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Being aware is his biggest asset, says actor Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, who views his role as an idealistic student leader in Tandav as perhaps the closest a character has come to resemble the person he really is – an artiste-activist looking to change society, not just his life.
The role of Shiva in Ali Abbas Zafar’s political show has many parallels with his life as a student in Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College, said the actor. Zeeshan believes it is important for artistes to engage with their surroundings.
“It’s quite close to what I am,” Ayyub told PTI when asked whether the role was tailor-made for him.
Be it through his plays, his recital of late research scholar Rohith Vemula’s letter or his participation in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests, the farmers’ protests or any other issue of the day, the 37-year-old speaks out. Making his presence felt on social media and other platforms at a time when many are scared of airing their views.
“Being aware is my biggest asset,” Ayyub said.
“I get affected and strongly believe if I stop getting affected by things around me, I won’t be an actor. If I can’t be sensitive towards my surroundings in real life, how can I justify my character and be aware of my surroundings as an actor and character?” said Ayyub, who has a dedicated fan following with his impressive turn in films such as Raanjhanaa, Shahid, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Raees and Article 15.
Being vocal on issues has affected him professionally, but that doesn’t really matter, he said, dismissing the notion that artistes should stay away from politics.
“Actors don’t come from another planet, they come from our society… It’s a wrong perception that artistes should not talk about politics. According to me, an actor has to be an activist. If you are not doing that, then what are you doing?
“Of course, it affects your career in a certain sense. But as I say, I don’t care. If I get seven scripts instead of 15, I am absolutely fine. The seven that I’m getting are automatically filtered, it makes my work easy.”
Ayyub was closely involved in his college’s dramatic society as was Zafar, his senior by a year. Zafar’s brief was simple — Shiva should have the anger and the passion that they used to have for politics, theatre and everything else.
A dialogue from the series that has gone viral quotes freedom fighter Bhagat Singh — when Shiva says the revolutionary taught youth to study but also to fight when the time came.
“Bhagat Singh is someone that everyone now wants to claim as their own. I don’t think they have read him properly, especially the right wing people,” Ayyub said. The dialogue, he added, was put in very deliberately as the show tries to break the notion that students should concern themselves only with studies and not take part in politics.
“Politics affects everything in your life, especially when you are in university. The kind of education and the kind of future you will be getting, everything is decided by the policy makers. If I’m a student and I’m going to be the future of this country, I should be aware of what’s happening around me.”