The actor’s final scenes as Masood Ahmed are already in the can and will air next month.
Metro.co.uk reports that the decision to leave was Ganatra’s own and that the door will be left open for him.
John Yorke brought Masood back into the EastEnders cast only a year ago along with his aunt and uncle, Mariam and Arshad. Ganatra had left the soap in 2016 after playing the role of Masood for 9 years, but was lured back to help the character’s extended family settle in.
“When I was asked to return to EastEnders it was always with the intention of helping set up new Asian characters that continue the Masood family adventures. With Arshad and Mariam at the helm and with the arrival of the feisty sisters Iqra and Habiba I can now venture off to new horizons as an actor.” – Nitin Ganatra
Masood first appeared in Albert Square in October 2007, joining his wife Zainab, daughter Shabnam and son Tamwar in a move to Walford. Eldest son Syed later returned to the family fold while Zainab gave birth to a third son, Kamil, in 2010. The family had dwindled to just Masood and Kamil by 2016 when Ganatra chose to leave the soap, with Masood and Kamil heading off to Pakistan.
Across his first stint in the saga, Masood’s storylines included the breakdown of his marriage to Zainab; a feud with Zainab’s first husband, Yusef; a recurring gambling problem; and his struggle to accept Syed’s sexuality. Since returning, he has gone into business with Ian Beale and had a romantic liaison with Ian’s mum Kathy which will be revisited in the coming weeks before Masood departs Walford.
“I am still deeply attached to Masood and have invested much emotion into making this character memorable. I am in awe of how loved he is by audiences and fans of all ages, from all cultures and religions and walks with of life. Thank you. I am humbled by the love. I will of course miss EastEnders and the wonderful people that work tirelessly to bring audiences dramatic, funny and compelling stories. Who knows Masood may return. But for now farewell. Much love and respect to the whole epic team of EastEnders.” – Nitin Ganatra
An EastEnders spokesperson added: “Nitin has been a wonderful addition to the cast and we wish him all the very best for the future.”