Last summer, in Hawa Hawaaii, Saqib Saleem played the role of a skating coach to a boy who dreams about becoming a champion. In real life, Saleem is easy and laid-back, someone who lets life run at its own pace. “I was playing cricket in Delhi, although I knew I was never good enough to be part of the Indian cricket team. Apart from that I was happy modelling and doing fashion shows. I knew nothing about acting. I seriously think I am god’s own child. Acting wasn’t the first thing I planned,” says Saleem, who is in the city for a two-week theatre workshop for his forthcoming projects.
Saleem moved to Mumbai, not in pursuit of fame, but to live with his then girlfriend. Though she dumped him within a month, Saleem started auditioning for roles. Three months later, he landed his first break with Yash Raj in Mujhse Fraandship Karoge (2011).
After four years in the industry, Saleem has built a reputation as a reliable actor, who can pull of a variety of characters. Be it his debut film about the pitfalls of our social networking habits in Mujhse…; a homosexual character in Bombay Talkies (2013); or a good-for-nothing son who loses his dad’s brand new car in Mere Dad ki Maruti (2013), Saleem has always tried to keep it fresh.
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As Saleem sits in his Greater Kailash residence, sporting a pair of dark shades because of an all-night birthday celebration on his 27th, he talks about gearing up for Prawaal Raman’s Zahhak, the official Hindi remake of Hollywood sci-fi thriller Oculus, opposite sister Huma Qureshi. It is about a boy who is wrongly convicted of killing someone, while there are supernatural forces at play.
Saleem has been staying with his sister for four years at their apartment in Shastri Nagar, Goregaon. “We (Huma and I) have never shot together for a film. Earlier, we were never that close. But over the years being in the same industry we have begun sharing a lot more. Huma comes from a theatre background. She performed with Delhi group Act One, while I would stand around watching her theatre rehearsals. I have never learned acting, I was more into sports,” he says. Saleem worked as a part-time kitchen supervisor at his family-run restaurant Saleem’s, at the India Islamic Centre, before leaving that midway.
Over time Saleem has become more involved in acting. He swears by Barry Pineo’s guide Acting that Matters, and calls Aditya Chopra regularly for any “acting-related advice”. “I think I have a better understanding now about technique such as method acting and laying emphasis on emotions,” he says.
In the city, Saleem will be visiting juvenile homes with the NGO Prayas, to prepare for his character in Zahhak. Since his character gets punished for a crime at an early age, Saleem wants to spend time with juveniles and understand their behaviour and the pressures they face.