Eyes, they say, are the most important asset of an actor.
And Tsahi Halevi, the 47-year-old Israeli actor from Fauda, the chartbuster Israeli web series on Netflix, has a gaze so intense that people who swarm around him vouch for this.
At a reception in New Delhi on Israel’s 74th Independence Day, attended among others by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Halevi had the crowd rooting for him, waiting for him to break into song.
The actor, who is also a songwriter and a singer, sang ‘We will have a good time’ in Hebrew and then, dedicating a song to the friendship between the people of Israel and India, chose the popular Kishore Kumar song ‘Tere jaisa yaar kahan’ from the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Yaarana to mark 30 years of India-Israel diplomatic ties. “I am a songwriter, musician, but I got into acting with Bethlehem (a 2013 drama film),” Halevi told The Sunday Express. And there has been no looking back. In Fauda, which means chaos, he plays the role of a member of the elite counter-terrorism special operations unit of the Israel Defence Forces, Mista’arvim, led by Doron Kavillio played by lead actor Lior Raz.
Halevi, with his intense gaze, figures in an interesting sub-plot as he gets involved with Doron’s wife, Gali. With a half-smile, he has an explanation for that too: “When you can’t get the best guy, you get the guy who messes with his wife.” Fauda, which many Indians got addicted to during the Covid lockdown, depicts the two-sided story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and explores the moral dilemma of the human condition, the relativity of what is right and wrong. In fact, Halevi’s character seems humane in the series, one that has won him Indian fans on social media.
“The Indian fanbase is amazing and big. On my social media handles, they are asking me how they can meet me and I am finding ways to meet some of them despite my tight schedule. I answer their queries as much as possible. As actors, the audience feedback is important for us and you can do that in real time on social media.” Sporting his characteristic salt-and-pepper beard, the actor said he had handled guns as part of his military service, so that came in handy while playing the role he had. Others had to undergo basic training to act in the show.
Fauda, which has run into three seasons, is now likely to release its next one. He says he does not know the plot for the next season. Considering that fresh violence had broken out between the Israelis and Palestinians during the making of Fauda, did events on the ground change his perspective on the conflict?
“My perspective has never changed. I have maintained the same values from my childhood. I believe that when shells and missiles fall, it doesn’t matter if you are Muslim or Jew. Human lives are lost. In fact, everybody could relate to Fauda because it touched upon the human aspect of the conflict. Every viewer has felt the characters and their lives,” he said.
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Mahatma Gandhi is his ideal and has shaped his compassionate and optimistic worldview. “Every day I am inspired by his thinking that we should pursue our actions based on how they would influence somebody far away. He used non-violence as an effective tool to get his message across.” As a diplomat’s son, he travelled to many countries till the age of 18 and that experience made him absorptive and open to multi-cultural influences. He shares his experience of growing up in Egypt four years after that nation signed a peace deal with Israel. “Beyond education, I got a lesson in humanity first hand. I was baby-sitting my sister in Cairo. She started crying and I couldn’t calm her down. So, I went down to the janitor of the building who was sitting around the fire with his wife. She pacified my sister and watched over her for two hours till our parents returned. You see that and realise what the human connect is.”
Halevi, who has also acted in the thriller Hostages, said he was surprised by the popularity of his shows in India, and has been mobbed by people in Delhi for selfies. Told that Hostages was remade in Hindi, he said, “May be there is scope for an Indian version of Fauda… This is my first time in India and I am here only for two days now, but I am really excited to be here… I had always wanted to come here.”