Arshad Warsi needs no introduction. In his 20 year-career in Bollywood, Warsi has acted in everything, from serious satires to rib-tickling comedies. Best-known as Circuit from the Munnabhai franchise, Warsi’s Babban in Ishqiya, and Jagdish in Jolly LLB, are equally remembered and appreciated by fans.
But long before he met with success, Warsi had to endure a lifetime of struggles to make ends meet. He spoke about this and more with actor Neil Bhoopalam at Bengaluru, as part of the second season of the Signature Startup Masterclass - a platform that features successful professionals who turned their passion into a paycheck, to inspire others to do the same.
Warsi spoke about the time he had to develop photos and sell cosmetics for a living. He said, “I kept going but I didn’t do these jobs for very long simply because somewhere deep down, I knew that I was meant for something else.”
This something else manifested as his passion for dance. At 21, the actor became a part of Akbar Sami’s dance troupe and represented India at the World Dance Championship in London, where he won the fourth place in the Modern Jazz category. He then worked his way up, choreographing for different shows and movies, till he received his first acting offer from Jaya Bachchan for ABCL’s Tere Mere Sapne.
It was his big break even though it didn’t feel like it at the time. He was very hesitant about accepting the role because of his fear of not doing well. But destiny had different plans for the actor. Warsi had to start shooting for the film even though he did not want to do the movie, simply because no one got his message. “Back then, we had to depend on answering machines. So I left a message on Joy Augustine’s (the director’s) machine, to the effect that I couldn’t take up the role. There was only one problem, the machine was in Mumbai while he was in Hyderabad,” he laughed.
Today, Warsi feels very thankful and lucky about the incident. He explains, “Movies were not my space, yet a director walks into my house, offers me a movie, and I get approached by Jaya ji of all people. It’s incredible how life works.”
Following the first film, Warsi went on to work in many blockbusters, delivering hit after hit and captivating the audience. However, he is no stranger to failure. There were bad times too! But Warsi believes that failure teaches people how to live. He explains, “Success introduces you to the world. Failure introduces the world to you. It gives you an opportunity to learn what your strengths are - you understand the value of things and your true friends suddenly come into the picture.”
He also advises people to hold on when things are not going their way. “Most people give up when they fail at something. But that’s where you’re going wrong. Hold on to your dream and chase it down till you’re successful. The bad times are going to keep coming, but so will the good ones,” he said.
What does he think about people calling him an underrated actor? He shrugs and says, “Honestly, I think it’s a compliment. Overrated would be a problem. I think of myself as a successful man, and more importantly, a successful human being. At the end of the day, that’s what it all boils down to.”
The actor is currently riding high on the success of Golmaal Again, a multi-starrer comedy that is running in its sixth week, and has garnered close to Rs. 204.90 crore, according to a report by BoxofficeIndia.com. “I have had a great year. I am thrilled that Golmaal has been received so well,” he says, brimming with happiness.
So does Arshad Warsi have a game plan in place? The actor shook his head and said, “I’m all about the heart. If I find a good part, I play it. They keep asking me if I like doing only comedy, but fortunately, I’ve managed to pull off very serious roles, and nobody had a problem. They just thought - Oh! I didn’t expect him to do that. So I just focus on delivering the goods when I have to.”
When asked about how one can be sure that their passion will turn into a paycheck, Warsi had some wise words to share, “A lot of people are passionate only about the paycheck. But that’s the last thing that you should be focusing on. Just follow your passion and do it with your heart, the paycheck and recognition will come to you eventually,” he signs off.
The evening concluded on a musical note with a performance by Indus Creed, the trailblazers of contemporary Indian rock music.
The Signature Startup Masterclass is a web series being conducted in over 14 cities across India, which gives individuals from all fields an opportunity to network and listen to success stories of those who’ve turned their passion into a paycheck, and made it big.