I am the guy who contaminted Indian Culture-Emraan
Emraan Hashmi has a new intent — to reinvent himself as an actor, so that the audience knows he can do more than just kiss passionately in his films
Garima Sharma (BOMBAY TIMES; May 31, 2012)
The trailers of Shanghai look nothing like a quintessential Emraan Hashmi movie. Are you trying to challenge yourself or challenge your audience’s perception of you with this film?
Jogi Parmar, my character, is a small town journalist, who is multifaceted — he shoots marriage videos, he is a photographer, he shoots porn films, he does all these to make ends meet. He is a character who has got his small-town complexes and all… I’ve never played a character from a small town, so this role was very different for me, both in terms of getting into his psyche and changing my physicality… Of course, the physicality part is pretty easy because you have to stuff your face with pizzas and pastas. His psyche is something that was very different. We had over 10 workshops for it. I’ve generally played very urbane characters, confident characters. This guy has got an inferiority complex. So, I had to get into his head to understand that. I’ve played guys who’ve been smooth with women, who are great talkers, but Jogi is… he fumbles, he just about makes ends meet. He is gawky, he is awkward… he feels even smaller and more inferior when he comes in contact with a white woman. He puts up this brave front but you have to understand that that’s how he conceals his inferiority complex. So, we had to go through lots of theatre workshops. I’ve never been to them… It’s amazing how something turns a key in such workshops.
In reality, are you more like the urban guys you play or like Jogi Parmar with his complexes?
I am a Bandra boy, so I’m more urbanised and that’s why I took so much time to understand the character.
Are you romantic, though, like your characters on screen?
No. Actually, I probably am, but not in the traditional sense. I am not the wine-and-dine kind of guy on-screen either, and filmmakers and my uncle (Mahesh Bhatt) saw it, so I don’t think they gave me those kind of characters. I was more the wild child. My idea of romance is not your traditional idea of romance. But I have a certain attachment. Some people, my wife included, felt that I was afraid of that kind of intimacy and romance. I feared it. Probably because of the commitment involved but there was a turning point in my life when I wanted to make that commitment and that’s why I got married.
You were commitment phobic?
I wouldn’t say phobic, but I was a bit tentative. Not with her, but just relationships. But then it changed. I felt it was the right time to settle down. Somehow, I always knew I would get married by the time I was 27. Even in college, I had this weird thing in my head that I would get married when I was 27 and hopefully, my career would be stable, and I’d have kids by 30. And that’s exactly what has happened.
You’re experimenting with your roles… trying to let go of your past branding, of an actor who only does a certain kind of bold cinema?
I wanted to just dive in. Obviously, I was scared of whether I’d be able to do it or fail. But I made a clear decision — I had to do it. I’d do whatever it takes to emerge… even if I had to go through grilling theatre workshops.
This emergence is being seen as an attempt to move away from the Bhatt camp…
It’s an intent. And that reflects in everything that you do — the choice of roles, raising the bar, wanting to take your performances to another level because you know chalo you’ve done this, and it has worked. That’s great, but the kind of satisfaction you get out of actually challenging yourself and surprising yourself is nice. I still have films that are quintessentially Emraan Hashmi, but then there are films which will make people say, ‘Oh, he has tried something different’. For me, that’s very gratifying.
But is your intention being misinterpreted?
I am not moving away from the Bhatt camp. It’s just that we’ve had successful films together as a team, but it’s detrimental to our relationship to do the same kind of films. The audience cannot see the same thing over and over again. We have to also change the way we see our relationship. And also the kind of films that we do. That too will undergo a change because with success, the audience craves for more, and then you can’t give them the same thing again. For me, the quintessential Emraan Hashmi is working, but you can’t do it over and over. You need something like a Shanghai to break that… for people to say he’s stepped out of his comfort zone and he is not kissing in this film.
With your box-office success, do you feel you’ve entered the A-league?
I don’t want to belong to any league. I am in a league of my own. I don’t want any tags associated with me because I know when the media associates tags with you, they also have the power to remove those tags tomorrow. I don’t want to be swayed now. I’d rather be the outsider. I’d rather be the guy who does successful, interesting films without being boxed as an A-league artiste, or a star or a superstar, whatever that means. I made mistakes; I am still capable of making mistakes. I’m not invincible.
What kind of mistakes?
I used to do films for money earlier. I never knew what perception meant. I didn’t give too much attention to scripts. It was either to buy a house or to buy a car. There was a certain frivolity to the way I used to pick up things. I wasn’t taking my career seriously. That reflected in the work.
And now that you’ve realised that, you’re changing things. Like trying to let go off the “serial kisser” tag?
I don’t think I’ve completely let go of it. I don’t know if it is a tag. I never embraced the tag to let go of it. It’s a dimension that’s there in my films — boldness and my films go hand in hand. And this frivolous term of “serial kisser” was added to it. This is also my doing. I wore a ridiculous t-shirt which said serial kisser and people started calling me by that name. But, my films and my turning point with Murder was so impactful, that it created this impression which has become a done deal with my films and persona on screen. Boldness, sensuality and an unapologetic way of showing things, that is part of my films. But it’s ridiculous when some people say he’s doing the same thing again… Now every film, every other actor is doing it. The audience endorsed it in Jannat, they endorsed it in Murder… they endorsed it seven years back in Murder.
So, you’re the pioneer?
Yes, I am the pioneer. I am the guy who contaminated the country. I am the pioneer who contaminated our culture.
What was your family’s response to such reactions?
It’s a bit hard to digest… when someone was doing it for the first time, and it was their son who was doing it. They were taken aback when they saw the Murder preview… They were surprised that no one was doing it in the industry and the chosen one was their son, who was contaminating the culture. My dad is very conservative. My mom is okay, but she also has a problem. They form a section of the audience which had a problem with my films and probably still do, and they feel it’s too graphic and this is not how our culture is. But they’ve never told me what to do or what not to do. Even my wife has never really interfered in my decisions. She has sometimes questioned why every film has this. Then I have to tell her that I don’t really make films for people to watch on a DVD at home. There’s an audience out there. If I make a movie for you and my son to watch at home, then we’d probably be the only people watching that film.
You’ve obviously thought out how you want to position yourself in the industry now, and seem to be working in that direction.
There was a very bad phase in 2006 where I did five flop films. And that made me feel like I’ll have to take up another profession. And that was a scary thought. I wondered what I would go back to. My father doesn’t have a business. It was a rough phase. And then I did Awaarapan, which I gave a lot of work to, for almost a year, but that also tanked at the box office. And that was like Ground Zero for me. But, there was a film that gave a new lease of life to my career, and that was Jannat. And that was my last gasp of air when I was drowning, and thankfully, Jannat happened. And it worked.
So, after Jannat, you stopped working for money?
I still work for money.
I’ve seen fame and obviously I like it. Anonymity is something that I might think is okay today. But, it’s a scary thought… that one day when you are walking on the road, and suddenly no one gives a s**t. I don’t know how it would be when the lights dim out. I would want to be the guy who says ‘I don’t give a s**t’ and walk away into the sunset without giving it a second glance. I feel that I would be that way, but I might just lose it.
Produced by PVR Pictures, Shanghai releases June 8.