And Then One Day : Nasseruddin Shah ( Extract)

22 Nov

”  Then one day we were shown a film called The Old Man and the Sea. It had two central characters, a fisherman played by Spencer Tracy. and a large fish he catches and tries to bring home. The fact that it was a classic of literature was not something I knew or would have cared at that time. But being introduced to this old man, who was a photographic trick ofcourse, was a revelation. He looked so real, he almost smelt of the sea. The sunburnt face, the tattered clothes, the bare feet, the calloused hands. He looked like he had spent his life on the boat. And this was an actor?!! He looked like Old Habib Shah at moments and he looked as real. The travails he endured in the movie looked real, the way he rowed his boat looked real,when he hauled in the fish it looked real. His strength and his sufferring, even his sweat, looked real.

I now just had to know whether I atleast had these qualities, or nothing at all. At the first oppurtunity, I  re -established contact with my old friend and carefully examined my own face to see if twenty -thirty years from now I could maybe play a part like the Old Man. If it was going to take that long I was prepared to wait. I ended the session somewhat satisfied that I could.  I had no problem seeing myself, hat at a rakish angle, fag in mouth, gun – belt dangling at my waist, strolling down a deserted seat and languidly turning to knock down half a dozen bad guys with un erring aim,  but evidently no one else could. So I tried visualizing myself as the Old Man walking home exhausted, oar in hand, dragging his nets behind him. A hockey stick se rved very well as the oar and my sports jersey as the nets. It was not unconvincing effort. I have to say. I saw the same Mr. Tracy later play some really heroic parts ( The Mountain, Bad Day at Black Rock) and my joy was uncontained. ” Hey, this old guy’s not really a fisherman, he does the pistol-packin’ stuff as well.’ That meant that maybe I could too. My dream world, now slowly enlarging itself, was becoming an almost tangible reality and beginning to engulf me. I retreated completely into it and was, as I realize now, in very real peril of getting lost.


The fisherman was an actor! And he was real. When absolutely alone, and I guess this was where I unconsciously started to train myself, I began to will myself to believe I was actually trudging up a snowy cliff as I ascended the stairs to the dormitory, and  I found that I could. I could believe, as I lay in my bed, that I was in a boat adrift in the sea. I believed I was searching for lost treasure and evading snipers bullets while walking down the school corridor. I believed I was stranded in a desert as I stood alone on the first field with my towel wrapped around my head. I was the avenger and the thin green bamboo in my hand was a flashing blade. I was the war weary veteran returning to his family, I was the  shadowy killer, I was the clown, I was the wicked sorcerer, I was the wronged lover, the righteous hero, the infuriated father, the ruthless gangster… I was everything I wanted to be.  This imaginary world , compared to which the real one was downright drudgery, was where I constantly dwelt.”

― Nasseruddin Shah ( And Then One Day, A memoir)

I wanted to share this extract to throw light on a moment of self- discovery for the great actor. The process of discovery. The process is nearly always in imagination. Triggered by a ideal. To live that imagination. I guess the actor must be twelve or thirteen and it surprises me no end how early good people have an inkling about their calling in life.

I went to my sister’s place today, as my mother and sister talked incessantly as women always do, me spent time reading the great Indian actor Nasseruddin Shah’s memoirs ” And Then One Day”.  I realised my sister’s home is a great place to read a book. It has a sunny ambience and space.

Goodnight friends. The great Indian actor Nasseruddin Shah’s first  ever lines in a school play was ” I want one who will bark all day, bite people’s noses off, and guard my house from any intruder!”  Yes, I want the one that will bark all day, bite people’s noses off, and guard my house from any intruder 🙂

Hope you have a lovely day!

Thank you!


2 Responses to “And Then One Day : Nasseruddin Shah ( Extract)”

  1. Sonya Kassam November 22, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    Such a brilliant actor he is. Wonderful post.

    • sureshvn November 23, 2014 at 8:18 am #

      Thank you friend. Very true, Nasseruddin shah is a great actor, totally brilliant..

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