Naseeruddin Shah's Autobiography- A Review

I was excited when I heard this (And Then One Day) had been published, and even more when I found it  in a bookstore sometime ago- and this time, the excitement was justified.

It is like no other autobiography I have read (including my own, one that I like a lot). Particularly in the kind of self-deprecation it indulges in. Most autobiographies start out with the premise of the protagonist as hero, but this one rarely gets into that mode, if at all. It is honest, brutally so at times, and though initially he comes from a privileged family background, it takes you through tribulations of the worst kind that he suffers-mostly cheerfully.

The feeling of being perceived as utterly useless by parents, schools, and teachers is all-pervasive through most of his early life, and makes you wonder at our schooling system. But then, the same system provides him opportunities to watch some wonderful Hollywood films (in boarding school), and nurtures his interest. And guardian angels do appear when he needs them, like Purveen, his first wife, and teachers like Ebrahim Alkazi at National School of Drama, and Shyam Benegal, who gives him a break in films when he is not at all sure of how to step into them after his acting course at Pune's Film Institute.

His takes on popular films, actors and directors are absolutely hilarious, and his frank admission that he did not know how to act in them rings true. He is critical about most of his films, actually. Even the good ones.

His imitation of a Bengali director (of Sunaina, a re-make of Charlie Chaplin's City Lights)- 'Breeng me the shit (bring me the sheet)', asking his assistant to get him some working sheet, is also worth recounting as are his observations about Indian theatre (both Hindi and English). He sometimes performed his plays for audiences of ten or twenty, for the sheer love of it.

I will heartily recommend this book to anyone at all. Film buffs will find it even more enjoyable and enriching, no doubt. If you are considering writing an autobiography, do read it before you do. I wish I had!


Diamond Head said…
I might for a book club I recently joined at work if I can find a copy
Rajendra said…
Don't know if Amazon does shipping out of India. Assuming it's on Amazon, that is.

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