Arif Zakaria: To be cast in an unconventional role is the biggest compliment

By Neeru Saluja

He’s an actor who aims for perfection, no matter how complex the character is. Be it the role of an eunuch in Darmiyaan, the ghost in Haunted, an obsessed dancer in Dance Like a Man, the loyal suspicious house help in Raazi, actor Arif Zakaria leaves a lasting impression.

Arif in Darmiyaan

Recently Arif Zakaria was in Sydney for the play ”˜Gardish Mein Taare’ brought by SAI Creative Arts Network Australia, where he played the role of Guru Dutt. As he nailed the intensity and complexity of the character, we got engaged in a conversation with the actor who has been a favourite with Australians since he acted in the theatre dance production ”˜Merchants of Bollywood’.

In Sydney in ‘Gardish Mein Taare’

Arif, after playing many challenging roles in your acting career, what inspired you to play the role of Guru Dutt?

I was looking for a good opportunity in theatre for a long time. When the director Saif approached me with this script, I was touched by the depth and the intensity of the character and found it unusual, experimental and challenging as an actor. My theatre nerve which was lying dormant saw this as a great opportunity. We have all heard about Guru Dutt while growing up and it was intriguing to learn about the cinema in 50s through him. He’s a complex character who loves his wife but expresses it in a strange way, writes letters and that’s why we use letters as a device of narrating the story. If you strip all the layers of the characters of this play, there could be a man and woman from any corner of this universe pursuing any profession. All these aspects attracted me towards this character.

You have always attracted unconventional roles starting from your debut film ”˜Darmiyaan’. Is this a choice or what you prefer as an actor?

As an actor, I wanted to be as versatile as I could. I’m grateful to the roles I have received and the biggest compliment would be a director casting me for an unconventional role. The medium is not important, you have to perform everywhere. Every role that is offered to me I try to inject it with as much as energy as I can.

Arif in the movie ‘Raazi’

Your role in Raazi suddenly brought you into limelight again. Do you think it has become a necessity to be part of commercial films?

Yes it always is as people need to see your films. As an artist you need to be visible. The bigger the platform, more your art is appreciated. I have always been active in the acting space. I have an upcoming film on Down’s Syndrome called Ahaan and Swords and Sceptres.

You have made a mark in national and international cinema but you are one actor who stays away from social media and self-promotion. How do you perceive this changing trend?

It’s important to reach out people but social media creates a lot of negative energy and I stay away a bit from it. People are in a hurry to make it big. There are no real actors, there are only celebrities. You need time in this line in order to understand your craft. Though saying this, the system remains the same and the formula of the success is the same.

You are one actor who has experimented in various mediums ”“ theatre, cinema and television. Which medium is the most challenging and why?

Theatre is very challenging, demanding and difficult. Films take time as they are shot in bits and pieces and then there is a lot of technology paraphernalia that is added, so the acting looks good. Theatre is bare, stripped down and therefore it is daunting. I like all mediums of acting, in today’s changing time we have to be flexible, adaptable and a multimedia performer.

In Merchants of Bollywood

And being a multimedia performer, you don various roles in the Australian theatre production ”˜Merchants of Bollywood’ which is coming again to Sydney in October 2018.

Absolutely. ”˜Merchants of Bollywood’ is my gateway to Australia, I love coming here. I play the film director, a journalist and add dimension to various characters. Since 2005, we have done 1100 shows. Now the seasons are smaller and shorter. I have enjoyed myself and it has been a great experience doing live theatre. Consistency is important when you are doing the same acting night after night. After successful shows in 2005, 2008 and 2010, the show is coming back to Sydney in October 2018, so stay tuned.

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