Monday, July 15, 2024

In Conversation with Arif Zakaria- Indian actor

Written and edited by – Robin Bhuyan

Interviewed by – Shashi Salwani

Join us in an interview with actor Arif Zakaria of Hindi cinema, who has acted in many well known movies such as Netaji: The Forgotten Hero, directed by Shyam Benegal, My Name is Khan, Haunted 3D, Krrish 3, Nanak Shah Fakir, Raazi and many more! 

Are there any actors or directors who inspired you to pursue acting as a career?

I actually never aspired to become an actor. I accidentally stumbled upon it, when I was a student in college, and I began enjoying the process as I continued acting. Eventually, I realized that it was my calling. I would say no one in particular inspired me, as being in India, you are always exposed to movies. You can say till I was in college, I was not even really aware of this profession. Eventually, I started working on television in the mid-90s, and I got deeper into acting, and thus, it evolved.

Tell us about your first film Darmiyaan and how you got involved in it?

Darmiyaan was made by Kalpani Lajmi, who passed away unfortunately. I knew her as I was in a TV show with her before. I was initially cast only for one scene, but later, the actor who had committed for the main role had some issues. Eventually, she asked me to audition for it, and called me to Kirron Kher’s house in Juhu. I had already read the script. She made me do some sequences for the film, and she eventually got the assurance that I would be able to pull of the role!

Tell us about your work in Dance Like a Man.

The film was directed by Pamela Rooks, and she had seen my work previously. The interesting thing about this role was that I had to learn Bharatnatyam to play it. And dancing alongside Shobana, an accomplished Bharat Natyam dancer was no easy task! But I did manage to pull it off.

You have worked in socially relevant films such as Netaji: The Forgotten Hero and My Name is Khan. How do you see the role of cinema in promoting social responsibility?

I won’t say cinema has a long-lasting impact in changing people’s perceptions. Especially, in a country like India, people go to watch a movie to be entertained. But certain characters and movies do leave a mark! I would say overall a great movie will change the way you look at life. By large, people in India, mostly want to entertain themselves! So, in the larger context, I won’t say that cinema is responsible for societal changes.

Tell us about your role of the evil spirit in Haunted 3D, which had received a lot of appreciation.  Tell us about it!

I had previously done a TV serial with Vikram Bhatt. He graciously offered me this role. However, horror was never my favorite genre, but since Vikram is a master when it comes to such movies, I put my faith in him completely and went on with the project blindfolded. I am glad I went on with the project, because people still remember the project and it had gone on to become a cult status. Credit goes to director Vikram Bhatt of course! Three years later, I did another horror movie Darr @ The Mall, but unfortunately, it didn’t succeed.

You played a role in Krrish 3. We would like to ask you why you think when it comes to superhero movies, Indian movies are not that successful?

Well, Shaktimaan TV serial and the Krrish franchise were indeed successful. The thing is that filmmakers try to copy western superheroes, and Indian masses don’t connect with it much. I think to be successful, Indian makers will need to create a character with an “Indianness”.

Tell us about your movie Nanak Shah Fakir and its social importance.

This film was a biographical movie on the life of Guru Nanak, which is told through my character Bhai Mardana, his first disciple. The film shows us the life of Guru Nanak, his experience, his journey and how he spread the message of Sikhism to the world. It is a great film and I recommend everyone to watch the film. The film also went on to win multiple national awards, and it was a great experience to work on that film. Due to some factors which I can’t explain, the film unfortunately didn’t get its due.

You have worked in many genres, action, drama, romance, horror, thriller. Is there any genre that you feel you haven’t explored and would like to, in the near future?

To be honest, I don’t really look at films that way. I try to make the best out of whatever roles I get. Each role is a genre by itself for me, if you ask!

We have seen you on OTT as well. How is your experience in OTT and do you think that it can change the cinematic landscape?

For an actor, it is not very different. You have to do the same things that you do while working for a regular movie meant for the big screen. Yes, how you view the content, and the commercial aspects are different, but for an actor, it is quite the same.

It is argued that Indian cinema relies on star power rather than good scripts. What is your opinion regarding this?   

This is partly true, and although I don’t subscribe to this, that is the sad reality. But in addition, alongside the big budget movies, there are still a lot of movies made, with good scripts, and with lesser-known actors.

Censorship in cinema is a highly debated subject. As an artist, what are your thoughts regarding this?

I will not be a fool to say that we don’t need censorship at all. We live in a diverse society, where we can end up hurting someone’s feelings unknowingly. So, censorship is absolutely needed, but not at the cost of hurting artistic freedom. A filmmaker should have the liberty to create whatever they want, without somebody telling them how to do it.

Which is the movie in your career that is closest to your heart?

My first movie Darmiyaan, Dance Like a Man, Haunted 3D, Nanak Shah Fakir, and Raazi– these are some of the movies that are close to my heart.

Among directors that you have worked with, do you have any favorite?

It is hard to name one as my favorite. Every director has some unique quality which may not be with the other. So, it is hard to single out one individual. I am not trying to be a diplomat, but it won’t be sensible to name a single director.

Lastly, tell us about your future projects. 

I am doing a web show for SonyLiv with Nikhil Advani. I have also done an interesting role in the second season of Special Ops, created by Neeraj Pandey, which should release in some time. I have done few other projects, but not sure when they will be releasing!

Thank you for your time! It was a great experience talking to you!

Thank you!

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