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Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub Discusses His Memorable Performance in Hansal Mehta’s Scoop – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Scoop | Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub on his standout act in Hansal Mehta’s Scoop

Hansal Mehta’s recent series, Scoop, has been a resounding success, with one standout performance being Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub’s portrayal of the righteous and ethical Imran. Zeeshan, who has previously received praise for his work in No One Killed Jessica, Raanjhanaa, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, and Article 15, has been overwhelmed by the positive feedback he has received for his performance in Scoop. In an interview with t2, he discusses the significance of awards, the praise he has received for his work, and what makes Imran such a standout character.

When asked about the recent award he received for Jogi, Zeeshan states that awards are not a validation for him, but rather the calls and appreciation he receives from his colleagues and friends. He believes that if his performances are praised by those who understand the depth and skills of acting, it assures him that he is on the right path. While awards may be important in the eyes of the public, Zeeshan acknowledges that there is a question mark on the authenticity of many awards, as they have so many categories that one gets tired at the end of it.

Zeeshan admits that the praise he has received for his performance in Scoop is perhaps the maximum he has received in recent times, with many of his seniors and contemporaries praising the basic nuances of his performance and what he has achieved as an actor in the series. He notes that people are loving the show and are taking out time to write 500-word essays about Imran, which has been overwhelming for him to read.

When asked what makes Imran such a standout character, Zeeshan explains that while Hansal Mehta had initially expressed concern that Imran could come off as boring due to his righteousness, he believes that Imran is resonating with the audience because he is human. Imran is someone who doesn’t scream to make himself heard, but calmly and silently conveys what’s wrong with society. Zeeshan acknowledges that there are similarities between him and Imran, as he also believes in the principles that Imran stands for and tries to follow them.

Zeeshan’s portrayal of Imran is packed with nuances, which viewers have picked up on, such as Imran’s limp and the way he looks at his phone without his glasses. Zeeshan notes that Imran is perhaps the most dignified character he has played so far in his career, and Hansal is happy with the dignity he has brought to the character.

Finally, when asked if the praise for Scoop has translated into offers or feelers from the industry, Zeeshan states that it is definitely a turning point for him, and he is getting positive vibes from producers and directors who are comparing his performance to that of many stalwarts. While there are no new offers yet, Zeeshan believes that the doorbell will ring soon.

Hansal Mehta’s Scoop is an all-round winner, and among the show’s standout performances, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub is being unanimously singled out. The actor — who started out as the antagonist in No One Killed Jessica and has since made a mark in every project he has been a part of — is receiving overwhelming praise for his portrayal of the righteous and ethical Imran in the Netflix series. t2 chatted with Zeeshan, as he is popularly known, to gauge what’s worked for Imran as a character and for him as an actor.

Congratulations on the recent award for Jogi. What significance do awards have in validating your work?

I don’t think it’s any sort of validation for me. For me, what’s more important is the calls I get from my colleagues — whether it’s a Manoj Bajpayee, Vidya Balan, Naseer saab (Naseeruddin Shah). When these kinds of people, as well as my friends like Rajkummar (Rao), Jaideep (Ahlawat) and Vijay (Varma), appreciate me, that’s the kind of assurance I seek. It tells me that I am on the right path. These are the people who understand the depth and skills of acting… if they praise my performances, then it assures me that what I tried to do has been communicated.

At the same time, awards, in the eye of the public, are important. When you get an award, then people say: ‘Oh, then that means this was a very good performance.’ In that sense, I wouldn’t say that awards are not important at all. But then, there is also a question mark on the authenticity of many awards. Most of the awards have so many categories that one gets tired at the end of it! (Laughs)

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You have done some extremely credible work over the last few years. But would you say that the praise for your performance in Scoop is perhaps the maximum you have received in recent times?

Yes, it is. Too much overwhelming response from really good actors I haven’t got anything before. For Scoopthey are talking to me at length… they are talking about the basic nuances of my performance and what I have achieved as an actor in Scoop. That has come in from my seniors. My contemporaries are like: ‘Yaar, tu ne kuch toh naya nikaala hain iss performance my. Kuch toh nayi baat hain’ (laughs). Even Huma (Qureshi) told me that recently.

Actually, I have always got calls of appreciation for my performances… whether it was Raanjhanaa or Tanu Weds Manu Returns or Article 15… Irrfan sir had called me then. But with Scoopit’s become a whole collective… everyone has been calling or messaging.

What’s been the most special feedback for Imran that’s come in from viewers?

There are so many. People are just loving the show. In the beginning, there was some speculation that all viewers may not warm to Scoop because there is so much English and Gujarati in it… that it may not penetrate into the B-centres. In the first week since the show was released, I mostly got calls from journalists and industry people. But after that, it’s been all across the board.

At the cost of sounding immodest, I must tell you that people are loving Imran! (Smiles) I just can’t explain… it’s so overwhelming reading the messages I am getting. I have even got teary-eyed reading some of them. People are taking out time to write 500-word essays about Imran.

The most beautiful thing is that I am getting calls from a lot of journalists. Again this may sound like I am praising myself, but so many of them have told me that seeing Imran’s strong ethics has made them realise how far they have come away from the basic principles and ethics of journalism. This even came from big editors, and it was really overwhelming to hear that. I believe that if your work makes a difference to even two people then you have achieved a lot. For Imran, it’s so much more.

What do you think makes Imran such a standout character?

When we started out, Hansal (Mehta, creator and director of Scoop) had told me that given that he is so righteous, there is a chance that Imran could come off as boring. He has no shades of grey. That stayed with me. I think why Imran is resonating with the audience is because he is human. Also, it was a very conscious decision to make him someone who doesn’t scream to make himself heard. In a world where everyone around is so in your face and they are screaming out their politics and agendas, you suddenly find a person like Imran who is sitting calmly and saying: ‘No, I will not do anything wrong and I will not let you do anything wrong.’ Imran calmly and silently conveys what’s wrong with society and he is an example of what the show, as a whole, stands for.

Do you think the character is resonating so much with the viewer because he is an extension of you? You speak up against what you believe is wrong, you have an opinion and a voice and you don’t cow down in the face of opposition…

I don’t know if it has resonated because of that but it has definitely worked because of it. There are quite a few similarities, I won’t deny that. I do believe in the principles that Imran stands for and I try and follow them. That has also been reflected in my performance.

Acting is about talking to your subconscious. The basic idea of acting is that you create something in your subconsciousness and that travels to the audience’s subconsciousness. That’s why after watching a good performance, you will often hear people say: ‘The performance and the character stayed with me.’ Touching the audience’s subconsciousness only happens if there is a certain honesty in your performance and the way you approach it. Me playing the role of Imran was a very good marriage in that sense. But it was not about Zeeshan playing this character; it was about a person who believes in these principles playing this character.

Your portrayal of Imran is packed with nuances. What have viewers caught on the most?

So many! Chhoti chhoti cheese have been picked up. Imran is much older than me and since he has been an editor for many years, he has a sedentary job… he hasn’t been in the field for years. So when he gets up from his chair, you can see a kind of limp ya kamar seedhi hone mein he takes a little time. It’s not that he isn’t sharp, it’s just that age is showing up in his movements. People have noticed that and written in.

Also, when Imran doesn’t wear his glasses, he looks at his phone by holding it at a distance Why do you wear glasses to look at the rain?. Viewers have picked that up too. His body language, the way he looks, his pauses before he speaks, the hidden warmth in him… everyone has so much to say.

On Instagram, people have written about the warmth and dignity that Imran has when he comforts Jaideb Sen’s wife after he has been murdered. It’s a wide shot and yet people have noticed my changing expressions in it.

Imran is perhaps the most dignified character I have played so far in my career. He belongs to a certain class of society and he has a lot of authority. Hansal is happy with the dignity I have brought to Imran.

Has the praise for Scoop translated into offers or even feelers from the industry?

This is definitely a turning point. Makers now know that I can pull off characters. Feelers too much. I am getting calls from producers and directors and they are comparing my performance to that of many stalwarts, Kabhi kabhi woh sunn ke main chup ho jaata hoonit’s a lot for me to take in. I am getting some very positive vibes. Honestly, there are no new offers after Scoopbut it feels like there will be. The doorbell will ring soon.

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