Saqib Saleem on being part of Race 3: I was most nervous to shoot with Anil Kapoor; have seen Mr India 50 times
'The kind of hysteria I saw surrounding a Salman Khan film was something I had not witnessed before,' said Saqib Saleem about his Race 3 co-star.
Success may be eluding Saqib Saleem of late but he has been earlier appreciated for the content-driven films that showcased his acting talent, whether it is Mere Dad Ki Maruti (2013), Bombay Talkies (2013) or Hawaa Hawaai (2014). These films did decent numbers and were acknowledged by the critics too. But Saqib is aware that if you want to be a star, you will have to work in the typical masala entertainers for a wider reach.
"I remember heading to watch Dabangg at Chandan Cinema during Eid when I landed in Mumbai from Delhi. The kind of hysteria I saw surrounding a Salman Khan film was something I had not witnessed before. That’s where I want to be," Saqib had once said, and with the upcoming Race 3 (releases on 15th June), the actor is all set to feature in a big budget commercial thriller. That is not all. The actor has performed high-octane action sequences for the first time in his career. What he also experienced the first time was the luxuries associated with action flicks of such magnitude.
“I have always done films with a certain budget so you are always trying to can maximum shots in the limited time that we have. But here I was doing a film for which shooting an action sequence would take five days! So when I would get hurt and Remo Sir (D’Souza, director) would say that we have enough time and that we can shoot the next day, I would insist on doing it the same time. Also, I would be in the flow and having fun,” said Saqib.
“I have been a sportsman all my life, I am athletic and it is the first time that I trained for action. I have fired with guns in both my hands and that too while I am driving a car. It gives such an adrenaline rush. Action choreography is very much like dance choreography. Once you get into it you start enjoying it. I was so excited doing action that despite having cut and bruises I continued doing stunts with stitches on,” added Saqib.
The actor feels that the action franchise, which was shot in Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Thailand, Ladakh and Jodhpur among other places, will expand his audience base and help him connect with the larger audience of the country. “For people living in tier-2 or tier-3 centres who have not seen my earlier work, for them Race 3 will be my first film. They will be probably seeing me for the first time. So it is an opportunity to showcase your talent to those many more people who have not been your audience so far. One is your audience and one is Salman Khan’s audience and when they come together, audience base becomes bigger. I was at the constant pace for these six, seven years but Race 3 has increased my pace and has suddenly made things happening for me. I hope there are many more installments, I would love to be part of all,” said the Delhi boy, who was excited working with Salman, Anil (Kapoor) and Bobby (Deol).
“But I was most nervous to shoot with Anil Kapoor because I was meeting him for the first time. I must have seen Mr India over 50 times. I wanted to impress him at any cost because I didn’t know whether he had seen my work. Incidentally, his first day of shoot was with me and despite me reaching late due to my ill-fitting pant, he welcomed me with a warm hug and made me feel comfortable,” said Saqib whose biggest fight initially was to merge with the franchise. “I had never done a film in this genre so it was a bit difficult for me to begin with. I wanted to blend in the franchise and not stick out. I had to look part of the family. And once I got the physicality right, once I understood how I am going to look, what I am going to wear in the film, everything started falling in place. For me, every film, the first three days decide for me if I am okay doing a film in this space. For the first three days, we were doing action and I was having the best time of my life,” he said.
However, Saqib did not have to spend much time on his physique initially when he met Remo as he was already in good shape because he played a gym instructor in his previous film Dil Juunglee. “I had worked so hard but nobody watched the film (laughs) and then Race happened. But I am a lean guy and I was doing a film with Salman who is broad while Bobby has fit shoulders. Since I had to flaunt my upper body along with them and had to look bigger, Salman helped me in the training process. He told me to train my legs which most of us don’t and invest only on chest and biceps,” said Saqib.
And even after spending seven years in the industry, Saqib, who still suffers from the “outsider complex” never felt that he was the odd one out on the Race 3 sets with the trio, Anil, Salman, Bobby, who belong to the industry. “Even I though I am an outsider, I was involved in every stage of filmmaking. It was such a democratic process that there was no place to be insecure, or feel that the others have got a better role than me. I am a middle class Delhi boy who has grown up watching them and now they were talking to me, asking me what I wanted to have for dinner. I had to pinch myself wondering what is happening,” said Saqib.
Saqib was only 19 when he watched Race. "At that point, I had no intentions of becoming an actor, I didn't know that it would be made into such a big franchise and today I am even part of it. But I had loved the first part and I didn’t find second as good. So as a genre, it was quite exciting. I had loved Saif (Ali Khan) in the earlier parts, he gets the thriller zone right; whether Race or Ek Haseena Thi, he was fabulous," said Saqib.
But one actor from the series that inspires Saqib is Akshaye Khanna (who was part of the first installment) essentially because he is also known to be a performer. “Akshaye was fab in Race. He has loads of style and panache, and his performance also shines as an actor. I want to achieve that. Even in commercial cinema, there is scope to perform. The basics of acting never changes, it is only the sur that changes. One has to mould basics accordingly,” concludes Saqib.
Dil Chahta Hai or Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, I don’t care. As long as someone is making a film casting this trinity in the lead (Zoya Akhtar, are you listening?), I’m watching. With my girlfriends, of course.
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