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Shahab Ali on his romantic track with Samantha Akkineni in The Family Man 2: ‘It made Sajid human’

Actor Shahad Ali spoke about playing Sajid, the main villain in The Family Man season 2, working with Manoj Bajpayee and Samantha Akkineni, and what makes a Raj and DK project different.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
June 23, 2021 8:17:28 am
shahab ali sajid actor the family man 2 photosShahab Ali played the role of Sajid in the two seasons of The Family Man. (Photo: Instagram/shahab.thespian)

Actor Shahab Ali says his life has changed completely after playing Sajid in The Family Man. He, however, is at pains to say that unlike his character, he is a good boy in real life. “I was a little scared how people would accept this negative character. Now I’m getting messages that they might have disliked Sajid, but they loved me,” the actor shared.

After troubling Srikant Tiwari (Manoj Bajpayee) in the first season, Shahab played the parallel villain along with Samantha Akkineni’s Raji in The Family Man season 2 too. While he got praised for his onscreen silences that seethed with vengeance, the fate of his character did leave him a tad unhappy.

Shahab played the lead in musicals like Zangoora and Mughal-e-Azam before making a switch to camera. The Delhi boy got candid with indianexpress.com about being part of Raj and DK’s highly successful franchise for two seasons, working with biggies like Manoj Bajpayee and Samantha Akkineni and what lies ahead of him as an actor.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Excerpts:

How will you describe your life ever since The Family Man season 2 released?

I knew I had given my best to Sajid and expected the audience will like my work. But the response for both season two and Sajid is overwhelming. The audience is very intelligent. They notice how an actor transforms while performing. I’m also getting calls from people in the industry who I’ve looked upto.

Sajid was one of the main villains in season one as well. But the reception has been much better this time. What do you think changed for the character in season two that people are noticing you more?

Sajid’s character was getting established in season one and people had seen a streak of his aggression, which has gone several notches up this time. He is more menacing and his mission is more fearsome. There is also a softer side to Sajid with Raji. That’s why they liked my performance too.

the family man season two shooting photos Manoj Bajpayee’s Srikant Tiwari is out to nab Sajid played by Shahab Ali in the two seasons of The Family Man.

With a strong story arc, would you call Sajid a villain or an anti-hero?

When I see Sajid, there are certain things that disturb me. I don’t agree with his vengeful nature. That can never be justified. Secondly, I don’t agree with violence and what Sajid wishes to do with Dhriti. These things make him a villain. But because he has his own journey, suffering and reasons, he stays between an anti-hero and a villain. That’s the beauty of this show. Full credit to the writers to give Sajid that space.

So how was the reaction when Sajid was killed off in The Family Man 2?

People told me they felt heartbroken. I wondered why as he was a bad guy, so they should be happy. They told me they can’t imagine a season 3 without Sajid. Some fans also want to start a petition for his resurrection. They are giving ideas that maybe he was wearing a bullet proof jacket he survived (laughs).

I wish I got noticed a bit more in season one and received more love. When my death was going to be shot, I was very sad. I went to Krishna DK sir and asked if it was possible that Sajid escapes this sequence too, and then it becomes his trait that he always escapes from the hold of Srikant. He said this was Sajid’s peak, so now we cannot save him. Later I realised that he deserved to die with the kind of plans he had.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Shahab Ali (@shahab.thespian)

Take me back to you coming on board this web show and why Raj and DK cast you?

I think they wanted an innocent looking guy to keep the confusion about his reality. I remember they told me that in season two, there will be a lot more of Sajid. He’ll be the main antagonist. I was also happy to see his romantic track with Raji with some personal scenes where I got to showcase my acting prowess. Raj and DK prefer actors who have the caliber, even if they aren’t that big a name.

Raj and DK are brilliant at shooting single take long shots. And you lead one of the major sequences of rescuing Raji in the show. Take me through the entire process.

We had to rehearse a lot because even if one person’s timings goes off, you’ll have to reshoot it. It’s my favourite scene this season. I wasn’t a part of a similar one-take hospital scene in season one and I regretted that. But this time, I felt really lucky. I think we did 8-10 takes to get the shot right. There are mostly technical mistakes, like you don’t get the correct reaction on time. It was a very difficult sequence as we were shooting in Chennai’s intense heat, when half of the unit was unwell. But once we achieved it, it was a different level of satisfaction.

How do Raj and DK work in such synchronisation according to you?

Their camaraderie is incredible. I have never seen them clashing over an idea, though both of them are poles apart, and so is their working style. That’s where they complement each other. You’ll never feel any pressure around them. They know how to strike a balance with the actors too. Neither will they control you, not leave you unguarded. It’s rare to find a director duo like them.

You got to work with two of the biggest stars – Manoj Bajpayee and Samantha Akkineni. In fact most of your scenes are with Samantha. Did you feel lucky?

I consider myself the luckiest in this unit. I can write a book about what I learned from Manoj sir. I call him god of acting. The layers he puts in his performance and the way he transforms for every character, very few actors reach that level. It is all because of his hard work, struggle and journey. Just seeing him work is a learning experience. And if you get to do a scene with him, it’s a dream come true. The first time I met him was on the set of season one for the chase sequence in Kashmir. When he got to know that we have an NSD connect, our bonding got better.

With Samantha, initially I got a little intimidated. But we soon got comfortable because she made things easy. She is so professional and so focused. We never rehearsed together. We used to prepare separately and directly give our takes. Maybe that’s why our scenes are so natural.

Being an NSD passout with almost a decade of experience on stage, what did you bring on camera from your theatre background?

If I’m good on stage, doesn’t mean I’ll excel on camera too. One thing that I tried to follow is to be truthful in front of camera. Though I love Shah Rukh Khan and Govinda, I love Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Irrfan Khan too. Even if you don’t go to a drama school, your learning continues. And to sustain your craft, you need to keep improving yourself. A drama school teaches you that routine. Luckily, I was part of two of the biggest broadway shows in India. Zangoora came from a commercial space and marked the beginning of my Bollywood training. In Mughal-e-Azam I got to play Salim. No other director has taught me about acting as much as Feroz Abbas Khan sir did. Both Mughal-e-Azam and Zangoora were poles apart and brought versatility in me.

Going forward, would you miss Sajid in the next season of The Family Man?

My priority will be to do variety and good stuff because there’s a responsibility after a successful character. But actors like me don’t have the liberty to choose. So I need to decide from whatever comes to me and give my best. Yes, I’ll miss Sajid immensely. I don’t know how I’ll watch season 3. But I’m looking forward to seeing new actors and a new villain. I gave Raj and DK the option to create a twin brother of Sajid who wants to take revenge, so that I’m back (laughs). But, as Manoj sir puts it – I’m going to have a major FOMO!

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