Saqib Ayub on Director Reema Kagti's Unique Working Style

Actor Saqib Ayub, who rose to fame with 'Farji', 'She' and 'Brahmastra', is currently seen in the role of villain in Amazon Mini TV's new web series 'Love Adhura' along with Karan Kundrra and Erica Fernandez.

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Saqib Ayub on Director Reema Kagti's Unique Working Style
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Actor Saqib Ayub, who rose to fame with 'Farji', 'She' and 'Brahmastra', is currently seen in the role of villain in Amazon Mini TV's new web series 'Love Adhura' along with Karan Kundrra and Erica Fernandez. He is liked a lot by this character. After playing a very complex character in 'Love Adhura', he is now going to be seen in Reema Kagti's directed film 'Malegaon Ka Superhero'.

Here are excerpts from the conversation with Saqib Ayub...

How did you get the idea of joining films?

-I grew up in Mumbai. Bollywood is also here. So, I have been fond of watching movies since childhood. I have grown up watching Priyadarshan's comedy films. But I felt like becoming an actor during my college days. I used to participate in every cultural activity in college. He started acting in plays during his college days. During my college days, we also used to make short films. He also took part in drama competitions during college festivals. While doing all this for three years in college, I realized that doing all this work gives me a feeling of happiness. Therefore, now I should do some big creative work in this field. But there is no such atmosphere inside my house. People in my family are fond of watching films, but none of my family or relatives are associated with the film industry. We are from a middle-class family and the atmosphere is similar in my house too. As it usually happens in every middle-class family.

When you told your father about becoming an actor, what was his reaction?

-My family members are very supportive. I had also tried to get admission to the 'Pune Film Institute' by telling my father. But unfortunately, I failed in the interview round. So my father saw all this and understood that his son was dedicated and was also working hard. After coming from Pune, I decided that I would stay in Mumbai and gain experience and learn by doing theatre. With this, I started giving auditions. This will develop me. My father had full support. Once or twice he said lightly, 'Son, think about it, you will have to struggle a lot. 'But seeing my hard work he did not say anything more. I slowly started getting work there. When I started getting work and earning, he was happy.

With which group did you do theater and which plays did you perform?

-My teacher's name is Mujeeb Khan. The name of his theater group is- 'Ideas Drama Acting Academy'. This is an academy where children learn acting and also act on stage. We did many plays based on the stories/plays of many famous writers including Munshi Premchand and Manto. I have done about sixty to seventy shows. The process of acting in plays continues even today. I also take out time and do theatre.

What kind of struggles did you have to face and how was the first film received?

-In Bollywood, every person, every artist has to struggle. Many times one does not get work for several months. We stand in the audition queue, face rejections and keep going to the next audition. This struggle continued for two to three years. Meanwhile, some recognition was established and work started coming. I did many episodes of 'Crime Patrol' and 'Savdhaan India' on TV. After the arrival of OTT, better work started becoming available. While doing all this, I first got the opportunity to act in the 'Yash Raj Films' film 'Thugs of Hindustan'.

How did you become associated with 'Thugs of Hindustan'?

-I came to know that Shanu Sharma ji was taking an audition for some film, so I reached there to audition. We were given a four-page methodological script. We read it and gave the audition. Till that time we were not told which film it was for and which actors would be in the film. They wanted six to seven boys who could become army men. When the selection was done, we came to know that we were a part of Amitabh Bachchan's army in 'Thugs of Hindustan'.

But at that time, were you not afraid that you would not have any identity among such great artists?

-Who had to create the identity? It is a mistake to expect to make a mark in the first film. In the first film, we have to learn and work. Ha! To make an identity in the first film, our name should have the word 'Kapoor' or 'Khan' attached to it. Which is not with my name. Therefore, our aim was only to work, not to create an identity. Understanding the importance of work, I worked in 'Thugs of Hindustan'. It was a stepping stone for outsiders like us. My thinking is that we can move forward only by placing our feet on each ladder. It would be wrong to compare yourself with someone who is not of your level. While acting in this film, I learned a lot from Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan. Both are master classes in acting. We learned a lot by watching him perform in front of us. We learned how both of them approach their characters and how they perform. With this, I also understood what it means to work on a big set. Learned some techniques. Learned sword fighting and action. Also got an opportunity to dance. So overall we learned a lot and did a lot in one film.

How did your career progress after 'Thugs of Hindustan'?

-There was a little break after this film. After that, I got Netflix's web series 'She'. I had auditioned for it in 2018. It was during its shooting that I got the film “Brahmastra”. Then did Zee 58's web series 'Boomberg'. Slowly people started knowing me. After the shooting of 'She' and 'Brahmastra' was completed, I started getting some work continuously.

'Brahmastra' was a big film, but it did not get the expected success.

-I don't think so. According to me, the film was a very good success. People praised the film. The film has good music, good background, good action, and good visual effects. I got to learn a lot. I got the opportunity to share the screen with Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor. I got the opportunity to share the screen with him for the first 20 minutes of the film. Got an opportunity to work under the direction of Ayan Mukherjee. This film was seen all over India. People recognize me because of ‘Brahmastra’.

What did you get the opportunity to do after 'Bamhastra'?

-Web series ‘Ek Mohammed’ on Zee 5. Did ‘Bombay Meri Jaan’. Did 'Farzi' with Shahid Kapoor on Amazon. Did 'Love Adhura'. Apart from this, the shooting of the film 'Super Hero of Malegaon' has been completed. This film will be released soon.

You were praised in 'Farzi'. Will you shed light on that character?

-Everything about it was special. Raj DK's direction and filmmaking style was special. His cinema itself is special. Having Shahid Kapoor was a special thing. For the first time, I got the opportunity to play a very different kind of character. Some people consider my character Anees in this series to be negative, whereas, in reality, it was a positive character. That is why it is the topmost series in India. After this, I got the web series ‘Love Adhura’.

What would you like to say about your character in ‘Love Adhura’?

-This series directed by Tanbir Bookwala is streaming. So many people have seen it and are also praising my character. This is a romantic series and the search is on for the right killer. My character in ‘Love Adhura’ is quite complex. My character is a unique blend of light, noise, vulgarity, struggle, and pain, and carries out the dark deeds of those who employ him for financial gain.

The shooting of ‘Love Adhura’ has been done in Munnar. What was your experience?

-Shooting 'Love Adhura' in Munnar had its advantages and challenges. Adverse weather and fluctuating networks caused the most disruption. We would have perfect lighting and then suddenly our events would be canceled due to massive cloud cover or rain! The hotel we stayed in had almost no network and the internet was poor. But this has led to a good bonding between the cast and all the unit members and I am sure this is visible in the web series. Despite the challenges, we managed to do a great job! We found joy in simple joys like playing Uno and savoring the delicious passion fruit of Munnar. Erica graciously provided several kilograms of passion fruit for everyone, and soon we all became addicted.

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What is the movie “Malegaon Ka Super Hero”?

-This film is from Farhan Akhtar's company 'Excel Entertainment'. It has been directed by Reema Kagti ji. This film is about friends. A few years ago, some boys from Malegaon together started making films in that small town and today they have created a good film industry there. This film is based on those boys. This is his story of where he started from and where he has reached today. The story starts in the nineties and reaches till today. This film is going to be released on Amazon Prime.

Experience of working with Reema Kagti?

-Had a very good experience. Reema Kagti is so dedicated to her films that she knows what she wants. She films only the necessary scenes. It is not that you film anything and then decide on the editing table which scene to keep and which not. She sees her character in the artist. When I auditioned, I was not at all in that character, but he saw me and he saw that character in me, so he made changes in me accordingly. Paid attention to makeup and look. Got to learn a lot from Reema Ji. She has a distinct style of working.

What kind of make-up has been done for the character of the film “Malegaon Ka Superstar”?

-Had to gain weight. The rest of the nineties look and make-up has been done. Wearing the same kind of clothes. Anyway, apart from make-up and looks, we start feeling the same character within ourselves through the clothes.

How active are you on social media?

-I only write about my work on social media. I discuss my upcoming films on social media. For me, social media is just a means to stay connected with my family and relatives as well as friends. I discuss my personal life less on social media.

These days, artists are given work based on their Instagram followers. Does this not ignore the artist's inner talent?

-I am against giving work based on Instagram followers. People who are giving work based on Instagram followers will have their thinking. No one has given me work based on my Instagram followers. When Raj DK sir allowed me to act in 'Farzi', at that time I did not even have a hundred followers on Instagram. In my opinion, if there is a good film director and he knows the artiste, then he too will not question the artiste about his social media followers. To be a good artist it is not necessary to have good followers.

What kind of character do you want to play?

-I like the guy from a small town in Uttar Pradesh, or a student revolutionary, fighting for the rights of tribal. Or a full-on Bollywood lover boy, a weak man suffering from an accident, a comic character, a boxer, an athlete, or a football player, among others.

Shantiswarup Tripathi

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