospective actors, or for that matter, for anyone who is at pains to figure out his role on the world stage and once done how to enact/play/live it.
It would not be too much to ask for a part 2 of this book, with his take on the movies and directors he had worked with and his evolution as an actor and person, that would throw even more light on this terrific personality.