Naseeruddin Shah’s unresolved relationship with his father Aley Mohammed Shah still haunts him and the actor in his autobiography has opened up about how he managed to have a real conversation with his parent only at his grave.
Their uneasy relationship despite the obvious affection they had for each other, flows like an undercurrent throughout the memoir ‘And Then One Day’ that details the first forty years of Shah’s life and his struggle to find his voice as an actor, a dream that greatly clashed with his father’s idea of how his son’s life should be.
The 64-year-old actor recalls how he could not be with his father during his final moments as he failed to convince the airlines’ staff about the urgency of boarding a flight.
In one of the most moving parts of the book, Shah describes how he finally managed to reach out to his father post his death. “The day I arrived in Sardhana I visited the mound of earth that was Baba now and we had the first of the many easy conversations I was later to have with him. That day I talked to him about the film I had just done, felt his amusement at my playing a shaven-headed Hindu priest, I told him about my dreams and my doubts, about Ratna (Shah’s wife) whom he had never met, about how much I was now earning, anything that came into my head. I knew he was listening and responding. This was an actual conversation in which I took the initiative. I suddenly began to feel the weight of all I had lost out on and would never regain and I was surprised by how much I suddenly missed him.” Shah writes.
In one of the earlier chapters of the autobiography, Shah says, “I was always told I was my father’s favourite, words that would come back to haunt me later.”
The actor, who also speaks candidly about his mistakes as a parent to his eldest daughter Heeba from his ill-fated first marriage to Purveen in the book, wonders whether he was a ‘disappointment’ right from the start as his father wanted a daughter. Shah’s father spent a small fortune on tutors while the actor fantasised about escaping to the world of cricket and acting, as he failed to measure up to his father’s expectations academically. He even ran away to Bombay for two months when he was sixteen and worked in Rajendra Kumar-starrer ‘Aman’ as an extra.
The long simmering resentment finally exploded into an argument between the two many years later when Shah was scolded for starting a hunger strike at FTII. Shah reasons that his hunger and anger made him snap finally and he started yelling at his father.
“I told him I knew he could not tolerate my presence, well I had news for him-the feeling was mutual, I had never cared for him just as he had never cared for me and I knew he just wanted an excuse to lose me. I told him he was done with me forever.” “As I went on frothing at the mouth, he stayed silent but hurt and fear appeared in his eyes. I picked up my bag to go but he did not move. Had it not been for Ammi’s intervention at that moment I would probably never have gone anywhere near him again. So convinced was I that he deserved to be told all this that I was oblivious to how deep a wound I was inflicting,” Shah writes. They finally managed to work out an uneasy acceptance for each other and Shah’s father was even happy that when the actor finally got his big break in Shyam Benegal’s ‘Nishant’ in 1975, he did not change his name. Shah says it was the only film that his father saw twice.