How is your role different from the Old Albert Pinto’s girlfriend played by Shabana Azmi?
There are only two similarities between the original film and the one released recently. One, the core essence of the film and two, the names of the character and the film are the same. Fundamentally, the character that Shabanaji plays, which is Stella, is similar, as in she is someone who is in love with Albert and wants a secure future with him. But in this version, I play multiple characters. Albert is extremely disturbed by everything that he sees around him and pushes her away. But he ends up seeing Stella in every woman that he meets. Stella’s ordinariness and resilience are very relatable, and the other characters are an interesting interpretation of the director’s vision of their relationship.
This film has no exact reference to the old film except perhaps the anger part...what’s your take on the film and its timing?
The earlier Albert Pinto was made during a very critical time in our history. That was the post-Emergency era with Bombay with its mill workers’ crisis. There was a lot of angst in the common man. Today, we are in a similar predicament, where politics and conversations have all become so polarised. Divisive forces are distracting us from the real problems of unemployment, poverty and inequality. There is anger simmering among the youth, the farmers, the marginalised, and that is the political undertone that the film has. This film deals with the pain of Albert, who probably represents many. With elections around the corner, we are at a crossroads and have the ability to make a difference.
It is again an art house film, in which actors have worked for free if I know it right. How does it help your career in the film industry?
Even after 40 films as an actor and two as a director, films remain a means to an end for me. So, I don’t really look at it so much as a career, but more as a creative opportunity to share my concerns and as a platform to trigger conversations about things I care for. I have never really associated work with money. Much of my work continues to be social advocacy which is all pro bono. While films used to primarily pay my bills, money has never been a motivation for doing them. I did ‘Albert...’ simply because Soumitra is a good friend and someone with high integrity. Not taking money was the least I could do. He too has helped me in Manto, although in friendships obviously, one is never transactional. And not just me, but everyone – actors, technicians, all stakeholders in the film worked for free or very little to support the film and Soumitra’s vision. In Manto, too, many actors worked for free, including Nawaz, Rishi Kapoor, Gurudas Mann, Javed Akhtar, etc. There is still a lot of goodwill in