Last time we met this talented actor, Saqib Saleem, who has also played cricket in real life, he expressed a wistful desire to do a sports biopic. Guess what, he wanted to play Yuvraj Singh! A few years down the line he got to play a Punjabi cricketer alright; only it was Mohinder Amarnath in sports drama 83. As the film has won him much praise, he is more than happy to see his dream manifest in this fashion and him being a part of a Kabir Khan film.
Today, of course, it’s not just 83 that is making him smile but also the anthology Unpaused: Naya Safar. Part of Teen Tigada segment, which revolves around three men dealing with the pandemic, with him playing a small-time convict, he shares excitedly what a fun learning process it was for him.
Working with a young director, Ruchir Arun, FTII alumnus, and other actors who too were FTII graduates, he beams, “It was as if I was in FTII itself.”
Giving full marks to his National Award-winning director, he says, “When you are with a director who gives 100 per cent, you are compelled to give 120 per cent. Even if it were a simple scene like go straight and turn left, he would make it seem as if it were an Oscar-winning act.” Moreover, the director of Little Things is a master of details for sure.
But from an actor’s point of view, is it satisfying to work in an anthology considering one is not the main person here as in Unpaused: Naya Safar, which comprises five shorts? He replies tongue- in-cheek, “But how does it matter; I am the main person in my life.”
Short & sweet
On a serious note, he, who was part of the first Bollywood anthology Bombay Talkies in a segment directed by none other than Karan Johar, does not undermine the power of shorts. He understands this space where he dared to play a gay character at a time when such choices were not a norm. Bold or not, he agrees, “Back then I was nervous. Much has changed since. Today, we are living in times when we have stopped judging characters based on sexuality.”
Be it Bombay Talkies or Race 3, every character, every film he believes has its own journey. So, he thinks Unpaused: Naya Safar streaming on Amazon Prime Video would. Besides, he enjoys the process and the journey. “If the results were in my hand I would have been Shah Rukh Khan today.” Does he, who made his debut in 2011 with Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, feel that a career-defining role has eluded him till date? He says, “I am enjoying what I am doing… Itna nahi sochne ka… Destiny takes you where you are meant to be.”
As Unpaused: Naya Safar too brings forth stories around the pandemic, we wonder if we need moretales around this period. He says, “Let’s have as many stories as possible. Only, I hope the pandemic ends now.” Personally what un-paused during this period for him was self-realisation, as he rediscovered his writing skills. An autobiography in the making, you bet, he is too young for that. Memoirs then? Perhaps!
But till then Saqib unplugged it is on social media, not only on Instagram where he posts heartfelt experiences every now and then, but also in interviews where at his candid best he quips, “I don’t understand the OTT game where every other film is touted as the most-viewed in the last 24 hours.” But, yes, unlike theatrical releases where the Damocles sword of box-office hangs heavy, the acid test on the OTT, where he was seen in Crackdown and Rangbaaz, is appreciation.
He reasons, “See when Paatal Lok came, it was like a storm in the entertainment world and required no media blitz to tell us it was a great show.” Is he waiting for a similar series? “Well, I am not thinking that this particular part can change my life or anything can change anyone’s life”. All he is looking for is good work and right now it includes the second season of Crackdown and horror comedy Kakuda. Boond boond se sagar bharta hai… And Saqib is determined to make every drop count!