Saqib Saleem Qureshi is an Indian actor and model. He was recently seen in the movie ’83’ portraying the essential role of former vice-captain of India, Mohinder Amarnath. Saqib shares his experience of how his childhood dream of becoming a cricketer turned true through this movie.
Q-: After Ranveer Singh’s performance your performance is the one that is most talked about. How is it feeling after receiving all the reviews, and comments?
A: I don’t know how to feel, I have never received so much love. I have been working in this industry for a decade, I have done a few good films, I have done films that people didn’t like but the kind of response and love I’m getting for this movie feels like this is the first time I have done something good in my life because the kind of messages from the people who have never messaged me, messages from my college friends. I have never been so much loved and appreciated by the audiences and critiques.
I am happy like you said my performance is being spoken about as an actor it makes me feel very happy. Whatever time and efforts I and my entire team have put into this movie is being discussed and appreciated by the audience, heartwarming and it melts my heart, I still don’t know how to express this feeling, I have never experienced this before.
Q-: You shared a video of your hugging Mohinder Amarnath on the day of the screening of the movie on Instagram; we all were able to grab the emotions and gratitude you and Jimmy sir were captured sharing. We know you had to go through tough physical training and put down some weight to enact him, but how were you able to portray Jimmy sir emotionally so accurately. How did you train yourself to enact exactly those sentiments depicted in the movie?
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A: I would say, by luck (tukka lag gaya). Obviously, I worked hard but I think cinema magic also worked for me. The magic that filmmakers have brought into this movie. I have put in close to a year and a half in this movie, I had to lose weight, I was weighing 88 kg when I signed this film, and 78 kgs when I started shooting. I don’t think this is something that should be much talked about, the industry has evolved a lot, and actors are so professional these days, people are noticing this it is nice but it is normal.
The important part was to emotionally connect to the character that I was playing. I was fortunate enough that I got to spend a lot of time with Jimmy sir. I spent about 3,4 weeks with him. He came to Dharamshala during our cricket camp, Bombay and London for the shoot. Throughout that time my core objective was to understand that person. As my director, Kabir sir said, “you don’t have to mimic your character, you have to imbibe it”. All I tried was to understand the thought process and personality of Jimmy sir.
I remember, in Bombay, we (me and other actors) were practicing for the shoot and we went for a cup of tea with Jimmy sir, and there I asked him, “Jimmy sir, When Michael Holding, Joel Gardner, Malcolm Marshall bowl you, what you used to think?”, he looked at me and said, “Dear, if I think anything I would miss the bowl, there’s no time to think when you are facing a bowl.” I realized the man that day. The man is all process, hard work, discipline.
I have said it enough but I don’t think it’s enough, I will keep repeating all my life that playing Mohinder Amarnath has made me a better person. It has brought focus and determination into my life. I really enjoyed and loved playing Jimmy sir, and to get inside him I started meditating a lot because I believe I’m a bit hyper in my life, I want to do so many things and Jimmy sir is a person who lives in the present, all he thinks is about the current moment. As he mentioned once when Michael Holding used to bowl I never thought anything, I used to carefully observe his hand swings and movements.
I understood that his power of concentration is very high, and to portray that I have to reach that level. I gradually started to find Jimmy inside me, and that is a great achievement for any actor to find his character in him. Like I said at the beginning of this answer I have been a little fortunate as well, I was lucky enough that I could portray it this way.
And last but not the least, teamwork. As Jimmy sir says nobody wins a World Cup on its own, it’s a collective effort of a team. My entire team has worked so hard that I forgot their real names and identities and could recognise them through their character. Ranveer literally became Kapil for me, Hardy Sandhu became Madan Lal, Jatin became Yashpal Sharma, and so on. When you see your team and everybody around you putting their best, you yourself are forced to put more than you could.
Q-: In the movie lot of nostalgia and other historic moments have been recreated, what was your favourite part of the movie, and why? (Except for the world cup winning one, as it itself is a moment that is cherished whenever seen)
A: This entire movie and everything related to it is my favourite. This movie is the highlight of my life. I was trained for cricket till I reached college, and during that time I realized that I like cricket but I’m not good enough to represent my country in this field, through this movie I lived my dream of becoming a cricketer, not just that, I got a chance to recreate history on the screen to win the World Cup.
Whenever I sit alone, I introspect, if I had pursued my career in cricket would I have been able to win World Cup, be the man of the match in the finals and semi-finals, be the vice-captain of India. This movie has made all of this true and has given me a chance to live a life of a cricketer.
This has been a high point in life to be a part of a movie like this. This movie celebrates the most Important and glorious chapters of Indian history. This movie shows how winning a world cup brought the country respect and pride around the globe. It made India a champion. And I tell you, when we were shooting those world cup matches, we didn’t think we are shooting, we used to think that we are going to play the match. We literally thought all this is for real.
For me, this movie is the best shooting experience of my life. I can pinpoint thousands of such moments that are close to me.
Q-: In the movie, the Jimmy-Kapil bond has been carefully portrayed. It is showed how much trust Kapil paaji has in Jimmy sir. Your on-screen bond with Ranveer has beautifully been depicted, how has been your off-screen bond with him? How has been your experience working with Ranveer Singh?
A: Everyone knows Ranveer, not just in the country he has a fan following outside the country. He is so talented. I think he is the best actor in this generation. He is so good. I personally feel he is not just an amazing actor but a down-to-earth, easy and lovely person. He is cooperative and giving as well. In the film, the equation is like I am the senior one and he is junior, but in real life, he is bada bhai and I’m chota bhai.
He has helped me a lot throughout the film. He is someone everybody likes. Despite the fact that he already is a well-established name he wants to collaborate with others. An amazing actor who has helped me grow as an artist. I am really thankful to him.
Q-: Due to the pandemic each and every being has suffered on its own. Recently, we heard disturbing news from Jharkhand where a young shooting champion committed suicide. As you said you have been in sports for a long time you can understand better how difficult it is to handle everything being a sportsperson, what message you would like to convey to those who are pursuing their career in this field?
A: All I want to say is it is just a difficult time. We still are in a middle of a pandemic. The actual victory of this pandemic will be if we all survive. We already are doing our best to fight it, but there are situations that cannot be controlled. In those times what we individually can do is to stay strong and keep our mental health in check.
We in our country neglect mental health and issues related to it. People still believe that mental health doesn’t matter, which is so unfortunate. Especially for sportsperson, maintaining physical training and other activities causes a lot of stress and mental instability. It is very important for people related to sports to understand that their mental and emotional stability impacts their performance.
Those who end up committing suicide lose the battle with their mental problems. They give up. And the biggest thing for a sportsperson is to never give up. Send out my prayer for those who have lost their loved ones.
I want to give my message to every sportsperson and countryman that we all are together in this fight against corona. We all are together in it, irrespective of caste, gender, religion, and any other thing, we all are suffering and we all are together. And the victory will be if we could survive this.
Please stay strong, make your close ones standing next to you, and show empathy, help other people the way you can.