There are tons of people who dislike me and think I am a snob," pronounces Bollywood actor Arshad Warsi.
But it's tough to take his declaration seriously — especially when you can hear his two kids squealing into the phone that he's the "weirdest and the funniest dad ever". And unlike some stars, he doesn't sound obnoxious either.
The quintessential Bollywood outsider, who made his debut in 1996 after he was hand-picked by Amitabh Bachchan's production company, ABCL, for Tere Mere Sapne, has no patriarch watching over him — his mistakes and his triumphs in his chequered career are his own.
Yet, after having acted in over three dozen films, only a couple of Warsi's roles have immediate recall value. His uncouth villager act in Ishqiya and his comic sidekick act in the superhit Munnabhai series tops this list.
"The first time around I had no clue what I was doing. But the second time around, I was more in control. The fact is that I am not media savvy and I am an introvert. Once my shooting is over, I head straight home," said Warsi in an interview.
But his shy nature hasn't cost him heavily. The Golmaal star is all set to reprise his iconic role of Babban in an Ishqiya sequel along with legendary actor Naseeruddin Shah. Also on the anvil is the third instalment of the Munnabhai series with Sanjay Dutt. Tentatively titled Munnabhai Chale America, Warsi plays the endearing gold chain-laden, gun-toting gangster again.
"If you ask me, I prefer Babban because he's so wrong and crass. Even when I read the dialogues, I started cracking up. I love the way the character has been crafted by Abhishek [Chaubey, director], but we will miss Vidya [Balan]."
The thriller, which was set in rural Uttar Pradesh struck a chord primarily because of the chemistry between the three protagonists and the play-off among them. For the sequel, Dedh Ishqiya, Balan has been replaced by Madhuri Dixit and Kangna Ranaut. But Warsi is determined to keep it simple.
"I don't want to be over-smart when it comes to playing Babban again. People liked him the way he was. I don't want to play stunts with that character — all it calls for is good dialogues and better scenes."
Calling it India's answer to a western adventure sans horses, he says the sequel will surely carry on the crass, hard-core dirty men tradition.
However, such clarity of thought isn't evident when you scan his career roster. Almost a mixed bag, he seems to be an ace at playing man-child roles (Salaam Namaste) and as comic relief (Golmaal and Double Dhamaal). But when you don't have influential insiders backing you in the highly clannish showbiz, the going is rarely easy.
"There have been more downs than ups — the ride has not been pleasant or comfortable. I wasn't in a Bentley, I felt like I was in a bullock cart. And obviously — if you have connections then you get more chances," said Warsi.
But he isn't dwelling on being Bollywood's have-not. In the coming months he has a slew of releases lined up. Jolly LLB, in which he plays a small-time lawyer, the political thriller Zilla Ghaziabad and the wedding saga Hai Rabba are up for release this year.
"There's more. I may even play Dawood's role [dreaded gangster] soon. This year is going to be very exciting."
Don't miss it
Bollywood actor Arshad Warsi, a former choreographer, will be the chief guest at an annual dance show organised by Tee & Bee dance institute on Saturday at Shaikh Rashid Auditorium, Indian High school, Dubai. Entry is free. The show starts at 7pm. Doors open at 6pm.