By RAHUL RAUT
UAE actor Najmeddin Al Hadad, who plays a prominent supporting role in the much awaited Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif’ starrer ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ met Salman for the first time in a hotel in Morocco. But it wasn’t a normal greeting between them. When Salman reached the hotel, Najmeddin ran at him and did a very terrible funny flying kick and scream “kyaaaaa” (What????). Salman looked at him like he was mad. “I mean, how many people ever ran at Salman Khan with a bad flying kick screaming Kya?,” Najmeddin laughs reminiscing his first meeting with the Bollywood megastar.
The retired professional fighter-turned-actor has been on very good terms with Salman since then. After spending quality time with him during the shooting, Najmeddin is quite impressed with the actor’s helping nature, especially with his gym skills. He says, “The man is so focused and too smart to let anything slide. I can tell you that I learned a lot from Bhai. I mean the man refused to sell his paintings to the highest bidders for years, and only sold them when the money went to charity. Who does that? What an incredible character.”
“He’s funny, he’s quite, he’s smart, and he’s just cool. When it comes to the gym, he knows exactly how to shock his body with his training routine. As I trained in the same gym with him during the shoot, I saw it and I’ve much respect for that,” Najmeddin says adding that they are alike as they both love sports and have a good sense of humour.
In ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’, Najmeddin plays a character called Hakim who, he claims, is very difficult to play. “He is a combination of many things, anger rage crazy, a lunatic aggressive madman, who has a purpose and one purpose only, to kill anything that gets in the way. Hakim is extremely physically fit, as you must have seen my training videos on YouTube to become Hakim. It wasn’t only a challenge, it was a mission. To play an aggressive character is what I’m good at, but to play an aggressive lunatic madman, that was not easy.”
And neither was easy to bag a role in ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ for him. Najmeddin who is a K1 Khan World Cup winner along with WKBF Champion Belt winner had started becoming desperate after getting no work for over a year. He was getting no luck anywhere, his fiance who also happens to be his manager, was emailing everyone for him to get a role but it seemed that all doors were shut. “She (Najwa Chariff) is always on top of things and she read somewhere that there was a Bollywood movie that was going to be shot in Abu Dhabi, so she looked up the producer and found his email. She emailed him and surprisingly she received an email back from Aditya Chopra almost instantly saying he was going to forward it to the casting directors.”
“Couple of days later we received a call for an audition in Dubai. I got very excited, after all, I’m in the best shape all year long and ready for any action films. It was a long process, up to 5 auditions till I got the role.”
Najmeddin recently shared a video on YouTube where he has been seen signing “Hangover” song from Salman’s 2014 hit ‘Kick’ at the wrap-up party of ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’. Asked him about it and he reveals this romantic track is very special for him. “That was the song that I sent to Najwa years ago when we first met, and she and I played that song over and over and over.” However, Najmeddin didn’t even know it was Salman’s song at the time. It didn’t even occur to him when they started filming ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’.
“I remember one of the nights I was chilling with Salman, Najwa and Daisy Shah, and said, “Bhai I’m gonna sing you a song”. I sang ‘Hangover” and knowing Salman he gets very impressed with any good talent, he absolutely loved it. Salman loves my martial arts my dancing and now my singing. So the last night at the wrap-up party, Katrina was there and Salman says hey Katrina “not only can Saif Ali Khan fight and dance, he can sing too”. Oh yeah, he calls me Saif Ali Khan because he says I look like him. So we played it, I sang it and after the song, I performed Salman’s favourite move of my dancing, and it was the spring back move.”
How was the experience of working with Salman Khan? He answers, “He was extremely easy to work with. Considering it was a fight scene between Hakim and Tiger, and he hadn’t changed anything in the choreography and was very understanding. When I worked with Jackie Chan (in Kung Fu Yoga), after two days of choreography practice, Jackie came on set and changed the entire fight sequence. But not Salman, if he likes it, he goes all the way.” And what about Katrina? “I haven’t really worked with Katrina on Tiger Zinda Hai, but I did chill with her and Salman numerous times, and I can say this about her confidently, she’s a very down to earth person, very simple, and loved a good laugh.”
Although he has worked in Hollywood and Chinese films in the past, Najmeddin feels the environment on sets of a Hindi film is better, smoothing and more encouraging compared to western films. “First thing I can say is that Indians truly appreciate good talent. They make it so easy to work with them that you never want it to end. They are so well organised, so prepared. They treated me far better than any Hollywood or Chinese or middle eastern production. Credit is due where credit is deserved, and Bollywood takes the cake for being the best with organising, producing, and most importantly, the respect they give you is priceless. I did not feel like a foreigner, I felt like I was one of them, and I owe them a lot for that.”
‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ is a big project and Najmeddin hopes that the film helps him put him on the map of world cinema. “I believe Tiger Zinda Hai will exceed all our expectations. I mean so far, over 45 million views and 934,000 likes on YouTube. Making it the most viewed trailer in Bollywood, and the most liked trailer in the world. I mean, Spider-Man Homecoming made 182,000 likes. You cannot even compare it to Tiger Zinda Hai. But for my career, this movie will put me on the map of film, and not just in Bollywood, but the whole world and I can’t wait till I see it. I mean Hakim, is one unforgettable character. And I brought him to life.”
And what’s the next after ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’? “Right now, I am more open to Bollywood films than I am to anything else. The experience of working with Yash Raj Films has been the best experience I have ever had in my life. And I can’t wait till I work with them again. Regarding my next film, I have a couple of projects in the near future but I can’t reveal yet. But you know something, I just want to sit back right now, and watch Tiger Zinda Hai take over the world.”