I am still a 22-year-old boy who is learning: Saurabh Shukla

- May 29, 2024
| By : Idrees Bukhtiyar |

The National Award-winning actor talks about his experience at NSD Repertory company and love for the national capital

CHANGE IN PLAN: Saurabh Shukla says he never thought of becoming an actor. He wanted to direct films

Award-winning actor Saurabh Shukla said he never planned to become an actor. Instead, he wanted to direct films.

“Acting was not my focus and I never wanted to do it. I was interested in directing movies. Later, I ventured into theatre and even there I wanted to direct,” Shukla said.

He recounted how his entry into acting was accidental.

“There was an actor, who could not do a role and I was offered that. People started praising my work and loved my acting. That’s when I decided to choose acting as a career,” shared Shukla, known for his roles in films like Satya, Barfi, Jolly LLB, Jolly LLB 2, Raid, PK, Babli Bouncer among others.

Shukla spoke to Patriot exclusively on the sidelines of his play ‘Barff’ at Kamani Auditorium. It received a standing ovation from the attendees.

The play, a thriller set on a snowy night in Kashmir, revolves around a doctor (a Kashmiri pandit) attending to the son of a Muslim family living in a remote area of the valley.

The 61-year-old actor attributed his enduring commitment to theatre to various factors.

“I don’t know. Was it Mandi House, its beautiful architecture, auditoriums, lights, stage, audience or beautiful girls who were around then? But something held me together and I kept feeling that I belong to theatre only,” he said.

When asked how he balances theatre with film work, he remarked, “There is no question of balancing. In our day-to-day life, we do a lot of things and we have to. It is simple that when I do films, I don’t do any theatre and vice versa.”

Saurabh Shukla during the trailer launch of the film Raid in Mumbai

Shukla joined National School of Drama (NSD) Repertory company in 1991.

“It was a great experience and excitement of becoming part of the biggest repertory company in Asia. Popular theatre director Ebrahim Alkazi was also returning to theatre after 14 years and was doing a play at NSD and everyone was excited to be the part of NSD’s Repertory company,” said Shukla who has won National Award for best supporting actor for his role in Jolly LLB.

He said that over 5,000 applications were received for selection in Repertory company.

“Five hundred applications were scrutinised and from them 200 were called for an interview. There was only one seat and I was fortunate to be selected. It was a proud moment to work with Ebrahim Alkazi and Ranjit Kapoor,” he said.

The Dry Day film director expressed no regrets at not being selected at NSD for a full-time course.

“Who thinks about the past now. Whatever has to happen, it happens and what is happening is always better. So, I don’t keep any regrets,” said Shukla who applied there in 1987.

He said he never left Delhi.

“I came here at the age of two from Gorakhpur. I have studied here, done theatre. I keep coming to Delhi for theatre, film shootings,” he said adding, “I love Delhi winters.”

He emphasised that Delhi still has good number of theatre lovers.

“We had two shows of my play. On the first day, it was voting but people still came and on the second day it was the IPL match but the hall was still completely packed. They purchased the tickets and came to watch the play,” said Shukla whose role as Tapasvi Maharaj in the film PK earned popularity.

Shukla, who first got recognition in the industry through the 1998 movie Satya, said he is open to all types of roles.

“I love to do whatever comes my way. Why to stop at one type of role,” he said.

The actor pointed out that it is not the job of a theatre artist to comment on the lack of theatres or high charges of theatre.

“Such problems exist, but as an artist one has to look for an alternative. Like, we can do theatre in open. Instead of crying over such issues, we can do something meaningful and have an impact,” he said.

Shukla stated that cinema is a lot about images.

“When you are casting, it is not just about the person being a better actor. If you physically don’t fit the character, you will not be cast,” he said adding, “You can do theatre to perfect your art. But if you have desire to work in films and earn much more money, then don’t try to make theatre a stepping stone.”

The actor with multiple awards to his credit said that he is still like a 22-year-old boy who is learning with each passing day.

“I still have those starry eyes and aspirations to learn. I don’t see myself as someone who has achieved anything. For me, every day is an adventure and that’s what keeps me going,” he concludes.