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Aasif Khan: Shah Rukh Khan and Irrfan Khan have been my biggest teachers

Aasif Khan has been slowly but gradually making his mark in the industry with his performances. He has some popular and hit projects to his credit including ‘Panchayat’, ‘Mirzapur’ and the very recent, ‘Human’. The actor has a line-up of some very interesting projects ahead of him. In an exclusive conversation with ETimes, Aasif opened up about the OTT space, actors he looks up to in the industry, contemporaries he admires and more. Excerpts…

You have been a part of some popular and hit films and projects. How do you look back at your journey so far?

I think it is too early for me to answer this question. I have just started my journey. But whatever I have done so far, be it a five-minute role or a one-hour role, people have appreciated and loved them. When I came to Mumbai, I knew I had to do good work. But I never imagined that I would get the opportunity of being a part of some great projects. I am grateful.

I am getting to explore diverse characters in every project. For people from non-film backgrounds, the projects choose them and it is not the other way around during their initial phase. Although I have not reached that point in my life where I can choose my projects, I have still managed to not get stereotyped. I have got characters of different shades to play. So it has been good so far.

You have worked with the likes of Akshay Kumar, Anushka Sharma, Sanya Malhotra, Pankaj Tripathi and others. Who according to you has been an absolute delight to work with?

I have had very small roles in these films. I played one of the reporters in ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’. I remember an interesting thing while shooting with Akshay sir. I was coming in front of the camera again and again so Akshay sir held me and made me stand on the side. As it was a crowd scene, I managed to make it back in front of the camera. With Anushka ma’am also I had one day of the shoot. I had a lot of fun with Pankaj sir on the sets of ‘Mirzapur’. I have developed a very close bond with Ali Fazal. I shot for a film titled, ‘Kakuda’ starring Riteish Deshmukh, Sonakshi Sinha and Saqib Saleem. I have had the best experience with them so far. We shot for the film for 2-3 months in Gujarat. We four were like a team on the set. We used to have so much fun that I used to not feel like going back to the hotel. Sonakshi, Saqib and I have become a family.

Is there any actor you look up to in the industry?

I look up to a lot of actors. My first inspiration was Shah Rukh Khan. I decided to become an actor and came to Mumbai after looking at him. The first place I visited in Mumbai as soon as I stepped foot in the city was Mannat. I did odd jobs for two years in Mumbai. I did not get any job as an actor as I had no formal training in acting. Later I went to Jaipur to do theatre. One of my friends there showed me ‘Haasil’. That film changed my perspective on acting. Irrfan Khan’s introduction in my life through ‘Haasil’ changed my life. Shah Rukh sir and Irrfan sir might not know this but they both have been my biggest teachers.

OTT has been a game-changer for actors and filmmakers in the industry….

There is a mainstream cinema and there is a parallel cinema. For me OTT mainstream cinema ki patri par bhaagne wali parallel cinema ki train hai. It is a mixture of both. You can sit in the comfort of your home and watch it without any inconvenience. In films, there are often censorship and guidelines. We have to keep in mind the age group we are catering to. It is not the case with OTT. Also, in films, there are just three central characters – the hero, the heroine and the villain. The others just come and go. However, in OTT due to an increase in hours, you can focus on every character. Actors like me have got a lot of opportunities on OTT. The way Indians make a film or a series has also changed after the introduction of OTT.

‘Human’ received appreciation from all sides. How was it being a part of the project and working with actors like Shefali Shah and Kirti Kulhari?

Most of the good projects I have bagged in my life have been accidental. I was shooting for a series when I got a call from the casting director of ‘Human’. I said no to the project as I was already shooting for some other thing. Vipul sir spoke to me directly and asked me to come and meet him whenever I am in Mumbai. I went to meet him and during the narration itself, I was sold. The most important thing for me is the story, and then comes the character and other things. It was India’s first medical thriller and I had to be a part of it.

I have been a huge fan of Shefali ma’am. Right from her film ‘Satya’ to ‘Delhi Crime’, her body of work is simply amazing. Unfortunately, I don’t have many scenes with her in ‘Human’. I shared a great bond with Kirti. We have become friends and often meet up with others at her house or at parties. I got to learn a lot from her.

You have been part of projects like, ‘Mirzapur’, ‘Panchayat’, ‘Pataal Lok’, and others. Which is that one project that is closest to your heart and why?

It is difficult for me to choose one project. All of my projects have equally contributed to who I am today. People say you got fame from ‘Mirzapur’. But it is not just that. People watch different content and they recognise you from there. You never know which project is contributing to your career.

From the recent generation of actors who do you think has the most potential?

I am not sure if they belong to the new generation or not but I absolutely love Ali Fazal and Fahad Faasil. The way they are working I believe that people are going to get to see some wonderful work.

Tell us something about your upcoming projects…

I have quite some projects lined up. One of them is an untitled film with Vicky Kaushal. I cannot share much detail about the film now but I am very excited about it. I am playing a very different character. I am equally excited for ‘Kakuda’. It is my first horror comedy. There are other series named, ‘Murder in Agonda’ and ‘Ghar Set Hai’ where I am the protagonist. In ‘Noorani Chehra’ with Nawazuddin sir, I am learning something new every day.

Source: Times of India