Mrs Kapoor from ‘Kapoor and Sons’ and Usha Parmar from ‘Lipstick under My Burkha’ are mere glimpses of the potential that resides in the acting powerhouse that is Ratna Pathak Shah, who asserts she can and wants to play all kinds of characters on screen.
The actor credits the writers of these films — Shakun Batra-Ayesha Devitre Dhillon and Alankrita Shrivastava — for developing characters which saw her sift through a variety of feelings.
“I feel lucky to be around when roles are being written for women of my age. It’s just a very fortunate condition that over the last few years the quality of scriptwriting has improved dramatically,” Shah said.
The 55-year-old actor believes there is a more free examination of issues in storytelling today.
“The exploration of different issues has become much more open and much more free. People are taking risks and I just happen to be there at the right time. That is good for me,” she added.
Shah next plays a headstrong headmistress of an academy in Netflix original ‘Selection Day’ and the actor said she yearns for more such parts.
“I’m headstrong, I’m bossy and I am who I am. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be anything else. I can be many other things and I want to be many other things. That’s what an actor really wants — People different than who you are. I am who I am in any case,” she said.
Recounting her past work as a beginner in the industry, Ratna said that lack of good offers felt like a wonderful opportunity to perform as it eliminated the choice factor.
“I did a fair amount of work earlier when so many such roles were not being written. One chooses from the offers one gets. So for me, again I was lucky that I got very few offers and therefore there was not an element of choice. But whatever offers I got were very good and very different from each other.
“Right at the beginning, my first thing was ‘Idhar Udhar’, which was a comedy and I had never done comedy before that. I was very worried about that.”
The actor says the 1985 sitcom, which also featured her elder sister Supriya Pathak, had put a red flag on her ambition of being known as a “dramatic actor”.
“I always thought of myself as a dramatic actor and that I will grow up and do Lady Macbeth and other major dramatic female parts. But fortunately for me, ‘Idhar Udhar’ happened.
“It was a very good wake-up call and made me realise that here is something that I don’t know how to do it and I must work very hard to get it right. That ability to work hard I developed at that point and to work with some intelligence that I was guided by many good people, I think that has stood me in very good stead over the years.”
The actor also credits her partner and husband of 36 years, Naseeruddin Shah, for never holding her back or forcing her to work for money.
“I am fortunate also that I was never forced to earn large amount of money. In the sense that I happen to be in a marriage with a man who is perfectly confident of himself and has absolutely no issues with his wife working and contributing to the family income. So whatever little meagre earnings I had I was contributing to the family.
“We both realised that it is easy to get money to get by and lead a fairly comfortable and decent lives. And if you want to do other things then money should not become priority. I believe once I arrived at that in my head, I got the sense of great release and relief that I could choose things with other considerations, not just financial.”
‘Selection Day’, based on Aravind Adiga’s novel of the same name, also features Rajesh Tailang, Mohammad Samad, Yash Dholye, Karanvir Malhotra, Shiv Pandit and Mahesh Manjrekar.
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‘Selection Day’ will stream on Netflix from December 28.