Underdog rises

Underdog rises

Fresh take

Underdog rises

From a serial-kisser who was known for his notorious roles, Emraan Hashmi has now become a force to be reckoned with. Roshmila Bhattacharya talks to the actor about his choice of out-of-the-box roles.

He is Bollywood’s quintessential bad boy. Right from his debut film Footpath (2003), Emraan Hashmi has played his roles with aplomb and without apology. And in the process, the 34-year-old actor has carved a niche for himself.

“Aren’t girls, even in real life, drawn to the bad guys? Even as an actor, I’m attracted to such gritty, enigmatic characters,” says Emraan who, in his last film Ghanchakkar (2013), played a professional safe-cracker who pulls off one last heist that will comfortably set him up for life, then suffers a memory loss about where he has stashed the loot. “Other actors can have their fill of the righteous, virtuous characters because my face doesn’t allow me to play them. There’s a certain deviousness written on it,” he chuckles.

Deviousness and a certain innocence too, because whether it’s Jannat (2008), Jannat 2 (2012 ), Awarapan (2007) or Ghanchakkar (2013), Emraan’s always been forgiven for his wrongs. “Yes, the films end with a sense of victory for the underdog and the reasons justify the end. It’s usually the girl and his love for her that makes the character do what he does and since this brings about a huge change in him, it’s easy to forget and forgive. Love conquers all, so why can’t it conquer the box-office too?” he argues.

Choice of films

Then why weren’t his last two films, Ek Thi Daayan (2013) and Ghanchakkar (2013), as successful as the big franchises, Murder, Jannat and Raaz? Did they lose the plot towards the end? Emraan explains that while the former had to go the traditional route with good triumphing over evil, Ghanchakkar consciously went for an open ending to trigger off a debate amongst cinegoers about what actually happened and who was the wrong one. “I stick by both films because they have helped me increase my fanbase with the multiplex audience. Earlier, I was a crowd-puller only on small screens, now thanks to films like Shanghai (2012) and these two, I’ve managed to bring in a different kind of audience too. Also, they gave me the opportunity to experiment with something excitingly different,” he says.

Yeah, not many leading men would agree to play second fiddle to three talented leading ladies — Konkana Sen Sharma, Huma Qureshi and Kalki — with author-backed roles in Ek Thi Daayan, and then let Vidya Balan, with whom he’d done the heroine-centric The Dirty Picture (2011), walk away with another significant role. Emraan maintains that he has always been guided by an inner confidence and conviction that what he’s doing is right. “I would never selfishly contaminate an idea with my personal agenda or insist on changing a story to give myself more footage. I played a supporting role in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai and I got as much appreciation as Ajay (Devgn). The audience enjoys the film as a whole and if it does well, it benefits us all. I know not everyone sees it that way here, it’s a Western attitude,” he agrees.
Talking about the West, he’s been busy shooting an international project, White Lies, helmed by Danis Tanovic, who bagged the Oscar for No Man’s Land (2001), in which he reportedly plays a common man caught in a corporate web. The film co-stars Bond (The Living Daylights) girl Maryam D’Abo. He walked the red carpet with Danis at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, and shot in the German capital before shifting base to Punjab.

“It was quite a surprise to hear people shout out my name and the names of my films in Berlin,” says Emraan, recalling how two years ago, a German fan saved money and flew down to Mumbai to spend her birthday with him. “It was sweet,” he smiles. “Films like Murder and Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai are huge favourites with the Germans. Danis is a great writer-director and I have to admit I am completely at home on his sets, with a unit that’s a mixture of Europeans, Bollywood-actors and locals of Patiala. It’s exciting when people from different worlds and different schools come together for one hard-hitting movie. That is a reflection of the times we live in.”

Promising projects

Meanwhile, back home, Emraan is all set to play a conman again in Disney-UTV’s upcoming film, Shatir, being directed by Kunal Deshmukh. It’s a typical, commercial masala movie, which has all the aces of Jannat and its hit sequel, and Emraan is playing a character with shades of grey. This will be followed by Karan Johar’s Ungli, an edge-of-the-seat thriller with larger-than-life characters, co-starring Kangna Ranaut and Sanjay Dutt. There’s also Budtameez Dil with Kareena Kapoor, another mainstream Ekta Kapoor-Karan Johar collaboration.

He is also back in the Bhatt camp with a Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin take off, which will see him give his own spin to Aamir Khan’s iconic character, Raghu Jetley. “I loved the original 1991 film. It was a unique love story, something that the Indian audience had not seen on screens before. A father, brilliantly played by Anupam Kher, urging his daughter (Pooja Bhatt) to leave the mandap because he’s come to realise that the man she’s marrying is not right for her.  It’s too early to talk about the film, but I like the fact that two people, poles apart, can fall in love,” he muses.

Before this, however, Emraan will be filming Vikram Bhatt’s 3D supernatural fantasy, Invisible, in which he plays an invisible man. “Do you know that Mr X, the 1957 film revolving around an invisible man, was also made by a Bhatt, Bhaat saab’s (Mahesh Bhatt) father, Nanabhai Bhatt. There’s a huge audience out there, particularly kids, who have not seen my films because they mostly come with an ‘A’ certificate. Invisible, which will be a pure entertainer with some stupendous special effects, will help me tap this market. It’s a film even my son Ayaan, who is three years and five months old, would enjoy,” smiles daddy.

Meanwhile, like Emraan, his cousin Mohit with whom he made films like Zeher (2005), Kalyug (2005), Awarapan (2007), Crook (2010) and Murder 2 (2011), has also moved from darkness to light with his first real love story, Aashqui 2, that turned out to be the year’s first superhit. Are they now planning a romantic outing together? “If we get a great script, why not? We’ve made some fantastic films together. Aashiqui 2 is a welcome change from the kind of cinema associated with Vishesh Films. Twenty years ago, even the original Aashiqui (1990) was a ‘hit’ with youngsters and went on to become a cult movie,” he reasons.

Talking of Aashiqui, there’s already plenty of speculations about his next film with Kareena. According to the buzz, the chhoti begum has been convinced by Ekta to let her inhibitions down for a scene that is significant to the plot. And Kareena has apparently agreed to a lip-lock with ‘serial kisser’ Emraan? That draws a long suffering sigh from the actor who quips, “It’s been a decade, but the ‘serial kisser’ tag has been following me like a shadow.”