We get in a chat with debutant Zaheer Iqbal who has worked as an assistant director before and now is to be seen on the big screen with Salman Khan Film’s production. We talk about his upcoming movie and much more. Excerpts:

What was the starting point for ‘Notebook’? How did you come on board with it?

Salman Bhai saw me dancing in a wedding and offered me a film in 2013 and since then he has been training me to come into films in the form of learning acting, gymnastics, dance and martial arts. During this process we were looking for films for me. Salman Bhai, Ashwin Sir and Murad sir came across the script. This was by far the best script that they came across in 6 years. I personally think this is the best script they will come across in a very long time.

Notebook seems to be an unconventional love story, in first place why did you say yes to do the movie? What made you to do it?

The fact that it is unconventional and I was not looking for a cliché Bollywood debut with the typical story line where boy meets girl and falls in love then there comes the Bollywood drama of father and all of that. I wanted to do something that is unconventional and I believe in good content. I’m not stating it to be that clichés do not work. If scripts are good such as where the boy meets the girl and such scripts have worked beautifully. I love the fact of how the movie was written and I love the screen play. This film has a very non-linear screen play and that is one of the things that I like about it. I enjoy watching movies with a non linear screen play. The script is beautifully written and so are the dialogues. It is very real and layered so I think there is absolutely no reason why someone wouldn’t like to do a movie like that.

Nitin kakkar is known for presenting his movie in a unique way. How was it working with such a talented director?

It’s a dream come true. I always tell everyone that it is easy to become a director all you need to know is the technicalities but the real difficult part is to be a story teller and tell stories in a way that it keeps the audience gripped for long. Every person I spoke to told me they are very happy knowing that I have got  to work with an amazing story teller who is your first director because that’s very important and working with him has been like a dream. I have never seen someone so focused, so passionate, so indifferent to money and fame. He does not care about that for him all that matters is his final product and film making. He enjoys the process and what he creates on the screen and for him it’s all about making movies that are timeless and I think that is what he did with notebook.

In the trailer we see your character as someone who is very friendly with kids even after being their teacher! Can you elaborate a bit about your character?

My character is very different from me. He is an introvert, very quiet and does not like being surrounded by many people. He is someone who is lost in life, who has been through a lot during his youth, and childhood which has affected his mind and the person that he is. Honestly in the film he is not a great teacher but he loves to teach. That’s Kabir.

With that said… Do you relate to the character?

No I do not. I’m a complete opposite of Kabir in real life. He does not walk like me, Does not speak as fast as I do, He does not like being surrounded by people whereas I do, He is usually quiet and speaks only when he is spoken to and I’m someone who will go to a random person and start a conversation. He is completely different from me and the 4 months of workshop is what transformed me.  The people who know me will think I’m a way better actor because the ones who don’t know me won’t know the difference. My best friend told me that the best thing about the character is “I cannot see Zaheer anywhere” and that is a great compliment for an actor.

Adding to it… If you are not same as the character then how did you get into the skin of the character?

We had four months of workshop and we worked on characters life. I think your surroundings and what you have been through in life is what makes you the person you are. So I cannot go on the set and be like I m feeling sad today so I’m going to be sad. I needed to be sad like Kabir so it was important for me to know why he was sad? What made him sad? or why this particular thing has made him happy. So we have written books and books about our characters. Pranutan and I know so much about the character that we can tell you all about it, even their childhood.

The trailer has showcased a very beautiful place. How was it working at such a beautiful location? What do you take back from there?

I think Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places on this planet. People used to tell me Kashmir is like jannat and I used to never take them seriously but now that I shot a movie at that place I definitely believe that. Kashmir is heaven on earth. Something more beautiful than the beauty of Kashmir was the Kashmiri people, they were so friendly and I have definitely learned many things from them. They used to come and call for tea. I don’t think any other place like Mumbai or somewhere anyone will help a person on road. The cars will pass by but none would stop for help. In Kashmir anybody will offer you help.

Do you think the movies with romantic genre always result in being a breakthrough for newbies?

No I don’t agree to that. I don’t think that is the case because a lot of actors have come without romantic movies. I think it’s just a mindset of people and it is definitely changing now. A good script takes a movie forward and not a genre. Actors like Siddhant Chaturvedi from ‘Gully Boy’, people are loving him and his work in the movie. In the movie you don’t see him in any romantic angle so now I think it’s basically all about characters.

What do you think about the type of the movies we are making today and how good it is for the new comers?

I think at least from the time I’m born it has been the best time for Indian cinema as people are experimenting and just doing so good with the content. People are going ahead with the instinct and making films that are close to them. I think there is no better time than this to join the industry and start my career with films that are made with characters and not hero or heroine.

In future when you are offered scripts, do you have a specific genre you would like to work with?

Absolutely not! I would do any script that is good. I believe in content and that is why I won’t do movies by keeping in mind that I want to go ahead with a specific genre. I would do anything. My next ten films could be romantic if I get good scripts or maybe I would not do any romantic in the coming time but it all depends on the script and the combination between the director and the script.

Lastly, why do think people should go and watch this movie?

This movie has a very unique love story which will take you back in time plus no one can deny loving old school romance. The movie has to offer something or other to senior citizen, kids and youth. There is something for everyone one and that’s why I think every single person should go and watch the movie. Trade Magazine