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All green on the table



Arit Zokarla helps himself to a healthy bite at New Delhi's Park Hotel. Photo: S. Subramanium.

`I LOVE challenges.' Sounds clichéd for an actor, but in Arif's case the statement is not just a swank. In fact, he was first noticed with Chunauti itself in the good old days of Doordarshan where he displayed a rare restrained charm as a college student leader. And when his fans were thinking the role would lead him to Bollywood with ease, he picked another test in the interim, Darmiyan where he played an eunuch. Arif got accolades but the `soft' debut virtually blocked his road to macho stardom. "This is true. But I feel blessed to have got the opportunity to play two of the most challenging roles in the Indian cinema. Actors do hundred films but they don't get such roles. Some don't dare, others just don't have it in them. However, I must admit I was not getting too many good roles in popular cinema after Chunauti," says Arif impatient to get on with the buffet at The Park, eager to discuss his work.

"I don't know much about food. I just eat whatever I like, not fussy at all. These days I am trying to be vegetarian though I used to be a hardcore non-vegetarian. Reason? "Wife. She is a vegetarian and I am supposed to follow her. Being a typical Mumbaiite, I enjoy chicken and fish delicacies but ever since marriage I stick to dal sabzi at home. Baigan ka bharta and karela lead the list." And outside? "Don't tell her but sometimes taste buds overtake love."

Talking of love, it was the same feeling which led him to Dance like A Man. "Not only the role as a classical dancer, the whole culture milieu in which the film was set was alien to me. As for the dancing they were choreographed pieces set for the camera. Nevertheless, I took training for four months." But dancing with Shobana? "Well, it was like batting with Tendulkar."

Impressive body language

However, what stands out is his body language. "Yes, that has to do with my college days. I used to practice martial arts and do cycling." What he also learnt during those days was making a variety of egg dishes. "I can also prepare different kinds of tea. Easy way to impress your wife."

Meanwhile, he is trying to keep her marital vow by looking for vegetarian fare. He picks shahi paneer but the emphasis is on fruit salad. "This is for energy, good for digestive mechanism."

Despite braving the challenge with finesse, in both the films, Arif's performance has been overshadowed by the leading ladies of the film. If Darmiyan had Kirron Kher, in Dance Like... it was Shobana and interestingly both were directed by female filmmakers. "It is for the media to decide whether they are going to write about or judge an actor by his role in the particular film or his performance beyond the screen."

On table, his romance with salad continues but for future he has Shyam Benegal's Netaji where he is playing Major Dhillon and an English film Refuge with Sarita Chowdhury. In between he picked miniscule roles in a dud like Asambhav and is doing an "item bhajan" in Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyo. "That's also for stomach."

ANUJ KUMAR

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