Zain Khan Durrani makes a very strong impact in Onir’s Kuch Bheege Alfaaz as a poetic romantic dreamer RJ with a guilty secret. A Kashmiri by birth, Zain’s command over the Urdu language and his pitch-perfect performance are a surprise. He opens up in an interview with Subhash K Jha
Tell me about yourself where does this intensity on screen come from?
I believe it’s a lot to do with the character I am asked to play. I have always been an emotional person and that got me to write the poetry I do. Maybe growing up in Kashmir does have a bearing on the emotional aspect of my personality as well.
Were you always interested in acting?
I grew up watching movies with my Father on the VCR, right from Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, to Ben Hur, to Do Bheega Zameenand right down to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. I didn’t see a movie on the big screen until Swades in Jammu owing to the fact that there are none in Kashmir. But I think this mode of self-expression was coveted by me deep down within always.
Tell me about your background and childhood?
My father is a doctor and my mother a professor of psychology. I grew up with an elder sister who is now abroad. Studied in Burn Hall school in Srinagar and did my university studies from Zakir Hussain College(Delhi) in commerce.
As a Kashmiri what are your thoughts on the violence in the Valley and the violent times we live in?
The worst part about growing up in a tumultuous and politically unstable state is that you insidiously get used to the violence around. Almost impermeable but scared and disconcerted within.
How did you get Kuch Bheege Alfaaz?
It’s been a process of three years in Bombay. I came to Bombay by a stroke of destiny in 2014, when a random audition call landed me at the auditions of Onir’s Shab, in Delhi. Onir liked my work and asked me to assist him on Shab. I spent my time learning and auditioning all of this while until Onir mentioned KBA to me and that I had to undergo auditions again with FTC (production house F The Couch)and that I did. Only when the producers liked me did Onir tell me that he always wanted me to do the role.
What was it like working with Onir?
Onir is a thorough professional. His emotional intelligence and skills are exceptional. While it’s my first movie I was never made to feel that way. He has an in-depth approach and he includes aspects of the personal life of his actors in the characters they are portraying thereby making the process much more sustainable for his actors.
Did you have to work hard on that excellent voice modulation?
I had taken singing classes very briefly when I first came to Bombay. But for the preparation of the role, it was plainly about feeling the emotions and visualizing the story while delivering it.
In the film you are shown to have no qualms in befriending and falling in love with a girl who has a skin ailment would you react the same way in real life to a similar situation?
I have come to believe that a beautiful face will wither and an intelligent mind can decay, but the soul is where the beauty resides and I want to be cherished for that and hence I wouldn’t want any thing less than that for my loved one.
Tell me about your future plans?
I want to be able to do a wide variety of roles. Content is the new king as it should be so the kind of work that excites me as an audience is what I’d like to be a part of as an actor as well.