EastEnders star Nitin Ganatra to leave Masood Ahmed role

Exclusive: The actor, who has been a mainstay in Walford since 2007, will exit later this year

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Actor Nitin Ganatra is to exit EastEnders after nine years in the role of Masood Ahmed, RadioTimes.com can exclusively reveal.

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Ganatra, 49, will depart later in 2016, athough the door is being left open should he wish to return at some point in the future.

Speaking this evening about his decision to leave the BBC1 soap, Ganatra told RadioTimes.com: “When I trained as an actor, I set out to play many different characters and never did I know that I would be so fortunate to have found a character that I have loved playing for nine years.

“However, after thinking long and hard, I have decided that it is time to get back out there and take on some other roles. I will of course miss everyone at EastEnders – I have had a brilliant time there, and who knows, one day Masood may be back.”

An EastEnders spokesperson added to RT: “We can confirm that Nitin will be leaving EastEnders. Nitin has been a wonderful addition to the cast for the past nine years and we wish him all the best for the future.”

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Nitin Ganatra as Masood with current EastEnders co-star Bonnie Langford, who plays Carmel

Since arriving in the Square in October 2007, the character of postal-worker-turned-market-stall-holder Masood has been involved in no end of drama, including the break-up of his marriage to wife Zainab, his struggle to come to terms with son Syed’s homosexuality and a dangerous feud with Zainab’s ex-husband Yusef.

Ganatra shared the award for Best On-Screen Partnership with co-star Nina Wadia at the 2009 British Soap Awards and went on to be nominated for Best Actor in both 2010 and 2011.

In recent months, Masood has been left the sole remaining member of his screen family following the departure of daughter Shabnam (Rakhee Thakrar) and son Tamwar (Himesh Patel).

Viewers will now have to wait and see whether Masood goes through with his plan to leave Walford and go travelling – and what this means for his burgeoning romance with Carmel Kazemi (Bonnie Langford).

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Masood (Nitin Ganatra, right), struggled to accept son Syed’s (Marc Elliott) sexuality

The news follows recent reports that several cast members will be leaving the show over the coming months and into the New Year. These include Ronnie (Samantha Womack) and Roxy Mitchell (Rita Simons), who made a mutual decision with show bosses to leave as part of a joint exit storyline.

You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of EastEnders below.

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And visit our dedicated EastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.