Interview By: Amul Vikas Mohan

Saqib Saleem is in his seventh year in the industry and next week with RACE 3 he will see his eight theatrical release and most definitely his biggest one to date.  The young actor feels this is the new chapter in his career and rightly so is prepared for it all. In a candid chat about movies, his sense of security and what keeps him grounded and what keeps him motivated we chat about everything under the sun. Read on for excerpts.

How are you feeling now that you have finished the film and what is different from doing this to Mere Dad Ki Maruti and other films of yours? What is the difference you are seeing immediately?

So all the films that I have done before this, about seven films, they have been of a certain size, they had a certain reach, some films have done well in a critical space like films like Hawa Hawai, Bombay Talkies, people have liked the film, they have liked my performance or whether with my first two films, in the middle what happened that there was a certain kind of work which I wanted to do but there was a certain kind of work that was coming and I am like okay where am I going wrong, am I positioning or projecting myself in a way that it is giving people this thought, then you end up choosing from what you are offered, than you end up doing something and you see those things you are like nahi yaar (No) it should not have come out like this and it’s for various reasons, it is whether how the films turns out or how the producers are of those films or how much faith people working on the film have on the film.

Also it could be simple reasons of promoting the film because sometimes that goes in amiss then everything goes in amiss?

Correct but see, making a film is a different ball game and promoting the film is a different ball game and we have had enough examples in the past where films promoted very well have done well and when you asked people what do you like in the film they have no answer to it. So that’s a different ball game altogether.

How did you come on board for Race 3?

I was at a point in my life where I was struggling to find the right film, like I was irritated, okay there was nobody who was saying that I am a bad actor in whatever little films I have done, people have appreciated the work I have done, so I was like okay I know how to act at least. But why I am not getting that film, all are saying that you are good but you are doing something wrong, so I was like what I am not doing right and I am talking about stuff as simple as working out and making a body, I was like okay I have not made a good body so far, so let’s make this and see and I did that also and I did a film Dil Junnglee where I was a gym trainer and nobody ended up going and watching the film. So I am like I don’t know what I am doing wrong, who should I be meeting, there are certain people I want to work with, let’s go out to meet them but it’s not like that work converts overnight. So I met Ramesh Ji three years ago and so we have a common friend Jayu who was supposed to direct a film and they offered me the film and I read the film and I really enjoyed the film and I am like okay great but for whatever reasons the film never translated because it was again multi-starrer film; two heroes and two heroines and stuff like that and so cracking the cast wasn’t happening and then that film went away but Ramesh Ji was one guy who always messaged me, called me, how bad my trailer looked it didn’t matter he always reached out to me, so I felt okay there is somebody and so I always feel like at least I should get some support in the industry, someone in the industry with whom I can connect with and ask that sir is my thought process correct or not and he gave me that comfort, so I am like okay let’s see but nothing came out of it soon, so I was at a stage where I was genuinely very bothered as to what my next film should be and there was a time when I didn’t have a film and I am like what should I do as  I have to find a film to do and then I have to at least find the right film, I can’t do another film that doesn’t do well, I have to figure it out may be I am wishing for it too much, suddenly I had just comeback from Goa and In fact I  was with Bobby in Goa and he happened to tell me that I have just signed Race, so I got damn happy for him as we had gone there to play cricket, we have this celebrity cricket league, so we got damn happy and we go back to the airport together. So I am going back home and I get a call from Ramesh Ji and I was like yes sir and he said I want to meet you and I was like okay sir when can I come, at no point I knew for the fact he is making Race and I knew for a fact that Remo was directing Race, I knew Bhai (Salman Khan), I knew everybody but I just felt like I never fit, in my head I have not done a film of that space, so I was like I don’t know this is such a big film are they seeing me in that or no, to convince them that you can see me in that is a task right now because the films that I have done are all chocolate hero kind of films; Romantic Comedies and all. So I am like okay but at no point in my head I thought that he wants to meet me for Race, so I got out in the night and some of my friends are with me, Huma is with me and we are hanging and Huma told me at one point why am I not answering my phone, she said Salman just called me right now, he is trying to get in touch with you, he is asking me if you are in the country or not, I said I am in the country and so he said I want you to do a film and I was like okay Bhai done and he said Race 3 and I said Done. I never thought that they are seeing me in that light, for me I was always a particular kind of actor till now, I am also trying different genres till I find my genre like every actor has it’s genre, if you see all these actors, all the senior actors, Superstars, Salman Sir is been associated with Action films, feel good films, Shah Rukh Khan romantic films so everybody has got their space, so I am like I haven’t found my space, so they are seeing me in this then this may be  my space let’s explore this. So he was like you read the script tomorrow and give me a call, I went there and heard the script, I had a bang role in the film, I am like okay I am getting to work with Mr. India, Prem and Solider in one film and I have a bang part in it and why should I not do it and I am like let’s do it, maybe this is the film I have being wanting to do because I am a commercial child, I have grown up watching Amar Akbar Anthony so I understand that only. I did a Hawa Hawai and Bombay Talkies not because of anything else but because of the makers of the film, I wanted to work with a Karan Johar, wanted to work with Amol Gupte they are good makers and I will learn from them but my goal in life is that whenever I do my next film people should say that it’s better from the previous film. This film has been more than welcoming for me. I never felt that I will get so much love on this film, like I was obviously the youngest actor on film, I was the newest actor on the film, so I always had this at the back of my mind that I have to become a part of their team because Race is a team film, of course there is Salman Khan who is fronting the film but it’s a team film, everybody is doing something and if you don’t blend into the franchise then it looks funny and then the whole point of doing this film doesn’t make sense, so now I was getting an opportunity to get an inside from the people who have done this all their lives and have been very successful at this.

How different was this on set now?

Very different, as you have to make every film as per the budget of that film, you can’t be expecting us to be spending five days on a song for a small film like Hawa Hawai, in that in one day only you have to finish the song, so yes it gave me that much rest, like as an actor I felt very different on this but it also made me because of the fact that everybody brought their A-game. People will find actors to be weird people but I just feel actors have to be little weird to bring out what they bring out on screen, like Anil Kapoor is so invested, there was a scene I was doing with him and the only person I was nervous to shoot with was Anil kapoor because with everybody else I had an equation with before the start of the film, I met Anil Sir properly on the set of the film and before the scene I was very nervous and when he came he hugged me and said how good I was looking and all and all my nervousness went away and what happens is that when you switch from small budget films to big budget films, you have to make a mental switch as well and have to bring your A-game and go there.

This is also the first time you are doing an out and out action film so how was the feeling?

The high you get, the enthralling rush you get after doing action, it’s like dance once you get the grove you start enjoying yourself but it really hurts; I got cuts, got some stitches on my wrist all that happened but the action we have in the film is some mindboggling action for which we had a very experienced team. There has been a lot of prep gone into the action, especially for me who has never done an action film before, the last time I kicked somebody was in School or College maybe. So there was prep for three months where we had to undergo kick boxing and various other training. This is also a very stylish film so in that also you have to bring your A-game.

What is your mind set that you are preparing for in a week’s time?

The first time I actually realize that I am doing a really big film was on the day of trailer launch. I have never seen so much of media in my life and I have done seven films, I should have seen some media in my life and I have but not as much as I saw that day. The reaction from people, we had a fan screening of the trailer in PVR and I had never seen euphoria like that so when you say it’s a carnival, it’s a carnival. So a Salman Khan film does say come with your family and enjoy the film as I am going to take you for a great joy ride, but I have seen some failure in my life and I have not really gotten success, like not really gotten excepted by the mass, so I know what it means to me, I would never want to do anything that would make me lose it. I will always try to do quality work. I take to myself and people find it weird but I have a conversation with myself. Because I am running around everywhere, I need to know what I want, so in the morning I do talk to myself for 10 minutes and then my day starts and I go about doing those things I have to achieve what I have told myself in the morning and the one thing that I will be really thankful for is the friends that I have grown up with are still my best friends and I still hang with them and for them I am a nobody and that is just a beautiful thing. They keep me grounded.

After Race 3, which is going to get a great opening, will your next step will be in respect to that numbers or you will be smart enough to figure out to do work which will get you to another Race to another franchise?

One has to be honest about certain things in life, the opening this film is going to get is not because of me, it’s because of Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor and because of the Race franchise, everything else but me. All I need to do in the film is to do my job and if that happens I get to meet a lot people that haven’t seen my work. And if I do a solo there is no way I am competing with the opening number it will get. So I am not letting the fact that how much it is going to make on day one affect me because of the fact that I just want people to watch the film and like the film. I have not really thought of the numbers of the film, I have always try to come out with a concept film, sometimes it has worked and sometimes it has not, so now when I do a solo film I want to reach out to the market that I have newly achieved. That is the goal, that my films should reach out to the maximum number possible and then if they like it, then it should do the numbers for me.

You like to keep it straight; you want the producers to do a film with a certain kind of budget which is very different for actors of today’s time, especially which are not filmy because this is a very filmy concept, why does that make you different in this aspect?

I have to blend in; one has to realize that the industry is one and one has to behave the same way. I just think that of course, there is creativity and everything but at the end of it, it’s a business and every person, actors especially, you put yourselves in the public domain, you are worth something and you need to realize what you are worth at the moment, your worth can increase and decrease but right now I can shoulder a film that should be made under this budget, then only it’s safe with me and if it goes over and beyond the I am pushing it and I am hampering my own self, so I look at it as whoever has come on board as producers whoever big or small that producer is, he is a new producer or an old timer, he should recover his money with me and if that doesn’t happen he is not going to work with me in future. My Dad always said that if you work with somebody once, that person should want to work with you again; I want to achieve that. So the producers have to make money. Right now it is very simple you need to know the math, you need to have a mixture of creativity and math together. I think films don’t go wrong budget goes wrong, if you budget a film right it can never go wrong, unless and until you have made a horrible film then you really can’t help it.

Finally what is next for you and in your eight years and seven films where do you see yourself in the next eight years in your next fourteen films?

Thank You for saying that, I hope that happens, I want to do more films, the first three – four years when I joined the industry, It took me a while to understand how it works but it was after the first three – four years I realized that both the films I have done, they have been appreciated, I have been appreciated but I am sitting at home. That is when I realized okay you have to go and work, because I thought if you will do good work people will want to work with you and that’s when slowly and steadily I realized how this industry works. So now I hope I do a lot more films, I want to keep working and no actor becomes good sitting at home and I have sat at home for a while so I know how bad it feels and I want to keep working, I want to create a unique space for myself in the next eight years I want to be like, if after eight years someone says, this is a role and it’s written for Saqib; that is what I want to achieve. I want to achieve a filmography like Aamir Sir’s like every young actor who sees that filmography he is jealous; he has done commercial to commercial and class to class and has done it successfully.

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