Acting came late in life to Tsahi Halevi. The Israeli actor-singer-dancer did not become a professional actor until his late 30s. Today, he is best known for starring in the Netflix Hebrew hit Fauda. On a recent visit to India–his first–the actor sat down for a candid chat with Hindustan Times and spoke about his Bollywood ambitions, wanting to meet Shah Rukh Khan, and why he loved The Kashmir Files. Also read: Anupam Kher shares picture of ‘blockbuster handshake’ with SS Rajamouli after RRR, The Kashmir Files success
Tsahi became part of the Mayumana troupe that combines dance, song, and percussion in the late 90s. He was also a finalist on the reality show The Voice Israel and a singer with multiple singles and albums. So naturally, his most notable act in India was through music. Last week, at the Israel National Day celebrations at the Israeli Embassy in Delhi, he sang Tere Jaisa Yaar Kahan from Amitabh Bachchan’s Yaarana. Talking about it, he says, “Challenging myself in singing in Hindi was a great opportunity.”
However, he reveals he had never heard the song till a few days before. He says, “I asked an Indian friend about what Indian song that talks about friendship would be apt for the occasion. He sent me a link to the song. I wondered how I approach it. So I listened and tried to get the pronunciation and emotions right. I know it wasn’t perfect but it’s a first step. I am really happy with the feedback.”
Indian audiences, particularly those who have seen him in Fauda, would be familiar with his singing. Tsahi sang the popular Arabic song Tamali Ma’aek on the show. “It was a similar experience,” he says. The song comes at a poignant moment in the show with Tsahi’s character Naor singing as the soldiers of his elite unit sit around. The actor says he brought his own experiences of serving in the military to the fore there. “During the rehearsals for Fauda, I spoke to the director and said from my experience in the Army, we normally sing some song at such a time. He asked me which song I had in mind and it was Tamali Ma’aek. That is how it arrived on the show and the feedback was amazing.”
Tsahi says he is surprised by Fauda’s popularity in India. “I had a certain idea that it is popular here because of the messages I get on social media but I didn’t know it was this big. I had a lot of people writing to me asking where they could meet me. I wish I had time to meet them all. I hope to come back and meet more people.”
So he can sing, dance, and act, and is cultivating some popularity in India. A combination of that would make Bollywood a natural calling for Tsahi. The 47-year-old laughs at the suggestion. “Tell them to hire me then,” he tells me in between spurts of laughter. “Maybe certain productions are looking for an Israeli actor and something could work. I can challenge myself by speaking in Hindi,” he says.
He even met Anupam Kher on the Mumbai leg of his trip a couple of days after this interaction. The motivation for meeting Anupam came from his limited exposure to the Indian film industry. “The last Indian movie I have seen is The Kashmir Files,” he says, adding “if I speak on just the artistic point, it’s very well done. The actors are just wow.” He says that he found some thematic similarities between Fauda and The Kashmir Files. “I always believe that through art you can people think about issues. Like in Fauda, you bring out the human aspect of conflict. Maybe you can expose people more,” he says.
He had some indoctrination about Indian film industry before he set foot in the country. He shares, “One of my friends told me the story of Ruby (Meyers), also known as Sulochana. That was amazing to discover that one of the first stars of Bollywood was a Jewish girl.” The actor does have a wish list of actors he wants to meet in India. Ask him and he rattles off some names quickly–Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, and Alia Bhatt. “Maybe next time,” he says with a shrug as he is reminded about his tight schedule.