THE PHOENIX RISES
If you’ve watched Naseeruddin Shah extensively on stage and screen it may be hard to fathom why this exceptional talent (honestly, I don’t have the vocabulary to qualify it beyond clichés) is squandering his reputation on embarrassing fare like Chaalis Chauraasi, Maximum, Sona Spa, etc. Of late, even in middling films (The Dirty Picture, 7 Khoon Maaf and That Girl In Yellow Boots) his presence has been unremarkable, mechanical. What happened to that maverick who’d incarnate equally evocatively, the inflexible blind principal of Sparsh, the eccentric Parsi in Pestonjee, or the desperate fugitive of Paar—a film I watched in my childhood and still can’t erase the memory of his emaciated body herding pigs across a treacherous river? Shah could be intense, angry, subdued, witty, and dominate scenes without affectation, routinely stealing a march on everyone around. Like he did in Zoya Akhtar’s posh fantasy Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara in a five-minute cameo that injected the otherwise soulless wonder of excess with a dash of genuine emotion.