‘I’m nonetheless grasping for good roles, says common TV and Bollywood actor Arif Zakaria

Tell us about the movie Ahaan…

When I first heard the story from Nikhil Pherwani, I liked it. The unique angle was that a Downs Syndrome-afflicted person was actually playing the part. I found that engaging and the passion of the filmmaker charming. He had no money to shoot, which earlier I thought would have been an impediment. But the finished product has a nice feel to it. We all shot it for fun around Mumbai and that’s it!

Ahaan was released on Netflix on May 15. Do you think a theatrical release would have benefitted the film?

We did have a brief theatrical release in March 2021, but nobody was going to cinema halls. Now that it’s out on Netflix, I hope more and more people will watch it.

Do you think with OTT, films are getting a much wider audience?

Yes. And not only big budget films;in fact, a lot of small, perceptive and real narratives are finding space on OTT platforms. So, much of the content that wouldn’t have got to theatres is now getting a platform.

As an actor who has been in the industry for over two decades, what changes have you witnessed?

Being in the business for two decades, I have seen subtle changes. Technology has changed, as digital format shooting has allowed more trial and error scope to filmmakers. A lot of bad shooting ends up looking very good later! But as actors we still have to do what we have to in front of the camera.

How did you prepare for the role in Ahaan?

I play a character with a slight OCD. We all have traits, habits and quirks, which are disorders. I guess I had to channelise these hidden traits within me.

Did you shoot for any project during the lockdown?

I shot for Zee 5’s web show Qabool Hai in Belgrade in December 2020 and have never been so scared ever! These are really trying times for the entertainment business.

You recently said that the audience has zero attention span. Do you think somewhere it’s also because of the overload of content?

Attention spans are dwindling by the day. There is a surfeit of information hitting us per second. The videos we scroll by the hundreds daily leave our minds numb and attention spans transfixed. Traditional content to survive today has to counter these forces.

What’s your take on social media?

It’s Dopamine—a kind of drug where we thirst for information and are stressed if our WhatsApp doesn’t beep in 30 seconds! Instagram, Facebook, short video format and the YouTube content is driving us crazy.

What sort of projects interest you?

I’m happy that I’m still greedy for good roles. Any part which invokes my curiosity is good for me.

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