There is no bigger reward than audience admiration, says Arshad Warsi, who believes the success of Asur season two proves that if viewers love a character, they root for it. Be it street smart Ballu of Tere Mere Sapne, devoted sidekick Circuit from Munna Bhai films or small time lawyer Jagdish Tyagi in Jolly LLB, Arshad’s filmography boasts of memorable characters. Also read: Arshad Warsi reveals why he was replaced by Salman Khan in Bigg Boss, Akshay Kumar in Jolly LLB 2
The actor said it is probably his “inherently lovable” personality that reflects in his on screen characters and make them more interesting. “The money one earns is a byproduct, but the main thing one craves for is appreciation. You want people to come up to you and say, ‘What a film, what a character and I loved you in it’. That’s my award and reward. I personally look for that,” Arshad told PTI in a virtual interview.
“I think I’m inherently lovable and that part of me comes in whatever I do. It can be a cop, goon, or anything. I want people to appreciate my work, whether it’s positive or negative,” he added.
It is important for audiences to like and relate to the protagonist, said Arshad. “If they love the character, no matter what it does, it is appreciated. If they do not like it, it’s null and void. I’ve been fortunate enough that there isn’t anyone who hasn’t liked my work. When a film or series works, that’s a cherry on the cake. There is no better feeling than that,” he added.
Arshad in Asur 2
In Asur 2, the 55-year-old returns as forensic expert Dhananjay Rajput along side actors Barun Sobti (Nikhil Nair), Anupriya Goenka (Naina Nair), Ridhi Dogra (Nusrat Saeed) and Amey Wagh (Rasool Shaikh). The second season of the psychological thriller series, which premiered on JioCinema last month, is directed by Oni Sen.
Arshad, who has been receiving acclaim for his performance in the show, said he fell in love with the concept during season one, which premiered in 2020, and coming back was a no brainer. “I absolutely enjoyed season two. I liked the character the first time I heard the script for season one… It is complex, there are so many layers. I enjoyed working on the first season and the second season is even gritter. I had a great time doing this.”
Asked whether successful characters also tend to box an actor in a certain image, Arshad said he has navigated that space quite a few times in his career. “Usually, actors are divided in terms of genre — action, comedy, romance. Very few manage to fit in all of them. I would like to believe I’m one of those,” he said.
Arshad on his image of a comedy actor
But it is not easy, he said, adding that he used to get characters similar to Circuit from Munna Bhai films until recently. “I credit the storytellers, the directors who imagined me in a (different) role and had faith in me. When Kabir Kaushik asked me to do Seher, I asked him if he was sure. I had an image of a comedy actor. Subhash (Kapoor) was sure about me playing Jolly. I’m grateful to them for taking a chance with me and I’m happy I could live up to their expectations.”
Arshad, who made his cinematic debut with 1996 movie Tere Mere Sapne, said “waiting” is also an integral part of the process of building credibility as a versatile performer. “It’s tough, especially for guys like me who are not from the industry. Sadly, I’ve been here for almost 27 years, and I still can’t say that I’m part of the industry. Everytime I give a flop, I’ve to take a long climb to get back to where I was,” he said, adding that one has to be strong enough to say no.
Post Asur 2, the actor said he is flooded with offers for cop roles and he might take up a few. “Every second day I get a story with a cop character. But no regrets. There are some which are fabulous and I’m doing some of them,” he said.
Arshad on Ishqiya
Arshad believes he has come a long way in his acting journey and evolved into a confident performer. He credits collaborating with veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah on Abhishek Chaubey’s Ishqiya (2010), for instilling self-belief in him.
“I’ve improved a lot. Till the time I did Ishqiya, I used to think I was a fluke. I didn’t understand why people like me or enjoy my character… But when we finished Ishqiya and I gave a hug to Naseer sahab. He told me, ‘Arshad you’re a fantastic actor and after many years I was on my toes’. He praised me a lot. And I was like if he is saying I’m a better actor then I must be.”
As someone who started his acting career at a time when hero-heroine plotlines were quintessential to Hindi cinema, the actor said the OTT has given artists like him a much-needed performance-oriented platform. “I think so many of us, who did not have a platform, have created a space because of the OTT and are flourishing. That quintessential hero bit is not there anymore. A commercial film still has the same approach. But there is space for everyone now. Guys like me, who don’t look like hero types, are finally getting recognised,” the actor said.