Paresh Rawal’s 5 Finest Films: Tamanna, Sir, Oh My God And More

Paresh Rawal manages to make every character even in the silliest of films seem vibrant.

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Paresh Rawal’s 5 Finest Films: Tamanna, Sir, Oh My God And More
Of late we don’t see much of Paresh Rawal. This is a pity, really. He is such a fine actor driven by an instinctive empathy with middleclass values, Rawal manages to make every character even in the silliest of films — and it can’t get any sillier than Coolie No 1—seem vibrant. In an interview to me in 2007 Paresh had said, “I'm not insecure about money. I'm insecure about good actors. After I watch Naseer or Om perform I stay awake the whole night. My values are middleclass. I don't want to be rich. I want to be successful.” Here are the films that found Paresh  Rawail (PR) at his best.

1. Dacait(1987):  Playing  corrupt cop Vindhu Pandey,  this  is where  PR  was  noticed  first. He  brought to  the  sodden  seedy  law enforcer’s role a kind vile inequity  that  we seldom see in villainous roles.   It was  director  Rahul Rawail who  gave  PR his first break.   In an interview  in 2007 PR  had said to me, “It's very strange, but at the beginning of my career I struggled to get into art films...I didn't get any roles in films by Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal and Kumar Shahane. Then I went into commercial cinema and became successful when in 1984 Karim Morani saw a play and recommended me to Rahul Rawail.That’s how I  got Arjun and then  Dacait.”

2. Sardar(1993):  Ketan  Mehta who specializes  in  political  bio-pics  considers  PR’s  portrayal  of  Sardar Vallabhbhai  Patel to be the  most authentic  portrayal  of  an Indian politician  in an Indian film.Paresh  is  rightly proud of  what he has achieved in this film. “When I was doing villains' roles Ketan Mehta came along and offered me Sardar Patel. People thought he was crazy but Ketan was convinced. Then Mahesh Bhatt came into my life to give me Sir, Tamanna and Kubzaa. I'm waiting for another Ketan Mehta and Mahesh Bhatt to come into my life.”

3. Oh My God(2013):  PR’s  performance as  the atheist  Kanji Lalji Mehta  who  ridicules  religious  rituals  until he meets  Lord Krishna(Akshay Kumar, playing the  flute) is  so steep in a wicked humour  I  wonder  if   Paresh would  agree  to play the disbeliever  now if  given the  opportunity.   The  film was seen as an attack on Hinduism, Paresh had defended  the film in an interview to me. “ If Oh My God was really an attack on Hinduism it wouldn’t have been so wholeheartedly embraced by the entire nation. I’ve performed the stage version of the story all over the world. No one has raised any objections when in fact the play is spicier. Let me tell you, at the industrialist B.K Modi’s 60th birthday we staged the play at the ISKCON temple in Mumbai on the recommendation of his son who wanted his father to celebrate his 60th birthday by watching this play. Present at this special staging of our play was the who’s who of every religion, be it Hinduism, Jainism or Islam. Jo banaa rahe wohbhi Hindu jo dekh rahan hain wohbhi qafi hadd tak Hindu. I knew it would get controversial. But I want to say only one thing to the opponents of the film: only the guilty need to be anxious. And I not doing anything wrong. So why should I be afraid of fingers pointing at me?”

4. Sir(1993): There was a time  when  Mahesh Bhatt  actually made   worthwhile films. This one, though not in league with Bhatt’s Arth or Saaransh was nonetheless a premium product. Paresh played  Velji a  gangster whose daughter’s  speech problem  is  sorted  by  her  teacher Naseeruddin Shah. Rawal and Shah’s  confrontations were  highlights, and Rawal more than  stood his ground.  After Sir he told me he was  done with  comedy.  “I'd like to work with  filmmakers with convictions like Sudhir Mishra, Prakash Jha, Raj Santoshi..... Why aren't these people coming to me? I've no ego problems in calling up a director ten times a day.But at the end of the day I should have a role to show for it. I don't have a secretary. I handle my own career. I don't want to fire my gun from another person's shoulder. I take my own decisions and live by them. I need challenges as an actor. I feel the comic period in my career has harmed the actor in me. I don't know what to do....Give me just two solid scenes. But give me something to do. Kuch meaningful ho.”

5. Tamanna(1997): The great Nadira  played  mother to a transgender played by  Paresh  who struggled with his dual persona  long before  non-binary Eliot Page found her identity. It was a  pathbreaking  role  and  Paresh sank into the character  without reservations.  He was happy that  filmmakers  like Mahesh  Bhatt were allowing him  to shoulder films. “I've worked so hard to arrive at this juncture in my career where I can shoulder whole films. But it depends on what you're shouldering. Sometimes it's Shravan's old and blind parents, sometimes it's the mischievous Bikram-Vetal duo.Sometimes it can't be helped. I've been in the industry for so long. Films sometimes don't work even when I'm convinced of the storyline. At times I do films because of the set-up or to be part of a good film.But yes, I'm completely bored with comedy. I want filmmakers to know that I'm open to doing serious non-comic roles. My doors are wide open for them.

Image source: Twitter/SirPareshRawal
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