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Why Emraan Hashmi is underrated as an actor?

For all his serial-kissing adventures, Emraan Hashmi has evolved into one of the most dependable actors of the Hindi film industry. His early films and public profile belie his deep cinematic intelligence. 

Shriram Iyengar

In 2012, Salman Khan, that supreme Bollywood entity, declared Emraan Hashmi to be an underrated actor. Hashmi had just come out of a string of hits in Raaz 2, Jannat 2, and The Dirty Picture. His portrayal of the ruthless, vengeful director in The Dirty Picture, opposite an imperious Vidya Balan, caught the attention of critics and the masses alike. Suddenly, the 'serial-kisser' was being hailed as a versatile character actor. Since then, Emraan Hashmi has gone on to deliver critical performances in films like Shanghai (2012), and Ek Thi Daayan(2013). His choice of scripts has ranged from whimsical to comic and even avant-garde. So why is it that Emraan Hashmi does not receive the same praise or roles as a Rajkummar Rao or even Sushant Singh Rajput?

In the film industry, the presence of a Godfather is as much a hindrance as it is a blessing. It was Mahesh Bhatt who provided Emraan with his debut film. Vikram Bhatt cast him in several movies at a go in the early years. Footpath(2003), Murder(2004), Chocolate: Deep Dark Secrets (2005), Kalyug(2005), and Gangster(2006) were some of the early productions by the family which had Emraan in key roles. Although films like Murder, Raaz and Chocolate were key to establishing the serial kisser tag that haunted the actor for a long time, he did deliver excellent, restrained performances in films like Kalyug, Awaarapan, and Gangster. However, being family productions audiences and critics conveniently dismissed his performances as being propped up by the family. In addition, his presence in the semi-erotic thrillers like Murder, Raaz, Zeher(2005), and Aksar(2006) relegated him the sections of the industry which included far less talented actors like Aftab Shivdasani, Mimoh Chakravarty and Tusshar Kapoor. 

Another factor that goes against Emraan is his lack of A-lister films. Like another popular 'mass' actor from down South, Dhanush, Emraan has a massive fan following among the common man. They dance to his songs and sing along with him. He is one of them. He lacks the Greek god physique of Hrithik Roshan or the dimpled charm of Ranbir Kapoor. More importantly, he just cannot dance, although songs filmed on him are often chartbusters. There is something stealthily disarming about Emraan. But even that roguish charm works against him when it comes to casting plots. For a leading man who has spent 13 years in the industry, Emraan can only claim Vidya Balan and Kangana Ranaut as the A-listers cast opposite him. Even in his most acclaimed roles like Shanghai and The Dirty Picture, Hashmi is often cast as the rogue with a golden heart. The only film that saw him take up a leading role with a positive image, Hamaari Adhuri Kahani(2015), was rejected completely by the audience and panned universally by critics. Although the film had a lot of things going against it, the story and the plot namely, the flop dented the little chance Emraan had as a 'hero'. 

As he takes on the mantle of the disgraced former cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin, Emraan must find it an interesting challenge. Like Azhar, Emraan too is in search of redemption and acceptance. It is a character that has the pathos, anger, depth and complexity that fall well within Emraan's range. Like Azhar, he is in search of a return to public memory after his recent failures at the box office. It is the least he deserves. It is the most he will receive from an industry reveling in stereotypes.