Spending a few moments with actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub is enough to notice the uncanny resemblance between his off-screen persona and Murari,the irreverent,quick-witted,fast talking Hindu pandit he plays in Raanjhanaa. In person too,one notices a similar cavalier individual. The role is pretty much like me in real life. My acting teacher from college,who saw the film,immediately associated me with it. So enacting the character was not much of an effort for me. Having said that,the role was very powerful for me, says Ayyub,as he negotiates with a security guard at the entrance of Kirori Mal College,his alma mater.
The 32-year-old did a Bachelors in Science from Delhi University before giving up his aspirations of becoming a computer engineer,in pursuit of full-time theatre. The gamble seems to have paid off well.
In Raanjhanaa, Ayyubs character mouths witty one-liners at every possible instance to his best friend Kundan (played by Dhanush). Besides the brilliant dialogue writing by Himanshu Sharma,most of Ayyubs dialogues in the film were spontaneous. Himanshu knows me from college. He knows how I speak and react to situations. He gave me a free hand to modify dialogues as per the situation, says Ayyub,a pass out from National School of Drama. Ayyub cannot be more pleased by the response he has received from critics and friends alike,though this is not his first movie.
Ayyub debuted in 2011 as the infamous Manu Sharma in Rajkumar Guptas No One Killed Jessica, a character which he admits he enjoyed performing because of the depth of the role. Later that year,he essayed the role of Imran Khans best friend in Mere brother Ki Dulhan,before Jannat 2 happened. But the most creative gratification has come after Raanjhanaa. Things have improved on the work front. I am getting more calls and offers. After Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, I started consciously searching for character roles. I did not want to be anybodys sidekick, he says.
Born and brought up in Delhis congested Okhla village area,Ayyubs sensibilities were honed from an early age to appreciate different kinds of communities and realities. I have grown up in an immigrant colony. My father is from Meerut and my mother comes from a strict Brahmin family in Daryaganj,Old Delhi. From an early age I was used to different accents and I was really intrigued by that,so I started observing different tonal qualities, says Ayyub,whose parents were both prominent Delhi theatre actors.
Ayyub is yet to sign a new movie. He is awaiting the release of the Hansal Mehta directed real-life inspired drama, Shahid (based on lawyer and human rights activist Shahid Azmi,who had been defending a key accused in the 26/11 case when he was shot dead),where he essays a supporting actors role.