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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Bollywood actor Saqib Saleem, who shared a good chemistry with his Mere Dad Ki Maruti co-star Rhea Chakraborty, says he will stand by her, come what may. Ever since Rhea's arrest in connection with a drug case related to her late boyfriend Sushant Singh Rajput's death, a few celebrities have been voicing their support for the actress. Among them was actor Saqib Saleem, actress Huma Qureshi's brother. Though the siblings faced severe backlash for offering their support, Saqib is brave enough to say that he will stand up for his friend, come what may.
"Rhea is a friend of mine, we've known each other for about 10 years and have worked together in Mere Dad Ki Maruti. She's a very simple girl from Ambala, from an army background - her dad was an army doctor. They're like any other middle class family. I am going to stand by her because I believe she has not done anything wrong," the actor told City Times over a Zoom call on Thursday afternoon.
Saqib and Huma have been subject to abusive hate messages over social media ever since they came out in support of Rhea, and the actor even quit Twitter to keep away from the negativity. He believes that whatever is happening with Rhea is not right.
"I am not telling people to not stand by what they believe in, but that doesn't mean we should be doing this (to Rhea). Look at the media (behaviour). We've all become vultures. We're in times of Covid-19 and did you see what Rhea and her family were being subjected to? Is that fair? It's not."
The media obsession with Sushant Singh Rajput death, began in June, soon after the actor was found dead in his Mumbai home. While the death was passed off as suicide by the Mumbai police, some sections of the media did not believe them and carried out their own investigations in an attempt to uncover the truth. But Saqib believes that a few news channels were misleading viewers.
"The only job of these news channels, the so called banana republic channels, is to state facts and not give a narrative. Not to make people believe what they want to. News channels should only talk about the investigation, let the courts decide on the case. It seems these channels have now become the Supreme Court and are deciding who's guilty or innocent. What if tomorrow all the allegations against Rhea are proved to be wrong? Will these channels then come out in public and apologise to Rhea and her family? Things have become extremely difficult. Why can't people just respect and love each other?"
The Race 3 actor who is on a private visit to Dubai is against the vilification of Rhea. According to him no one should be subject to such an ordeal.
"I'm totally against the media trial. I have complete faith in the CBI, the NCB, in our courts and the police. I want them to figure out what happened, what went wrong (in the Sushant Singh Rajput case). But not (by media and people) in this manner where a 28-year-old woman is being publicly humiliated. Some of the comments people are passing are very cruel, like 'she should also die or commit suicide. Such things make me very uneasy," Saqib says.
"What has happened to people these days, why do we have so much angst in us? If you can't respect anyone then please don't disrespect them. You don't know who is going through what. No one knows the truth (about Sushant and Rhea). We should believe in what the CBI and the NCB are doing," he adds.
Like many others, Sushant's death came as a blow to Saqib and though he does not want to speculate on anything about his death, he feels that Rhea and her family could also be undergoing to mental stress due to the treatment being meted out to them.
"I really feel horrible about what happened to Sushant. No one wanted him to do anything of that sort. It breaks my heart. But whatever has transpired, we should wait until the investigations are done and the truth come out. But until then, what are we doing to the other person (Rhea)? If the (Sushant's) mental health theory proves to be true - I don't know and don't want to comment on that - then what we are doing to Rhea and her family is going to give them a lot of anxiety and depression and we will be responsible for their mental trauma also. If we can't be sensitive about such things as a society then we don't deserve any of this."
On his latest show Crackdown
Saqib's upcoming OTT show Crackdown, a Voot Select Original, is set to release on September 23. Talking about what attracted him to the show, he said it's an espionage thriller with lots of action and it has a storyline that will keep the audience hooked.
"Crackdown has an extremely strong storyline and narrative, and it's packed with action. That's what interested me in the first place. But the show is not only about people shooting aimlessly and killing each other on screen, there's a larger plot to it. Every episode of the show will keep you engaged and prompt you to play the next one," he explained.
For his role in Crackdown, the actor had to undergo a massive body transformation.
"This is the first time I've done a full-fledged action show. I worked very hard for Crackdown. There was a certain physicality that was required for me to play the character, and I had to achieve it. I slogged in the gym to get that physical appearance. I was literally living in the gym. I used to workout, eat, sleep, get up, workout and then sleep again. It was a lot of handwork but it gives me immense happiness when I look back at my effort now," he said.
The thriller, which marks the digital debut of director Apoorva Lakhia, also stars Shriya Pilgaonkar, Waluscha De Sousa, Rajesh Tailang, among others. Saqib said he was extremely happy that Amitabh Bachchan had given his approval to Crackdown and launched the teaser of the show.
"I was very thrilled to know that Amitabh has endorsed this movie and tweeted it. Of course Apoorva (Lakhia) has worked with him before and knows him. But all I can say is it doesn't get bigger than this. We couldn't have asked for more."
Saqib will next be seen playing the role of cricketer Mohinder Amarnath in Kabir Khan's 83. The movie is based on India's historic win at the 1983 World Cup and has Ranveer Singh playing the role of Kapil Dev. "83 is very special to me because I had been training to be a cricketer since my young days. I was thrilled to play the legendary Mohinder Amarnath who was the Man of the Match in the World Cup final. I lived my dream while working in the movie."
Saqib's family run a restaurant business in Delhi. Saleem's of Delhi also have a branch in Karama, Dubai. When asked if he would set up his own restaurant some day, the actor said, "It's my father and brothers who take care of the food business, but I must admit that I am a foodie. I love the kebabs, biryani at the place. In fact, before I became an actor I wanted to study hotel management and join my dad's business and then movies happened."
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