Zaheer Iqbal on being Salman Khan’s protege and what makes Notebook the ideal debut film

Everything he’s (Salman Khan) taught me I don’t think anyone else could have, says Zaheer

  • Published 3.04.19, 8:34 PM
  • Updated 3.04.19, 8:34 PM
  • 3 mins read
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Salman Khan and Zaheer Iqbal @BeingSalmanKhan

Salman Khan’s discovery Zaheer Iqbal has entered the world of films with Notebook, that’s currently playing in theatres. The film is produced by Salman Khan Films and also marks the debut of Mohnish Bahl’s daughter and Nutan’s granddaughter Pranutan. t2 caught up with Zaheer to talk about his ‘keeda’ of acting and what he’s learnt from Salman.

The story of Salman Khan discovering you at your sister’s wedding is fairly well known. But before that, were you always interested in acting in films?

I always had the keeda. I was always part of the drama team in college. In fact, I had actually dropped out of my BMS course at NM College to start working with my father. And then I got a call from college that they wanted me to do a play for an inter-college competition... so I joined college again. They needed a director, so my best friend, who also has the keeda, also joined back! (Laughs)

Both of us promised ourselves that before we die, we have to do at least one film. We always joked that I’ll make a few buildings for my father’s construction business, save some money and then produce a film that I’ll act in and he’d direct. I remember, every time we’d be going out partying and I’d spend hours getting dressed and he would make fun of me. I would tell him that what if Salman, Shah Rukh or Karan Johar spot me at the party and said, ‘Yaar iss ladke mein kuch baat hai. Isey launch karna chahiye’.…

Which is exactly what happened at your sister’s wedding!

It was crazy. Like maybe I put out that wish into the universe and someone heard me. I happened to be there at the right place at the right time and I genuinely wanted to do something with acting and performing, and I was lucky enough that Salman bhai was there. I got off the stage and he told me that I belong in front of the camera and should become an actor. 

Do you remember how you reacted in that moment when Salman said that?

At first, I thought I couldn’t really hear him because we were at the Sangeet and the music was very loud. Suddenly, I heard him saying that I would need to work really hard on my body and train to become an actor. And that’s when I realised that he had already said that he was going to launch me. I thought he was joking! He told me to meet him after the wedding was over. Three days later, I met his trainer and started working out and one month after that, I started training in acting and then become a assistant director on Jai Ho (starring Salman).

That was about six years ago. What is the one thing you’ve learnt from being around Salman that nobody else could have taught you?

Everything he’s taught me I don’t think anyone else could have. The one that stands out the most is how to treat and respect people. I have never seen him disrespect anyone even a little bit. He is just always courteous and caring. Someone at his level could easily get away with doing a lot, but not him.

Why did you want to do Notebook?

It’s unconventional. I love the fact that there are so many kids in the film. I love kids, I get along very well with them; I’m the official babysitter in my family. I didn’t want a typical launch where people look at the trailer and say this is one more showreel of some actor for directors and producers to take him in their next film, and that eventually he’ll do a content-based film with a nice director. Pranutan and I have been very lucky to be a part of a film that is both commercial and has great content.

And now the most important question.What’s going on with Sonakshi Sinha and you? There are all kinds of rumours doing the rounds.

(Laughs) Absolutely nothing. If Aayush (Sharma, actor and Salman’s brother-in-law) was a girl or I was a girl, they would be teasing us as well because we’re so close! We’re all good friends and hang around Galaxy (Apartments, Salman’s home) together, we all meet at parties. In my experience, rumours are mostly baseless.

Has Salman given you any advice on how to deal with this aspect of your career?

Bhai has trained us. He’s told us that if you sit and be affected by everyone and what they think, you’ll make a mess of your mind. I was telling him how I was reading the comments on the trailer and he told me not to. If you’re doing it because you’re excited, it’s fine but don’t take it so seriously and be affected by something someone says. He also told me to tell my mom not to read this stuff because she won’t understand that everyone will say something... there are trolls and she doesn’t get all that. 

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