Saurabh Shukla certainly doesn’t need an introduction — every character that he has played — in films, on the small screen and on stage, has been quite unique. He has never been the ‘typical hero’ minted out of the Bollywood factory; but in a career spanning several decades, he has managed to entertain his audience with his acting prowess. Due to the conviction with which he essays his character, even if it is a cameo — Kallu Mama in Satya, Sudhanshu Dutta, the police sub-inspector in Barfi!, the funny judge Justice Sunderlal Tripathi in Jolly LLB and Jolly LLB 2, the corrupt politician in Raid to the mafia in Jagga Jasoos — he stands out. We caught up with the actor in Lucknow where he was shooting for Sony Pictures Networks Productions’ and Anubhav Sinha’s Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai. Apart from Saurabh, Pankaj Tripathi, Vinay Pathak, Pavan Malhotra, Divya Dutta, Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa, Richa Chadha, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Cyrus Broacha, Prateik Babbar and Shriya Pilgaonkar have come together for this political satire. Written and directed by Anubhav, the film is a ride into the circus of coalition politics.
Saurabh says that this is definitely a comedy and you are expected to laugh throughout. “Each character in the film is very dear and special to me and my character is something that I haven’t done before. I’m very happy that I’ve found a new kind of film in my career,” says he. So do we expect to see a lot of crazy moments in the film? He answers, “There’s some kind of quirk in each character. You will laugh with the characters, but at the same time, it will make you think and raise certain questions,” he answers.
For Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai, he’s collaborating with many of his former co-actors. “There are some I’m working with for the first time. They are all very talented, have a body of work that is praiseworthy and have made a name for themselves. As actors, you always have this desire to work with a certain kind of people and this film is one such opportunity for me,” he shares.
According to Saurabh, just because the film is about politics, it doesn’t mean that it is limited to a certain section of people who understand politics — there’s something about the film that will appeal to kids, youngsters and senior citizens because it is relevant to all. The actor has recently done a film titled Daas Dev which is also based on politics. We ask him what his idea of politics is. He asserts that everything is not activism and activism is just a part of politics. “You are never completely free of politics — your existence, survival on this land is politics — you cannot dissociate yourself from politics. These days, unfortunately, people constantly judge you if you are an actor and often question, ‘Why didn’t you take part in the protest?’ ‘Mehangayi itni badh gayi hai, aap sadak pe kyun nahi aaye?’ ‘The government is not working properly, why aren’t you showing agitation?’ That’s a wrong way of looking at things. There’s a right way to express and release all these things. Not everyone can join candlelight marches - there are different ways of protesting and to each his own,” he argues.
The actor who has won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Jolly LLB and convinced us to hate Tapaswiji in PK, laments that writers are not given their due credit in the process of filmmaking or after the film becomes successful. Says he, “Whenever you appreciate us, you appreciate the characters we have played, but never the writers who create these characters and make them memorable. An actor must also never forget that whatever he does on screen, is because of the writer who has provided the ground.”
Saurabh was recently seen in a short film titled Anukul alongside Parambrata Chatterjee which was received very well by the audience. On short films and the web space, he says that he’s not doing a lot of short films right now. “Not that I’m averse to it, but currently, because of personal reasons I am not taking up these projects. But you might see me in a web series very soon,” he signs off.