Hiren Kotwani (BOMBAY TIMES; July 6, 2017)

He's undoubtedly one of Bollywood's best actors. Comedies, tear-jerkers, negative roles - there's little Paresh Rawal hasn't done in his career spanning three-and-a-half decades. And to say that he has performed each role with aplomb is, as the cliché goes, an understatement. While he's a delight to watch on screen, off it, he's known for his brutal honesty.

Clearly, the actor-politician doesn't believe in being politically correct. As he says during the course of the interview, “If I'm not aware of something, I won't comment. Main gol gol jawab nahin doonga.“ Rawal recently courted controversy when his comments on writer-activist Arundhati Roy sparked a national debate. We caught up with him in the midst of promotions for his upcoming entertainer, Guest Iin London, which releases this Friday. Excerpts...

It has been two years since your last release, Welcome Back. Have you become extra choosy?
Not extra choosy per se, but kuchh dhang ki script toh ho yaar. Kabhi mil jaati hai... I have a good line-up now. Rajkumar Hirani's biopic on Sanjay Dutt, Tiger Zinda Hai, Ananth Mahadevan's film based on Satyajit Ray ... I'm happy with the movies I'm working on. Like my next film, Guest Iin London, is a family entertainer in which I have a good role. The fact that it has people I love working with was an added temptation. After so many years, you become confident that you have some control over your craft. So, I look for roles that can challenge that confidence. Money is not the criteria. In fact, I'm doing a couple of limited-budget movies; the biggest joy is to be associated with good cinema.

This time around, you play an unannounced guest in the house of a young couple (played by Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Kharbanda) in London...
In Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge (2010) too, Ajay Devgn and Konkona Sen Sharma were younger than me. I love working with younger actors. Today's generation is focused and career-oriented. They are not greedy to sign 10 films. They are selective and don't mind waiting to do good work.

Talking about the younger generation, are your sons planning careers in movies?
My younger son Aditya is into screenplay writing. He has completed his graduation from New York University . My elder son Aniruddh is an assistant director. I will support and encourage them the way my parents supported me, but if they expect me to launch them, that won't happen. They should make it on their own.

On a lighter note, your character in Guest Iin London is that of an unannounced guest. How do you treat such visitors in real life?
Honestly, I hate anyone except friends coming unannounced to my home. I never pay surprise visits to people. In fact, even when I call up someone, I ask if they are free to talk. Yeh toh ghar par jaane ki baat hai! So, if someone drops in suddenly, I tell them that I'm stepping out. I'm blunt that way. Kyun faaltu ka jhelna!

As a guest, do your hosts go out of their way to please you, keeping in mind your celebrity status?
I don't like being given extra attention. If I am coming over for lunch or dinner, cook whatever you would have prepared for yourself. Don't show me your culinary skills. Main milne jaata hoon, khaana khaane nahin. Milne ka mazaa aana chahiye. If you get good food, then you're busy eating and don't get time to talk. Uss mein mazaa nahin hai.

Coming back to movies, does being a Member of Parliament (he is a Lok Sabha member from Ahmedabad East) influence your choice of roles?
Not at all. My films have nothing to do with politics or political ideologies. My work as an actor is different from my work as an MP. I don't mix the two.

Be it the content or the way of functioning, Hindi cinema has undergone drastic changes over the years. Have you ever had difficulty adapting to them?
No, this is the golden era of cinema. There are talented actors, and writers and directors with fresh ideas. Work ethics have also changed. Financial dealings are structured and every actor gets a bound script. It's all very professional now and it's a joy to work in this atmosphere.

Do you mean that you miss nothing about the previous decades?
Earlier, we used to shoot on raw stock and producers would be worried about unnecessary retakes. Now everything is digital, so shots are taken from all angles. Direction kum aur coverage zyada ho gaya hai. Kabhi kabhi thodi boriyat ho jaati hai. What happens is that certain key scenes lose their purity and emotional intensity after three-four takes. From that aspect, I miss the raw stock days. However, the scenario has improved overall.

Nowadays, marketing and promotion play an important role in generating buzz around a film's release. Compared to yesteryears, do you find it all a tad too aggressive?
It is necessary to promote films, irrespective of whether I like it or not, but how innovative we are and how we capitalise on the available avenues depends on us. For example, I am okay with interviews, but if you ask me to visit malls to promote a film, I won't do that. That's foolishness; the crowd in malls doesn't translate into ticket sales. I won't take names, but there was this actor who promoted his movie at a mall packed with people who had gathered to catch a glimpse of him; but despite all that, his film sold only 83 tickets. See, stars will do whatever they are asked to, but it's better to utilise that money on advertising spots.

You are known for not mincing words. As an MP of the ruling coalition, what is your take on the government's stance on various industry-related issues, including the censorship controversy?
Shyam Benegal sahab has given his views; let's see when they will get implemented. It will take time, as the government cannot change its decisions frequently. Some people insist on removing Pahlaj Nihalani (the Censor Board chief). Where is the guarantee that there will be no issues when someone else is appointed in his place?

Gajendra Chauhan's appointment as the head of FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) was also controversial. Students strongly opposed it and even went on strike...
I agree that Gajendra Chauhan's body of work is not up to your expectations, but every actor has done bad films. That is not a yardstick to measure his managerial abilities. You first listen to him and his plans before accepting or rejecting him. You talk about democracy, toh democratically usko suno toh sahi.

When it comes to controversies, your tweet that writer-activist Arundhati Roy should have been tied to the jeep to avoid stone-pelters in J&K (Jammu and Kashmir) evoked a lot of criticism, and raged a debate on social media. Reportedly, Twitter wanted you to delete the post, too...
Well, they asked me to delete it, but I didn't. My first attack was on her lies. Usne jo anaap-shanap baka tha, uska proof post kiya tha maine. I'm not apologetic about Arundhati Roy at all. She has no right to abuse the army.

But your tweet was seen as inciting violence towards a woman...
Like I explained, if she had been tied to the jeep, no one would have pelted stones. She is their wellwisher. Maine to shaanti ka kabutar chhoda hai. Arundhati knows the condition in which the army works. Jo 'Bharat tere tukde honge' ka sloganeering karte hain, woh violence failate hain.

You were planning a biopic on our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Is it still on?
I'm yet to nail the script. It's not easy to write a script for a biopic on Narendra Modi. Where do you put the full stop? Generally, biopics are made on those who are on the shelf, yeh toh ongoing hai.