Saqib Saleem talks about his role in Crackdown, his admiration for sister Huma Qureshi and why he wants to open a restaurant
Saqib Saleem is slowly breaking away from the mould of being cast as the boy-next-door in romantic comedies. The 32-year-old showed audiences a different side of his personality in the web series Rangbaaz, as the gangster Shri Prakash Shukla. Now, in the newly released espionage drama, Crackdown, which is streaming on Voot Select, Saqib has once again portrayed a tough role, that of a RAW agent named Riyaaz Pathan. In an interview to Indulge, the actor talks about his role and his life off camera:
Tell us about Crackdown... what about the role and script interested you?
I decided to do Crackdown because I wanted to explore the action genre, its something that has fascinated me since I was a kid. It’s one of my favourite genres that I’ve felt like the kind of roles I was offered before were very different. I remember Apoorva Lakhia calling me about eight months ago and said, 'I am making this show and I want you to be the main lead in it.' Then he sent me the script and I thought it was very engaging and pacey. I had never done anything like this before. It was an action-oriented role and gave me a different character to experiment with.
Spy thrillers of late have been quite jingoistic, so how different is Crackdown?
We have refrained from doing that (jingoism) as much as possible, and we’ve tried to keep it very real. My character Riyaaz Pathan, is doing all he can to save the nation but he doesn’t mouth desh bhakti dialogues after killing every terrorist. He's just a guy going about doing his job and, so yeah, there is no jingoism as such in the show.
What kind of preparation did you have to go through considering its an action thriller?
A lot of training went into it. Whether it was kickboxing or hand-to-hand combat or gun fights, we had to prepare for it. I had to work on myself as the physicality of the character was an important aspect. I made sure I had those bulging biceps, shoulders and a chiselled body. It took three months to achieve this look. The physical transformation was important.
How have you evolved as an actor since your debut?
I think I am still a work in progress and the intent always is, to become better every day. So I don’t know if I’ve become better as an actor, or if I’ve understood things better. I am always trying to learn more, and that is how I take it. I don’t know how to negotiate money and stuff, but if I want to do some film, and if I think there is a part I am really excited about, I have reached out to filmmakers, telling them that I’m interested. Whether they want to audition me, or not, I am open to asking work.
From your social media posts, it appears like you and your sister Huma Qureshi share a great bond. How are you both off camera? Do you fight or argue? What is that one quirk about her that only you know?
The way we are in front of the camera, it's exactly like that in real life. We are best friends, we discuss everything, we chill together, and we have the same circle of friends. I just love the fact that she is a very passionate person. She is a thorough professional in whatever she does, and I get inspired by her every day. If people think I am professional, I think they should know that I have learnt this from my sister.
You come with a great legacy of food and your parents run the iconic chain Saleem's in Delhi. Didn’t you ever want to take it forward, why did you choose to become an actor?
I always say this, I’m an actor by accident. I auditioned for a film and then they told me that they really liked me and I got onboard. Otherwise the idea was to do hotel management and join the family business. But life took a different turn and I became an actor. Even now sometimes my dad says, 'You should do this'. But I know for a fact that being in the food industry is a full-time profession, I can't take a backseat if I am in it. So right now, I am enjoying my acting, but hopefully one day I'll open a restaurant for sure.
What are your childhood memories of Saleem’s?
I always remember eating biryani and Nihari for breakfast, which used to be our breakfast when I was growing up. I’ve had the best of food because my mother is a fabulous cook.
So 83 is next and you are playing Mohinder Amarnath's role... what's happening on that front?
I am very excited. I am hoping theatres will open and we will get to watch it on a big screen. The producers have announced a December date for its relase.
Quick takes with Saqib Saleem
If not an actor, what would you be?
One thing that this pandemic has taught you?
Who my real friends are...
One fashion hack for men...
White shirt and a pair of blue jeans can never go wrong.
Essentials in a man’s wardrobe...
Black boots, a black suit, a pair of ripped jeans, and double strap monk shoes.
What's your fitness routine and diet?
Workout and eat well. That’s what I follow. Make sure that you eat well, and then train like a beast.
What are you working on next?
I’ve done a film called Comedy Couple that will be released on Zee5 on October 21.