One of the greatest joys of reading Naseeruddin Shah’s autobiography is that despite being one of the finest living actors in the world – to my mind, the finest ever – when he introduces the characters who feature in the book, he infuses those introductions with just unbridled warmth and admiration, and the occasional artistic envy. Whether it’s his family or friends, filmmakers or other actors, teachers, and inspirations, it’s almost always about a skill, or an experience that he has picked up from them and how they have shaped him and rarely, if ever, about how much he has contributed to the arts. The lesson is in the detail.
There’s a sense of earnestness that’s palpable throughout Shah’s memoir, a quality that is visible in nearly all his memorable performances too. Even if someone isn’t well-acquainted with his work on the screen it’s evident from the way he approaches this text, or his acting and life in general, that here’s a man who believes in collective ambitions instead of aiming for an achievement that he can call singularly his own and feel proud about.
Most memoir writing tends to focus on goals and courageous tales of overcoming hurdles. Why And Then One Day became one of my favourite books on the shelf is because it equally emphasizes on the failures and shortcomings. And not with the intention of providing a solution or life-altering advice. But by helping reinstate the belief in the reader that acceptance of your own strengths and fallacies, without always trying to rectify the weaknesses to accomplish some weird sense of perfection, is what makes life so beautiful and unpredictably charming.
It's brutal, funny, always self-aware, and often self-deprecating. This is how I can best describe the book. Isn’t that such a great description of a life fully lived too?