Struggle is something that every successful person on this planet has gone through. However, not everyone sailed through it with a glee on their faces. Narendra Jha is someone who did exactly the same.
Narendra’s first big break came 20 years after he first came to Mumbai. The film was Haider and it was one of the most important roles in the film, playing the father of Shahid Kapoor. Haider followed up with Ghayal Once Again and Hamari Adhuri Kahaani. Narendra’s habit of working with great directors isn’t stopping anytime soon as he will so be seen in Raees and Mohenjo Daro this year alongside Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan.
Bollywoodirect caught up with him on this weekend and here is what he had to speak about his films, life, and the importance of music in his life.
Q- Let’s begin from the start. Tell us about yourself. When was the seed of acting sown inside you? How did you approach acting career.
A- I was born in a Madhubani in Bihar. The first time I moved out of the city was when I had to do my intermediate. I did it from Darbhanga and then graduation from Patna. Later on, I did my post graduation from Delhi. There was a period when I prepared for UPSC exams as I thought that is where I should head. After failing to clear it in the first attempt, I lost interest in it. As I was interested in acting since school and also used to take part in a small drama that used to happen in my village, the joy of acting pushed me to take admission in Sri Ram Centre of Performing Arts in Delhi. After completing my acting course from there, I moved to Mumbai in n1993.
Q- And what after you moved to Mumbai? How was it like coming here for the first time.
A- It was not easy, obviously. I had no connections in the industry. But eventually, things started to settle down. I knew it was tough to get big roles in films initially. I started doing ad films. Fortunately, I am blessed with good height and body, so it was easy to get work in ad films and other modeling assignments. My first acting break came with the popular serial Shanti. Since then, many serials followed and films as well. I also did many south Indian films including the ones by GB Iyer and Raja Mauli etc. And then, Haider happened, which changed everything for me.
Q- Exactly. Dr. Hilal Meer’s character in Haider set the tone for you, I guess. Many believed that it was a very strong character and someone who could be misinterpreted to several. How difficult was to prepare for the role?
A- There is no doubt that Haider was a very important film for me. The role was so powerful and interesting that I was excited to do it. As far as preparing for it is concerned, when you have a director of Vishal Bhardwaj’s stature, everything becomes very easy. He is so good at his job that your job as an actor becomes very easy. I was going to share the screen with the likes of Irrfan Khan and Tabu and Kay Kay Menon. These people are so smooth and easygoing that catching the essence of the character became a cake-walk. Haider was a beautiful experience.
Q- Haider was not a politically correct film, which is a brave move by its makers. Did you believe in its ideological inclination and politics? Were you on the same page or you had to forget about your own politics and ideology to prepare for the role?
A- An actor’s job is to do his role properly. This is the case with me at least. I did not see that what political inclination the film or the script had or what ideology I follow. I loved the role and I was going to be working with some of the stalwarts of the film industry. I tried to give my best without looking at it with any political perspective. The film might have a particular political angle to it but that’s for the writer and the director to take care of.
Q- You will be seen in two of the biggest films this year – Raees and MohenJo Daro. Please tell us about the characters you are playing in these films.
A- Oh Yes, two really big films in Raees and Mohenjo Daro are coming up. I loved being a part of these films and working with two amazing actors in Hrithik and Shah Rukh Khan. Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Mohenjo Daro will be released first on 12thAugust and I am excited about it. Ashutosh is a wonderful filmmaker and a terrific human being. Everything about him was amazing at the sets. I think I have been lucky to work with directors of such high stature.
Q- In Ghayal 2, you had Sunny Deol as the director? How was it working with him?
A- I have huge respect for Sunny Deol. He, again, is amazing at his work. He has his own way of getting the work out of you. He is very easy on the sets. Also, I was playing a character in the film which was on the lines of Balwant Rai from the first Ghayal. Raj Bansal’s character became a very tough character in that regard. I am glad that I had a director like Sunny Deol who helped me pull that role off easily. The amount of compliments that came my way after the film’s release is a testimony to the same.
Q- And in Raees, you have worked with Shah Rukh.
A- You have to be on the sets to see how Shah Rukh Khan takes care of everything and everyone on the sets. He is such a big star in this country and watching him being so humble and interactive on the sets is amazing. He is very hardworking as well.
Q- You have even worked with Shyam Benegal in Bose – The forgotten hero and Samvidhan. Please share your experiencing of working with the great man.A- It sometimes gets difficult to believe that someone like Shyam Benegal is so easy to work with. You think of him as a great director, who has made some great classics over the years. When you see him eating with the whole crew and have tea with them and having fun with everyone, every such notion is broken. Shyam Babu has a very definite style of work. He will ask you to come on the sets at 5:30 as the shoot will start at 6:30. You will have to have do breakfast in 30 minutes. He would not tell you if you reach at 6:15. He will star working as soon as the clock hits 6:30 mark.
Q- Is it just acting that keeps you busy or there are other things which you love to do?
A- Music keeps me going. I love to play my guitar. I also play many other instruments. I have a farmhouse and in my free time, I love to go there and play guitar. It soothes my mind. I am not a professional singer but singing takes me to a different high. It keeps me connected. I hummed a song (Gulon mein rang bharey) in Haider too.
Interview By: Shubham Pandey
Image Courtesy: Narendra Jha’s Facebook