Emraan: Never thought I would end up where I am today
He is neither a Kapoor nor a Khan but Emraan Hashmi has consistently managed to deliver hits.
His most recent film Jannat 2 is one of the biggest hits of the year.
Hashmi, who has created his own niche in the industry, declares he doesn't believe in competition.
The 33-year-old actor will be seen next in Shanghai, where he plays a small-town journalist, who also shoots porn films. Hashmi claims that his character in the film pushed him to his limits and was the ugliest he could look on screen.
In conversation with Sonil Dedhia, Hashmi talks about the film, his choice of movies, and why he is unfazed by the critics.
Shanghai is one of the biggest movies of the year. What do you think of that?
It's a new time in our industry with the kind of films that are being made and Shanghai is one step in that direction.
All these years our industry has functioned in a formulaic way where if something becomes a hit or works at the box office, it gets repeated again and again.
Very few filmmakers step out of the crease and try to do something different and Dibakar Banerjee is one of them.
I would like to work in more films like Shanghai which surprise audiences. I would like Shanghai to do the same kind of business that any other commercial film would do.
Image: Emraan Hashmi
'I've always wanted to work with a director like Dibakar'
Director Dibakar Banerjee and you have explored the diverse sides of filmmaking. How has working with him benefited you?
The way Dibakar shoots the film is very different from the way I have worked in my films.
He does a lot of research and I guess that can be seen when he starts making the film. He starts scripting the film a year before he shoots it and the post-production takes almost a year. That's commendable.
He takes almost three years from the ideation to completion of a film. There is intent to make a brilliant film.
I've always wanted to work with a director like Dibakar. He doesn't overlook minor details. He wants to do things out of the box and break the mould of how you would perceive an actor or a film and present it in a completely different way.
Were you on the same page as Dibakar since day one?
It was difficult for me to get into the process of how Dibakar functions.
I work in a certain style. Generally, I read the script, learn the dialogues, go on the sets and give my shot.
Dibakar wanted me to get into the skin of the character. He made me go through 10 workshops and then he started working on my physical appearance. I had to put on weight for my character.
I started working on my character almost a month and a half in advance, which is unlike anything that I have done before.
Image: Emraan Hashmi
'Before Shanghai, I never attended any workshop to prepare for my character'
It's true that you look very different in this film from what we have seen before.
My character in the film is quite complex. I play a small-town journalist, who also shoots marriage videos. He is also a photographer and also shoots porn films.
I've never played a character from a small town and so this role was very different for me, both in terms of getting into his psyche and changing my physicality.
Let me tell you, before Shanghai I never attended any workshop to prepare for my character.
Did you, at any point of time, question Dibakar about your looks in the film?
No, but I asked him whether he could have made me look any worse and he replied, 'Give me one more film and I will make you look even worse.'
Image: Emraan Hashmi
'I never created a mould of a serial kisser'
You have admitted that you are not a good dancer but you managed to dance very freely in one of the songs.
It was very difficult for me to do the dance steps in Bharat Mata Ki Jai.
I have issues when people give me dance steps when I am on the sets. Dibakar knew that and asked the choreographer to give me the steps well in advance.
I also saw a lot of videos of processions and would rehearse a lot after watching them. In fact, the day we shot the song, Dibakar also did the steps to make me comfortable.
There are no kissing scenes for you in Shanghai. Are you trying to break the mould of a serial kisser?
I never created a mould of a serial kisser. I also beg to differ from people who think I have played similar roles. I have played various characters and I want to keep surprising the audience as far as my characters go.
You shared screen space in Jannat 2 with Randeep Hooda. In Shanghai, you have Abhay Deol as your counterpart. Do you think you need two-hero projects now when you've become a brand in yourself?
I have never chosen films on the criteria of a solo hero or a multiple hero project. If it is a good story and if I am not playing the traditional hero, I am fine with it.
There are actors who just want to play the hero and would never look repulsive on screen. They always want to serenade the woman on screen and sing love songs, which I find very boring as an actor.
Image: Pitobash Tripathy and Emraan Hashmi in Shanghai
'My films will always have a certain bold element'
You shunned the typical hero. Was it tough creating your own path?
There was a fair amount of criticism but I was hell bent on what I was doing and I was never swayed. I said no to a lot of offers which I didn't believe in because I found it normal Bollywood stuff.
I rejected a lot of slapstick comedies because I thought I wouldn't be able to do justice, which was also like saying no to a lot of money.
Fortunately, my choices have always worked for me.
My films will always have a certain bold element because that's the way I have done my films. My characters have been rebellious but that doesn't mean I have to shun any image because I never embraced any.
You didn't want to become an actor. Did you ever think you would come so far?
No, I always did one film at a time and I never thought I would end up where I am today.
When I started off as an actor, my films were ripped apart. I was struggling with every film but I gave my 100 percent to all of them.
The larger picture for me has always been doing successful films where people come and watch my film and it also earns money. Box office has become very important for me now. Earlier I was not into collections and trade figures but I have suddenly woken up to them.
Did you feel sad when you were not given your due?
No, not at all. I faced criticism but I really give a damn about it.
I have my viewpoint. I know that I don't need to be dejected or feel rejected by anybody's viewpoint.
I have always worked in projects that I believed in. I have an audience that comes and watches my films and I try and make sure that I don't disappoint my fans and the people who come and watch my films.
Image: Emraan Hashmi and Kalki Koechlin in Shanghai
'My son likes to dance on my songs'
Suddenly a lot of people have started calling you the next big star in Bollywood. How do you react to it?
I don't give importance to all this. People have a lot of perceptions about you but it is always good to have a reality check.
I know what I am so I am doing interesting films. I don't understand what the requirements to be a star are, or how to become a superstar. These things are vague for me.
You have never been in any controversies nor are you seen on the party circuit.
When I am not working on a film, I dissociate from films completely. I like to enjoy my space. I like to travel so I keep travelling. Also I have non-filmi friends so they don't talk about films. I like to keep it that way.
Does your son watch your films?
He is still too small to understand my films. But he likes my songs a lot. He dances to a lot of them (Smiles).
Image: Emraan Hashmi with his son on the People cover
'Direction might happen after four or five years'
It is rumoured that you charge Rs 10 crore for a project...
I can't talk about my remuneration (Smiles). I can say that with every successful film, your audience and your viability increases.
I would agree that the market price does go up but at the same time, you have to keep it sane.
I recently interviewed Mahesh Bhatt and he said, 'We would get rid of Emraan Hashmi if it cripples us'. What do you have to say about that?
I am doing films with Vishesh Films. I just did Jannat 2 and I am also a part of Raaz 3.
I am also working with other production houses and so Vishesh Films as a production house has complete freedom to work with other actors also.
I feel it's healthy for everyone and I don't see anything wrong in it.
Would you direct a film?
At this moment, I am concentrating on acting. It might happen after four or five years.
Image: Abhay Deol and Emraan Hashmi in Shanghai