From playing the college lecturer in the 1989 campus serial "Chunauti" to the aging suspicious loyal Pakistani house-help in Meghna Gulzar's hit "Raazi", actor Arif Zakaria has come a long way. He says the Alia Bhatt-starrer has taught him the importance of being a part of a successful film.
"Time has just flown by. My passion for acting remains undiminished. I am still very active, though the roles in films have lately been a few and far between. I've done interesting parts in Vikram Bhatt's 'Haunted' and an upcoming film on Down's Syndrome, 'Ahaan'. I also play a key role in a new Rani Laxmibai biopic... No, not the one featuring Kangana Ranaut. This is another film entitled 'Swords and Sceptres'," said Arif.
It is his role as Abdul, the staunchly loyal retainer in "Raazi", that has once again brought Arif's powerful acting skills into the limelight.
As the praise pours in, Arif said: "It is difficult to say what would work and what wouldn't. But 'Raazi' has made me realise how important it is to be part of a successful film. Only when a film succeeds, does your performance get noticed. I am so glad I did this film."
Just how did "Raazi" happen?
"When I approached Meghna, she told me Abdul was the role for me. It was an important character because through Abdul, the protagonist's true identity (of an Indian spy) is exposed."
In fact, in real life, Abdul's brutal murder by the protagonist Sehmat haunted her to the extent that she chose to settle down in the place that Abdul came from in the hope of coming to terms with her deed.
"Yes, I play a catalyst in the drama. And that enthused me. It was also refreshing that though I play Pakistani, I am portrayed as a man of great integrity. This rarely happens in Hindi cinema."
Currently, Arif is also in a controversial biopic on Guru Nanak.
"It is produced by Harinder Sikka, who wrote the novel 'Calling Sehmat' which is the source material for the film 'Raazi'. Sikka's Guru Nanak biopic 'Nanak Shah Fakir' has got itself into trouble with the Akal Takht. I play Bhai Mardana. The film has offended some sections of the Sikhs. So I don't know what's happening to it," Arif said.
He refuses to see "Raazi" as a new beginning in his career.
"I never stopped acting. I am constantly searching for roles that challenge me. I am currently doing a play 'Gardish Mein Sitare', which explores the marriage of filmmaker Guru Dutt with singer Geeta Dutt. I love portraying dark and unfathomable characters... The darker the better."