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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Zaheer Iqbal Talks Life After Notebook

Zaheer Iqbal is the handsome hunk who impressed many of us in Nitin Kakkar’s directorial Notebook which is backed by Salman Khan.

The film is about an ex-army officer Kabir (Zaheer) who comes back to Kashmir to be a schoolteacher.

The school is situated in the middle of the remote Wuller Lake, lacking basic amenities like running water and electricity, attended by just a handful of students.

At the school, one day, Kabir finds a notebook, left behind by the previous year’s teacher Firdaus (Pranutan) and that changes his entire life.

After an impactful debut, Filme Shilmy caught up with the 30-year-old actor whilst on his London vacation.

Congratulations on getting a positive critical reception for Notebook. How satisfied are you with this as a debutant actor?

I’m so proud of the film that I’ve chosen to do as my first one.

It’s a movie that I’ll be proud to tell my grandkids!

Unfortunately, the box-office numbers have not quite lived up to expectations. In what way has this affected you?

It is sad. But usually when a film releases, there are numerous factors which impact the number of people that come.

One does feel sad that such a beautiful film and story with such great performances was not seen by enough people.

But I’m still very positive that it’ll get the love that it deserves once it is out on digital media.

I think it is more important that people watch the film regardless.

I’m just so glad that the film has been loved by the people who watched it.

So what have you been up to post the film?

I have been meeting people and taken some time off because I feel that I’ve slogged for six years and not had a holiday plus I could not really eat food.

I had to go back and do the cardio workout on holidays. I had finally taken a break for a week and come to London just to relax.

Once I’m back in Mumbai, I would like to get back to work and in the meantime I’m also reading a lot of scripts.

Whilst I’m here, I’m just reading the scripts and trying to figure out what I want my next project to be.

None (so far) have really grabbed my attention. The names behind the projects have, but not so much the scripts.

You’ve now become a public figure. So how has the celebrity life been for you so far?

Fantastic, I love it!

I get so excited someone asks me for a picture, it gets me as excited as the first time someone asked me.

There have been no crazy fan moments as per se.

But someone on Instagram said that “I want to marry your nail”, which I thought was strange!

What style of roles are you now keen to explore?

I want to do unconventional roles.

A few years down the line, I want people to go watch my film thinking that “Zaheer’s film is releasing, It’s going to be different, let’s go see it.”

A lot of roles I’ve been getting now are the quiet types of a boy-next-door. I don’t want to do a film that is similar to Kabir from Notebook.

I want to do some commercial cinema – with full-on dancing and action.

Given that there are several actors who have or will be making their debut, what is your view on the so-called ‘competition’ out there?

I always say that may God bless everyone.

There are 21 films releasing this year, which means there could be 21 blockbusters, so I hope everyone does well.

There’s enough work for everyone in the industry and for everyone to co-exist.

Plus, if all 21 films and actors do well, it would be great to be a part of that history!

What do you miss the most about Notebook and why?

I miss spending time with Nitin sir the most and that man is a great storyteller.

Salman Bhai told me to go and spend time with him for a couple of weeks and he got to understand me.

I used to go for 2-3 weeks for a couple of hours. I ended up going for a lot longer, about 7 months, 8 hours straight.

I used to silently hear the man speak and it taught me so much about life. I feel like I’ve grown as a person whilst hanging out with him for the last year.

That’s what I miss the most. But as soon as I’m back I’d like to catch up with him.

Here’s wishing Zaheer all the very best for his forthcoming projects!

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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