Way before gaining a significant amount of popularity in the web domain, as the bulky Maqbool, Shaji Choudhary worked as a supporting cast in various films of Bollywood.
During an exclusive telephonic conversation, the actor spoke about his big break which was a minor role in Shah Rukh Khan starrer Main Hoon Na.
"I was always interested in acting, I used to act in school. I am from Dodwari district in Rajasthan. I used to take part in Ram Leela and on Republic Day and Independence Day programs. So my interest was always there."
"Then in 2004, I got my first break in Main Hoon Na. In the film, after the song Gori Gori, the man who kidnaps Sushmita Sen, I got that part. That was my first break. I also started doing TV shows on various channels. Now that I'm getting offers from films, I am not acting on television anymore," said Shaji.
How did you land the role of Maqbool?
The director of Mirzapur, Gurmeet Singh, I had worked with him in Jodhaa Akbar, which was directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar. He was the assistant director there in the film. In the same film, I played the role of Azam Khan, Akbar's stepbrother. I have known him since then. He suggested my name for the role of Maqbool in Mirzapur."
How long have you been in this industry?
I started in 2004. I started with Main Hoon Na, then Jodhaa Akbar, Mohenjo Daro, in Aamir Khan's Thugs of Hindusthan, Kaabil, I was doing supporting cast mainly.
So, Maqbool's character shifted from being a 'wafadar aadmi' to someone who wanted to bring the family down.
Initially, when I heard of Mirzapur's Maqbool character, I felt that the character of Kaleen Bhaiya is the biggest character and Maqbool is the right-hand man. Back then I was a bit sceptical about playing the right hand of Kaleen bhaiya, I was a bit sceptical about this whole right-hand left-hand thing, but then one of the writers and director Gurmeet explained to me that Maqbool is a different character altogether. This character is not just about being right hand or left hand. In the first season he looked like this whole wafadar aadmi, (loyal person) during the shooting session you are told about the character, but not the entire script. I was told that he will be a right-hand man, so initially, he is a loyal man, but eventually, he changes with times, that's when I felt it was interesting.
Actually, in season 1, and season 2 you can see a difference. In season 1 you don't delve into Maqbool much, he is just there as the right-hand man, but in season 2 you see his emotional side, a side where he has a mother, a nephew to take care of. The emotional side is not revealed. When we come to know about the mother you see a different reason why Maqbool is loyal towards the Tripathi family. He is loyal out of debt because when his mother was bedridden, it was the Tripathi family which took care of the finances. So Maqbool was loyal not out of love but for this debt he had to repay. But when the mother was killed, that's when you get to see a different Maqbool. That's when Maqbool reveals shows his loyalty towards his mother, where he picks up the gun and tries to kill the Tripathi family because they harmed someone towards whom Maqbool was unconsciously, emotionally loyal. When Rasika Duggal's character expresses her desire to kill the father-in-law, Maqbool even softens up and learns maybe their pain is more than his pain and he allows them to kill the father-in-law instead.
Are you being offered more role. And what type?
I'm getting various offers. It's not just bodyguard types, but alk kinds of characters you know. I was never interested in playing a bodyguard but Gurmeet explained to me well that Maqbool is not really only a bodyguard. I also learnt that playing the right hand, the left-hand person is not bad or demeaning, the character should be interesting.