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'I faced a lot of rejection to get here'

November 28, 2023 15:33 IST

'We audition for 99 projects, and get rejected 98 times!'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Zeyn Shaw/Instagram

Zeyn Shaw is best known for playing Veer Ahuja in Netflix's hit show, Class.

After going through a fair bit of struggle, he bagged a role in his first feature film,Farrey.

"I was told three years ago, that I will never make it," Zeyn tells Contributor Mohnish Singh. "I was told my accent would work against me, the way I look is going to work against me, but I have done two projects after those comments."

Were you apprehensive about taking up this role because it may remind us of your character in Class?

I locked this film way before Class came out. It must have been eight months before Class released.

I did not know Class would become what it became, obviously.

In Farrey, Prateik is a spoilt, rich kid and that's the only similarity. Otherwise, Prateik is a complete goofball. He is full of energy and is funny.

Of course, apprehensions will be there a little bit, right? You will also think of things like typecasting, and that people will say negative stuff.

But honestly, one and-a-half years ago, if you had said Class is going to be a big hit, and then we will have a theatre release and the character will be similar, I would have chopped off two legs and done it!

I am very grateful.

I did not speak a word of Hindi. I lived abroad for 12-13 years.

I used to talk like an American so when I came back, I toned down my accent.

I was telling my co-star Sahil Mehta that in my first ever meeting with casting directors, they would be like, 'You are never going to make it here.'

It's easy to play it cool, but you think about these things at night.

I faced a lot of rejection to get here.

Sometimes people ask what kind of projects I will choose. I wish I had the luxury of choosing projects.

We audition for 99 projects, and get rejected 98 times!

So I am super happy to be in this position.


IMAGE: Sahil Mehta, Zeyn Shaw, Alizeh Agnihotri and Prasanna Bisht in Farrey.

Your co-star in Farrey is Salman Khan's niece, Alizeh Agnihotri. How do you feel about your struggle versus star kids?

Being a star kid, this whole stigma of 'Oh, they have everything easy' is going to be there.

Obviously, they have guaranteed movies.

But I have known Alizeh for a while and have seen her interest in cinema.

She did not choose what family to be born in, right?

It's bizarre to me.

Nepotism exists in every industry.

I come from a privileged family in Delhi. What was the plan? Go get a college degree, which will mean nothing, and go and work for my dad and inherit his success. That's nepotism, right?

I just never wanted to do that.

If you talk to Alizeh, work with her and get to know her, you will realise that she is not a star kid.

We pull her leg all the time, we bully her, we make so much fun of her. Even the character she plays is far away from who she really is.


IMAGE: A scene from Farrey.

How was your experience of working on Farrey?

Soumendra Padhi sir gives you space and tells you to do whatever the hell you want.

There were days when we would come to the workshop and wonder, 'What are we doing? How many times are we going to rehearse the same scene? It's going to become boring or bad or whatever.'

But we did not realise his plan.

When we started shooting, the scenes were different. Like he changed it.

His plan was just to make us bond as actors because when you have a bond, you are only as good as your co-star in a scene.

It's funny because it's such a selfish industry, and this whole concept of working together is under-rated.

IMAGE: Zeyn Shaw in Class.

You look like a rich kid. Do you think this will work against you in the industry?

My goal -- hopefully, I can do that in the next couple of years -- is not to play rich. Let's see if I can do that.

Do I think it will work against me? Nah. There is so much content out there.

I also don't understand because this is a very new thing to me.

I was told three years ago, that I will never make it. I was told my accent would work against me, the way I look is going to work against me.

But I have done two projects after those comments.

Even if, for the rest of my life, I belong to a niche space, my job would be to dominate that.

One day, I want to get out of it and do something mainstream, play a local character. That's my dream.

I am not worried about typecasting. All these insecurities left me a long time ago.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Zeyn Shaw/Instagram

Did you train to be an actor?

I had been acting in theatre since I was a kid.

In my last year of college, I told my parents that I was thinking of acting and they were basically like, 'Get your degree first. We wasted so much money on it.'

So I got my degree first, and then worked for a year in a PR company in Boston.

Man, waking up on a desk, 9 to 5 everyday... I was like, how do I tell people this is not how I want to live my life?

I don't want to go home and work with dad either.

So I got into a film school in New York for a couple of years and then moved back to India in 2018.

I came to Bombay in 2019 and started auditioning.

Name any Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or ZEE5 project in the last four years, I have auditioned for everything.