He bagged several awards for his performance in the national award winning film, Filmistaan. He grabbed eyeballs with the menacing Iraqi Major Khalaf Bin Zayd in Airlift and now he is back in another Akshay Kumar starrer, Jolly LLB 2. In an exclusive interview, Inaamulhaq opens up to Koimoi about his journey as a scriptwriter, as an actor and why he feels it is very important to learn to say ‘no’.
Please tell us about your role in Jolly LLB 2
If I tell anything about my role in the film, it will be a spoiler actually. My character comes in the film’s climax. All I can say is that although it’s not a big role but it’s a significant one. It will be unethical to reveal anything more.
How did you bag the role?
I was on my Eid vacation in my hometown Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh). I got a call from Subhash Kapoor’s (director) office asking me to meet him. I told him that I would be returning next week but I got delayed. So, he narrated the entire script to me on Skype. I loved it and immediately agreed to do the role. The film is an interesting courtroom drama and the script is just great! Also, I love Subhash Kapoor’s style.
You have worked with Akshay Kumar earlier in Airlift and now Jolly LLB 2. How was the experience of working with him?
It was an interesting and inspiring experience! He comes to the set with a positive energy and doesn’t make his co-actors feel that they are working with a star. He is very cooperative and encourages his co-stars. He deserves the title ‘Jolly’ in real life as well! His discipline and dedication are also commendable.
How was it working with Subhash Kapoor?
He is quite sorted. He knows what he wants. He has done the casting himself and as far as I know, he has even approached every actor personally and narrated them the script. There was never any confusion on the set as he has written the script himself and hence he’s absolutely clear about what he wants. He also gives space to his actors and asks them for their feedback, their interpretation. He is a very nice human being. In fact, starting with Nandita Das’ Firaaq, I feel lucky enough to have worked with various people with positive energy.
You seem to be a bit choosy when it comes to saying yes to a role. What do you keep in mind before accepting a role?
The first thing is the script and then, how much am I able to contribute as an actor and how much am I able to evolve. I also take into consideration, the importance of my character in the film. Being a scriptwriter myself, I have a fairly good understanding of screenplay. I have even been offered bigger roles but if the script does not impress me, the offer does not. How much money am I getting, what is the duration of the shoot, all these are secondary to me. Actually, I think well before taking a decision. That’s what makes me selective about my roles. I have said no to almost 31 films after Airlift. People call me crazy but I don’t mind and I have not regretted any single decision till date. You might have to wait, you might have to compromise financially, on your lifestyle, but it’s very important to take the right decision. There are thousands out there, like me and perhaps even more talented than me. But I feel it’s not just your talent which will take you somewhere, it’s also your decision, your choice.
It’s not so easy to reject 31 films. You have to run a family as well…
I have been running my household with my writing, which has also given me the confidence to say ‘no’ to a bad script. Writing, for me, was a backup, but now I no longer get time to write. However, it has instilled that confidence in me so that I can say ‘no’. I feel it is very important to know what you want and what you do not want in life. I have been like this from the very beginning, even with my writing. For example, I always knew that I would never write saas-bahu serials. Of course, I have to incur losses at times for my decisions but I feel financial losses can be recovered. But it will take me a lot of time to recover from a wrong film.
How do you prepare for a role?
This is a very interesting question. I am trained from National School of Drama. I use a different approach for every character I am playing. I used to act spontaneously before NSD, where I learnt theories and techniques. I apply a mixture of method acting and spontaneity in my acting. Also, I am evolving my techniques with time.
How has been your journey in Bollywood till date?
I am a part of Bollywood but still not in it. There has not been any significant change in my personal life. I am staying in the same building where I used to stay and still bargain with vegetable vendors. But yes, people have started recognizing me, at airports, coffee shops and other places. I have got immense love from the audience. People have Googled me after Airlift. In fact, a lot of people have watched Filmistaan after watching Airlift. I feel Bollywood is a star-struck industry. Media gives more coverage to stars, who are already in the limelight. I feel media should give at least a little more attention to supporting actors, about whom the audience wants to learn more. These actors really need a platform to share their stories.
You are a writer as well as an actor. Which role do you enjoy more?
Every person has a best and a second best. I came to Mumbai to become an actor, which is my best, but with my financial background, I could not survive here for even a month. So I took up writing, which was my second best, in order to make a living and survive in the city. When I was writing, I gave my 100 percent to it. Gradually, when I became a little more stable financially, I started trying my luck into acting and started getting offers. Then Firaaq, Filmistaan and Airlift happened. Now that I am doing acting, I am pouring my heart and soul only into it. Whenever I do something, I do it with honesty.
Your upcoming projects?
I will be next seen in Mehran Amrohi’s independent film Chidiya. It is ready and awaiting its release. I am also working in lyricist Sandeep Nath’s DNA Mein Gandhiji, which has completed shooting and Lucknow Central (produced by Nikhil Advani, this film marks the directorial debut of Ranjit Tiwari), which is presently being shot. I am getting other offers too. Actually, there has never been a dearth of offers for me; it’s just that I am a bit choosy (Laughs).