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Stereotypical hero not my aspiration: Arif Zakaria

By Viral Bhayani, IANS

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He loves unconventional roles. And sure enough, after playing a eunuch, Arif Zakaria now stars as a Bharatanatyam dancer in a new film.

Arif ZakariaTo do justice to his role in "Dance Like A Man", an English film by Pamela Rooks that is being released Friday, Arif took classical dancing training for four months.

"The stereotypical hero is not my aspiration. Firstly, I do not have the looks and secondly, a hero has to just run around trees and play goodie," Arif told IANS.

"It is character roles that give you a chance where you can exhibit a lot more in terms of emotions and acting," he says.

A Bandra boy from St Andrews School, Arif went to college to have loads of fun. He had no plans of taking up a career in acting.

"I'm the prodigal Bandra boy who has lived his life at Almeida road," says Arif.

While in Sydenham College he would act in plays. He was a member of the Dramatic Society of Sydneham College, Mumbai.

Once Sanjeev Bhattacharya, a television producer came to their college, looking for the cast of a new venture of his.

He too went for the audition and was chosen. The serial, "Chunauti", became a runaway hit and so did its cast, including Arif.

One thing led to another and he found himself doing many projects. Television and theatre gave way to films and he went on to do one role after another, playing myriad characters.

He got many accolades for his superb performance in Kalpana Lajmi's "Darmiyan", in which he played a eunuch.

Some of his TV serials besides "Chunauti" are "Campus", "Dhund", "Hamrahi", "Mrityudand" and "Amaanat".

His latest release, "Dance Like A Man", co-stars Sobhana of "Mitr" fame and Anoushka Shankar.

"I had to learn bharatanatyam. That was the tough part. I learnt it from Bandra-based Deepak Majumdar for four to five months before shooting started," he says.

But dancing with an expert like Sobhana who plays his wife was a greater challenge for him. Shot in Bangalore for 30 continuous days, the movie was well appreciated at the Toronto film festival.

The story revolves around Ratna and Jairaj, two exponents of bharatanatyam who are past their prime and who put up with Jairaj's authoritarian father who believes that dance is the craft of sex workers.

Two decades later, when their daughter Lata brings her fiancÚ Vishal to meet her parents, Vishal acts as a catalyst to unravel the dark secrets of the family's relationship and its generational conflicts.

"I am the protagonist, the man who dances. It deals with my relationships with my dad, played by Mohan Agashe, and my daughter, played by Anoushka Shankar.

"What was interesting was that Sobhana and I play both the young and the old couple, unlike the (original) play where the roles were done by different actors."

"I'm also very excited about Shyam Benegal's 'Netaji' in which I play the role of Gurbax Singh Dhillon," he says.


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