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'I am happy that people hate me'

Last updated on: January 27, 2011 16:40 IST

'I am happy that people hate me in the film'


Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai

The name Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub might not sound familiar to you. But he was so good in No One Killed Jessica, that people loved to hate him!

Ayyub played Manu Sharma's character in the film inspired by the real life killing of model Jessica Lal. Directed by Rajkumar Gupta, the film also starred Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan.

Ayyub tells Sonil Dedhia how his life has changed after the film released.

No One Killed Jessica has got a good response from the audience.

Yes, people have loved the film and the response has been overwhelming. Not only the audience but the critics also have loved the film. It's difficult to pull off a film, which is based on a real life incident but NOKJ is still running well at the box office.

People have liked my role in the film and I am getting a lot of congratulatory calls. It feels nice when one gets appreciated.

So how has life changed after NOKJ?

Life is still the same. But people have started recognising me. People come up to me and start reciting my dialogue, 'Hazar rupiya tak dene ke liye tayar tha.'

People have also come up to me and ask me why I killed Jessica and hate me for it. I'm happy that people hate me in the film. That was the biggest compliment I could get for my role.

It's not that I have achieved something big in life, as it's a long journey and I have just started.

Image: Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub


'My parents advised me against acting'

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Tell us something about yourself.

During my schooling, I was not interested in cultural activities. But in my third year in college, I would come home in the afternoon and would have a lot of time on hand. I read a poster about an acting workshop and enrolled myself. I thought I had I entered a different world.

Then I joined the drama society in college, where my basic training started.

After I graduated, I thought of leaving acting and getting back to studies. I applied for my Masters of Science degree but one of my friends filled out a form for NSD (National School of Drama) on my behalf. I thought about it and then joined NSD. That helped me a lot.

My parents are theatre actors in Delhi. They advised me against acting because they thought it was a field that would make you or break you. My father said that he knew a lot of people who went into depression because things didn't work out. He told me to keep a backup ready in case acting did not work out for me.

Did you watch a lot of films when you were younger?

During my school days, I would watch all the Amitabh Bachchan films and recite his dialogues from Deewar, Kaala Patthar and Don.

Image: A scene from No One Killed Jessica

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'On the first day of the shoot, it finally sunk into me that yes, I had got the film'

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What were you doing before you landed NOKJ?

The Lee Strasberg Institute was planning to open a branch in India, and I was selected to be on the acting faculty. I was supposed to leave the country last January for a three-month training in New York.

I came to Mumbai a month before I had to leave, as I wanted to spend time with friends. 

One day, I got a call from a friend who was an associate casting director for NOKJ. He asked me to audition for Manish Bhardwaj's role (the Manu Sharma character). He told me that the film would be directed by Raj Kumar Gupta.

I'm a big fan of Raj Kumar Gupta, as I had seen his earlier film Aamir. So I auditioned for the role.

After a month, my friend called me again and told me to give it another try in the complete get-up.

Four days before before I was to leave for New York, he called me again and asked me if I had dates for the film. I was buying groceries then, and thought he was joking. But he told me that I had really got the film.

On the first day of the shoot, it finally sunk into me that yes, I had got the film.

How was it working with Raj Kumar Gupta?

It was an honour. When I met him for the first time, I actually froze for 10 seconds. But he made me feel very comfortable.  He explained me his vision of the character and asked me how I could improvise and bring out the best in me. He gives you freedom to do what you want.

Image: A scene from No One Killed Jessica

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'During the screening of the film, Vidya and Rani came to me and appreciated my work'

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Did your co-stars Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan give you any acting tips?

Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to work with them, so I couldn't get any tips. I didn't have any scenes with Rani, and just one scene with Vidya. We were together only in the courtroom scene but there was no interaction with her character. 

During the screening of the film, Vidya and Rani came to me and appreciated my work.

Had you followed the Jessica Lal murder case?

The incident happened in 1999 when I was in school. During that time, I was not really interested in reading newspapers. I started following the case from around 2002, when I joined my theatre group. We used to do a lot of plays on social issues.

Have you ever been to the police station?

Yes, whenever I've had to renew my passport, I had to go for verification (laughs).

But seriously, I have not had a bad experience nor would I want to in future.

How many offers have you got after NOKJ?

I have got some offers but want to take my own time and not rush into anything. I am doing Yash Raj's Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, where I have a completely different character. It's a positive character. My friend Ali Abbas Zafar is directing the film.

Image: A scene from No One Killed Jessica

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