First of Many: Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub revisits No One Killed Jessica

This one had a lot of scope for improvement. But my major passion came after doing theatre. They were opening a branch in Hyderabad and I had been selected as a faculty member there. Advertising

When I was young, I loved Amitabh Bachchan’s Sharaabi. He wanted me to play it raw. I was about to leave for Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York. He used to live in the US. What do you remember of No One Killed Jessica, and how did the project come to you? So that was my first shot. He stayed in Lokhandwala and I remember he used to call me to come over for a chit-chat. First, I enacted the scene where Manu Sharma dances in the bar and then shoots Jessica. If they are getting satisfied, that is the most you can do for a film. In fact, I feel that for all my projects. Then Gautam called and asked me to shave and experiment with the look and clothes. Don’t get tensed. Because you were better than others, hence we took you. The lighting was very detailed. He liked the way I did that too. But, then again, I was in an awe. I told him there is no chance as I am going to travel to the US soon. He came here few times, including once during the film’s release. The film had gone into production 2-3 days after I got finalised. I kept sitting there stiffly, and did some bad acting to cover up my tension. I was sitting in his office chatting with Gautam Kishanchandani. He asked me if I have dates because I have been selected. And then it had a zoom lens. Even newspapers had carried that somebody from Delhi theatre will be playing Manu Sharma. So how did Zeeshan Ayyub land his first debut role, Manu Sharma in No One Killed Jessica? I said okay let’s give it a shot. He really liked it. I couldn’t believe what was happening with me. I went there and did it in one take. I thought why will they consider a newcomer over somebody known. He put his arm around me and said, “What you were giving, nobody had done that before. My wife is a Marathi and Hyderabad is closer to Mumbai than Delhi. Though I didn’t have many scenes in the film, but things just worked out. I had my US flight on January 4 or 5, 2010. But finally, it is the director’s vision. Here’s what the actor shared:


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In the meantime, my US travel got a little pushed. I was sitting on the set and the crew was mounting camera on the dolly. 4. Definitely. While they thought it would be a rich brat with a great physique, he gave it his own twist making him a vulnerable guy who might belong to a powerful family, but felt caught in the clutches of the judiciary after committing a crime. This is from December 2009. I was his fan, but I was never serious about acting. I had no plans of doing a film. Things however ended there and I forgot about it. He said I never conceived this scene this way. I couldn’t believe the news. And amid the general chat, he said try out a scene. He was so excited that he couldn’t hold back and hence called me. The camera had to track and come real close to me and then I had to walk out. All of this got accumulated. But he said Raj Kumar was open to new people. I wore a friend’s shimmery red shirt, gelled my hair, put on chains that too girls’ gold chains and rings. 3. I had a proper interrogation scene with him, with whom I still share a great rapport. Since my trip was getting postponed and I had a scarcity of money, I was getting eager about this project. Since my parents belonged to the theatre background, they used to show us films by Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Sanjeev Kumar, Balraj Sahni and Dilip Kumar on Doordarshan. How was the rapport with them when you got to meet or work with them again later? I never prepared for it. So, I going to the US for its training. So, I found this entire projection very humbling. Abhishek said Raj Kumar is now making a film on the Jessica Lal murder case and they are looking for somebody for the role of Manu Sharma. Then he said let’s now try the interrogation scene. Also Read | First of Many: Gajraj Rao | Vivek Oberoi 
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Comment(s) The way you were natural in your audition and what you gave then, we want exactly that.”

I got the confidence. And who were your co-stars? I felt a fear within. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub played the role of Manu Sharma in No One Killed Jessica. There were several other ways how that character could have been done. What do you remember of your first day on set? And it had a big montage with voice over in the background, where Rani says, “Let’s hear the truth from the horse’s mouth, of what happened.” So that had my one shot sitting with my father where the camera is tracking in and I walk out after a point in anger. So, I kept the vulnerability factor intact that here is one guy, whose father is a big man and he ends up committing a crime. So based on this calculation, we reached Mumbai a month in advance. Then they called me to Delhi. Whatever I had heard in films – roll sound, roll camera, action… I heard it all for the first time in real. There, they had created the NDTV office and were shooting with Rani. The actor, who made his film debut with 2011 film No One Killed Jessica (NOKJ), went on to do other projects like Raanjhanaa, Tanu Weds Manu 2, Raees, Zero, Thugs of Hindostan and Tubelight. I had more scenes with Rajesh Sharma. I remember when Abhishek called to inform me about the casting. So, the initial two months were very dreamy. Shirish Sharma played my father. She greeted me well. I saw that several times and used to enact its scenes at home. Even the girl playing Jessica was new. Raj Kumar understood and took me away. This guy, Abhishek Banerjee, my junior from college whom I knew since 2003, was assisting Gautam Kishanchandani in casting. Recalling his debut role of Manu Sharma in NOKJ, Zeeshan shared that he auditioned the part very differently from what the makers had conceived. He doesn’t know English properly yet speaks that to impress people. Though I did not have many shots with him. They took me on the set in Gurgaon. So, whatever you are doing is the best for us. I had done it very differently. I had seen Aamir recently, so I was interested. Raj Kumar introduced me to her. When he got to know I was in Mumbai, he pestered me to come for an audition at least. The director did not want me to meet any real-life convicts or anything. Then we repeated the party scene. Now you know dolly in itself is such a huge set-up. He was too happy. Your eyes have the character in them, so don’t get bothered about things around you. How many retakes did you take? The film starred Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan. I had to say in Hyderabad for a year so this arrangement would have kept us close too. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor? Were you nervous? Advertising

Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub’s journey from Delhi’s National School of Drama to the biggest films of Bollywood is noteworthy. So, Abhishek called and said they will be coming to Delhi for a week. 5. One day Abhishek called me saying that Gautam was pushing him to take me. Then he fears punishment. Firstly, seeing the huge film set made me nervous. 2. I got so nervous. Then, I went on to play Manu Sharma how I had thought because that is what the director wanted. So, at the back of my mind, I was getting a clarity that this is what acting is about, and not the commercial stuff. I met Raj Kumar Gupta in Taj Man Singh Hotel. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, is there anything you’d like to change or do better? I enacted Toofan, Jaadugar. If you remember, it was when Rani picks up the case and views my interrogation tape. But, later we couldn’t follow-up much. I told him not to joke and he said the production house will soon call me. But UTV somehow had its doubts, in a way, they wanted someone specific, who looked like a model, with a cliched image. And my ticket was from Mumbai. It will be like your audition too. There is a film by Raj Kumar Gupta who made Aamir. More Explained

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First day, we filmed a shot. It was all destiny.