They say passion takes a full circle and returns to haunt the soul, bringing one back to whatever they love most. Mohommed Ali Shah is all set to perform a monologue of Dastangoi a 13th century Urdu oral storytelling art form talking through the letters of Mirza Ghalib, the poetry of Faiz Ahmad Faiz and works of Allama Iqbal and touching Urdu, English, Hindi and a bit of Sanskrit.
The 37-year-old actor and social activist was passionate about theatre since school. He wanted to study acting from National School of Drama (NSD) but was rejected twice.
Meanwhile, he joined the Army and later studied at IIM Kolkata. But his passion for acting never left him and he constantly participated in theatre related activities. At every opportunity, he closely observed his own uncle, the doyen of Indian theatre, Naseeruddin Shah.
Describing how he learnt the art, Mohommed says, “I attend many rehearsals and workshops of Naseer uncle and try to understand nuances of acting. I did not get a chance to join an acting school but was lucky to see some masters in action. What I learnt from them is that one doesn’t work for glamour or stardom. If your work is good and different, you automatically are in the success league. I always trained my self. One needs to be truthful to their work.”
Mohommed even worked at an MNC in night shifts so that he could rehearse in the day. “It’s important to understand that any scene can be done in a million different ways. One needs to exert the mind and zoom in on the best style. This job helped me hone my skills of voice modulation, speech therapy and understanding the accent of language.”
It is not surprising, then, that the he also worked his way into the film industry. He was seen in Vishal Bharadwaj’s Haider and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar. In the context of languages, he says that he isn’t averse to South Indian films. “Since I have a flair for languages, I don’t see that as a barrier. I picked up Punjabi fast when I acted in a Punjabi film. When in the Army, I was posted in Nagaland and picked up the Nagamese language too!”
Mohommed recently conducted a three-month workshop at his alma mater The Lawrence School, Lovedale, that resulted in the production Fiddler on the Roof. “Nearly 160 children from Class IV to Class XII acted in it. All of them had no experience of theatre. It was a lifetime’s experience for them,” he says.
Concluding with words of inspiration Mohommed says, “Remember, no one can help you except hard work and dedication. Camera doesn’t recognise if you are someone’s relative or friend. It only brings forth your art and talent before the public.”