'I believe something like this wouldn't have been made five years ago.'
'They would have felt it's arty in nature, and would be unsure about investing in it.'
'One may wonder that since there is no action in it -- or no sex despite me in it -- who will watch the film?'
After the international film Tigers, Emraan Hashmi dips his fingers into commercial cinema with Cheat India.
Helmed by Gulaab Gang Director Soumik Sen, the film explores India's flawed educational system.
"Every board in our country has a paper leak and every state has a problem of student impersonation," Emraan tells Rediff.com Contributor Ramesh S.
What was your first reaction when Soumik Sen approached you for Cheat India?
I felt the issue in our Indian education system is something that needs to be brought to the forefront.
I was surprised at how the director and writer of this film had handled such a relevant issue that everyone knows about. Still, there are many things not known.
We have made a great, entertaining, film around it, which also has the commercial trappings of four-songs and all other elements that made it a palatable Bollywood masala movie.
I wanted to get into production and am proud to start with this film.
After Tigers, this mass-appealing Cheat India seems to be on a different level. How was the experience?
I am very happy with the response to the trailer.
But ultimately, what is important is how the film ends up at the box office.
After 15 years of experience in the industry, I am talking like a wise man now.
But for me, things are a bit different.
I know that box office numbers are very important for the producers, but this movie is about a particular issue that our country is facing.
It talks about how our education system is screwed up, how flawed and regressive our education system is.
As long as this is brought to the forefront and a healthy conversation starts among people, along with some good entertainment, I am happy.
We have never seen a film on this subject before. Why do you think people shied away?
Not shied away, but I believe something like this wouldn't have been made five years ago.
They would have felt it's arty in nature and would be unsure about investing in it.
One may wonder that since there is no action in it -- or no sex despite me in it -- who will watch the film?
But things have changed drastically.
Films, which were considered arty, have become commercially viable.
That's why more and more film-makers are coming forward and riding with subjects like this.
This film affects students, parents, future parents, education faculties, schools, ministers... everyone is somewhere touched by this.
A lot of students and parents are still unaware that such things happen in our country's education system.
I am happy that it's better late than never. Finally, such films are coming to the forefront.
Before this film was brought to you, were you aware of these things?
I've been aware of paper leaks since my school days.
A lot of students would buy them. Even I tried to push my father to buy it and I got a slap on my face (laughs).
Actually, not a slap, but he shouted at me.
But it was the wrong paper and all those kids who had bought it were crying during the examination!
Every board in our country has a paper leak and every state has a problem of student impersonation, along with proxy examiners and all kinds of fudged job placements.
Appointment letters of teachers are fudged, and teachers who come to the forefront are not qualified at all.
I have witnessed this in my college, where -- forget the students -- teachers did not attend college!
So it's a fractured education system.
Do you think the film will effect a change or at least create awareness after its release?
That's very optimistic. We all know that things will not improve overnight.
After crying so much, the condition of our roads have not improved.
Our work is just to emphasise what has been said by everybody because we are optimistic. We hope that the change will happen sooner or later.
Like we constantly cry about the roads during the monsoon, there are a lot of people who cry about the education system in our country.
Cheat India just puts a stamp on it.
In about two hours, we are showing what truly happens, though probably not in detail.
Your character has shades of your characters in Shanghai and Jannat. How tough was it playing it? Also, how was the experience of saying all those whistle-blowing dialogues?
We have kept the dialogue very conversational.
There's a certain truth that Rakesh Singh (Emraan's character) feels with his strong personality.
But I have not said the dialogues like a hero.
For instance, Rakesh says, 'Mujhe hero banne ki iccha nai hai aur villain banne ka bilkul time nai hai. Khiladi hoon aur khel raha hoon.
For the students, Rakesh is a hero but he claims he's not.
And he tells the judge that he is not a villain.
Rakesh is doing such a job because you guys have screwed up the education system. There are a number of suicides because of this and no one is taking responsibility or going to jail.
Rakesh argues that he is just making money out of it and trying to feed his family with that. He is just working, and so don't take him as a god or a demon.
You have been a part of so many sensuous movies. Do you think they would be as successful if they released today in this age of social media?
Not because of social media, but they would probably not do well because we didn't have that kind of content available on the Internet some 10 years ago.
If we did have it, they were not easy to access like it is now.
That's why those films had novelty for youngsters -- to see something erotic in a film.
Now everything is on the phone.
Also, that has become a byproduct in films.
If the story and film is good, even if you have a few erotic scenes in it, it will surely work.
Cheat India seems to be a hardcore message-driven film. Would you like to focus on such kinds of cinema?
I love this kind of cinema.
I love being a part of any film that will entertain people as well as bring a message to society. But it does not mean that I will not explore other genres.
I cannot do typical masala films.
If it's an action film, it has to be a different kind.
I can't do action where 10 people fly in the air.
I like doing films like Cheat India which is entertaining and at the same time, makes you think about what is going on.
Your films like Shanghai and Awarapan draw appreciation even today.
People tell me that films like Shanghai and Awarapan are way ahead of their time because the audience and the industry were probably not ready for such cinema.
But at that point of time, I wanted to try them out and get that experience as an actor.
Shanghai is still called one of my best performances after Awarapan.