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Decades ago the incredible performing maverick Naseeruddin Shah had played a malfunctional anglo-Indian to perfection in Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai. Today Naseer is still appalled at the way minority communities are stereotypically portrayed in our films.
"The bearded, hitched -pyjama look for the Muslim always annoys me," he says. It is with the intention of breaking the mould that Naseer plays a suave articulate bomb-planting mastermind in a new film.
Naseer being an Indian Muslim, it would seem outwardly incorrect at least politically, for him to play the role in A Wednesday. Says Naseer, "When I heard the role, I immediately said yes. Just because I'm playing a terrorist doesn't mean I become one. And that's what those who get their knickers into a twist about my identity should realize. Decades ago, I did a film called Adharshila which had a young filmmaker being humiliated by a top industrialist. When we asked this gentleman to play the part he suggested he would 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."
Earlier Naseer had provoked ire by playing a progressive Maulvi 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. 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 Quran in and out."
Naseer says he discovered aspects of the Quran while doing Khuda Ke Liye. "Like most Muslims I had read the holy Quran as a child without understanding it. The problem with a majority of Muslims in India is that we read the Quran 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 Quran more deeply and not allow others to interpret it for them. I've read the Quran but I'm far away from being an authority on it."
About so many films on the theme of terrorism being released Naseer says, "Hopefully they aren't meant to titillate. Maybe 5-6 films on the after-effects of extremism in a few months would be a case of over-kill. My Wednesday was ready for a year. For some reason it's being released weeks after another film Mumbai Meri Jaan with a similar backdrop."