MUMBAI — He’s done such little work that he can be called uber-choosy. Nevertheless, Inaamulhaq has got as an ‘inaam’ (reward) a whole lot of critical appreciation from media, colleagues, and associates, and above all, fans. You could say that after all the hard work he puts in, this is his ‘haq’ (right)! And why not?
The Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh)-born actor first appeared on stage at the age of 12. Later, he joined the Indian People’s Theatre Association in Saharanpur, and acted in numerous plays and then joined and graduated from the National School of Drama in New Delhi, with specialization in acting.
However, when he came to Mumbai, he began his career as a writer for Season 2 of the hit TV serial, “Karamchand.” He was then scriptwriter and creative consultant for “Comedy Circus” for two and a half years and wrote the dialogues for “Bbuddah... Hoga Terra Baap” (2011), Amitabh Bachchan’s home production. Meanwhile, he began his slow but sure tryst with his basic calling — acting.
We take him down his versatile journey as writer and actor on stage, TV, films and now the Web, where he has dazzled as Parvez Alam, the upright IAS officer, in the just released and appreciated series, “Maharani.”
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Where did the writing ability come from for the actor within you?
A: I have read Ved Prakash Sharma’s books, Manto and so on. I am very fond of reading. At NSD, I got the second best article prize in their magazine. I have published stories as well. When I came to Mumbai, nothing much was happening. So I decided to see what I could do as a writer, though I was clear that I was not going to do crass stuff like daily soaps. My first and lucky break was when director Pankaj Parasher signed me to write the new season of his hit show “Karamchand.”
So I tied up my acting aspirations in a potli (bundle) and made my foundation in Mumbai strong so that I could pay my EMIs! The next was my work on “Comedy Circus” for two and a half years. After that phase, I decided to quit that show as I was being paid an obscene amount of money, I thought, and that could dangerously stifle my creativity and ambitions!
Meanwhile, I was cast in a small cameo in “Firaaq” in 2008. I was also offered the dialogues of “Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap.” In-between, I was trying my luck as an actor, but could never reach past the receptionist of so many producers! In between, I got “Filmistaan” that proved to be my breakthrough—I played a Pakistani in it.
Q: Have you said goodbye to writing now that you have been successful in acting, your first love?
A: Not completely. I wrote the sitcom “Maharaj Ki Jai Ho” that is now streaming on Hotstar after airing on Star Plus. My only condition for writing is that quality writing demands time, and I will not spin scripts fast. I also did “Goldie Ahuja Matric Pass” about a father and son being in the same class.
Q: Most of your written work is humor-based. How come, considering that you are a serious actor?
A: I think I have a good sense of humor! I come from a small town where for us what is reality is humor for outsiders! And I know where to stop. I don’t want to do films as actor or writer where I provide only comic relief, as is the norm in many serious films! I am doing comedy as an actor in a forthcoming film called “Mere Desh Ki Dharti.”
Q: As an actor, you are in the 14th year, if we count “Firaaq.” Why do you have such a low score?
A: I believe in quality. Of 20 films offered, only two or three are worth it—you know how it is! And that’s why most casting directors do not call me, because 80 percent of them have egos that get hurt when I turn down the films they have brought! I must say that the remaining of their tribe respect my choices, though.
Q: How did you get “Maharani?”
A: Subhash Kapoor had worked with me on “Jolly LLB 2” and he was the main creative behind “Maharani.” He called me, and since he imposed that much trust in me, it was my responsibility to repay his faith in me.
Q: You play totally varied characters. Besides being a Pakistani in “Filmistaan,” in “Airlift” you played an Iraqi. In “Pagalpanti” you were the villain modeled on Nirav Modi. In “Maharani” you play a Bengali Muslim. And I must confess that I did not recognize you at all in it at first.
A: I have hidden my original self all through! (Laughs). I think showing yourself again and again reduces the surprise element from a character. And I think that it is a lazy actor who appears the same each time. I am happy that you failed to recognize me! I consider it like a compliment that my effort was successful!
Because, like I said, Subhash-sir had signed me for the role and there are no shortcuts if you are a responsible actor. I did not want to essay the standard Bengali stereotyped caricature you get to see in films and wanted authenticity. That involves hard work. I am playing someone who is 55 or 60, so I had to work on his looks and also learnt Bengali. And all this worked! Taarifon ki line lagi hai (A shower of praises has come my way)!”
Besides, detailing has been a part of my NSD training. I have to understand every character, from both the director’s point and my own. IAS officers spend a lifetime in getting educated, and it is their destiny that they are the mercy of uneducated politicians! That body language and frustration had to come in, and not in an over-the-top fashion!
Q: Do directors trust you with your interpretations and improvisations?
A: I am lucky that most directors give me that freedom. To the extent that when Anees Bazmee signed me for “Pagalpanti,” he told his team that I would decide on my make-up and costumes and that they must help me in what I want!
Q: How do you think OTT will impact entertainment?
A: It has already done so. Rules and definitions have now changed and there is a balance. Now it will be 50 percent stars but also 50 percent content. Running only after stars is not good, I feel. This co-existence is important.
Q: Why are you so low-profile even now?
A: Mera kaam shor machayega, main nahin (My work will create the noise, not me)!