Shatrughan Sinha turned 72 on December 9 with a grand bash at his residence Ramayan in Mumbai where all his close friends showed up. In a rare introspective mood, the actor-politician, in an interview, looks back at his career with a chuckle and smile.
How does it feel to be 72?
Aapne yaad dilaya toh mujhe yaad aaya (I remembered when you reminded me). The years have just flown by. I don’t like to celebrate my birthday. It is just another day for me. But so many people remembered to call. I had an exhausting day taking calls. I was about to retire …
For the day not for a lifetime. Abhi toh interval hai abhi toh picture baqi hai (laughs). So I was going to bed when my children dropped this surprise birthday party for me. God knows where I found the energy to party all night. All my dear old friends were there.
Your dear old friend Subhash Ghai has reason to party. He has been cleared of sexual harassment charges by the cops?
But the damage was done. I don’t think anyone has the right to play with anyone’s reputation. How can a woman say she was raped and then change her mind? It just negates the whole seriousness of the MeToo movement. Such false accusations are diminishing the gravity of the Movement.
Are you saying the MeToo movement has been derailed?
I am saying women should be very careful with their accusations because there are families’ reputations and repercussions at stake. It is easy for reputations earned over long periods of time to be destroyed in a minute.
Do you feel the movement has lost its momentum?
I feel it is a very important moment in time for the safety and modesty of women in every sphere of Indian life. But we must be careful of those who discredit the Movement with their hidden agendas. I’ve always stood up for the rights of women. Their empowerment means the empowerment of our society. I’ve two very empowered women at home—my wife Poonam and my daughter Sonakshi. I am scared of both.
You were quite a flirt in your times?
But no woman would ever accuse me of improper behaviour. I have always had the highest regard for women. Of course, there was a lot of flirting with my co-stars. They enjoyed it as much as I did. But now I’d advise young actors to not indulge in it. Times have changed.
Your career as an actor began in 1968. This is quite a long innings. What has kept you going for so long?
When I decided to be an actor like a final plunge, I believe one had to excel in one or all three of the following spheres of activity: sports, education, and cinema. If you can’t excel in all three, at least excel in one of these. I succeeded in one. I became an actor. And I wanted to be the best. If I was a singer, I’d want to be Mohd Rafi or Kishore Kumar.
You had to struggle for a long time as an actor?
At that time it didn’t seem like a struggle. It was a process I was prepared to go through. I started with bit roles in Sajan and Gambler. They were cameos. But they made a big impact. I played number of villains’ roles which were very successful.
Yes, for the first time audiences clapped when the villain beat up the hero?
(laughs) Yes, that too happened. Then I made a successful switchover to hero’s roles in my dear friend Subhash Ghai’s Kalicharan and Vishwanath. Cinema was now a habit rather than a challenge. I got restless and came into politics to bring a smile on people’s faces.