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Emraan Hashmi: Justified Azhar more than we should have 

In an exclusive interview, the actor talks about the failure of biopic Azhar, among other things.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Mayur Lookhar

Emraan Hashmi’s career has hit a huge roadblock. Eight successive flops and the knives are out with some even waiting to write his career obituary. For a man who was once put on the pedestal with the Khans, Hashmi is going through the worst crisis of his career. One would expect him to be despondent, but he is optimistic, revitalised and gung ho about his next, Raaz Reboot, the fourth instalment in the Raaz franchise. 

Hashmi spoke exclusively to Cinestaan.com, where he opened up on his string of losses, his will to fight back, why Azhar was destined to fail, why he’s happy to no longer be called the 'serial kisser', Raaz Reboot and much more. 

Excerpts from the conversation.

A few days back, I was enjoying the shrill and thrill of horror stories narrated by friends. Do you also have the same curiosity for the occult? Is that the reason why you keep coming back to the Raaz franchise?

I do. There’s always a unique experience and thrill in hearing or seeing a horror story. It’s a norm in my house, even with friends, we loved watching horror films. This experience is unparalleled to any experience. I’d seen The Ring in the theatre. People freak out in the theatre, they scream at the same time and the next second they laugh, embarrassed at feeling the fear in a theatre, that they can see a horror scene on the screen, but there is a certain safety which they feel in the theatre. That viewing experience is quite nice and entertaining, unless you are alone in the theatre. I don’t think I’ll ever do that. Raaz has become the preferred franchise in this genre.

All the three Raaz films have done well. So, why use the word 'reboot'?

Well , Raaz has had a roadmap through the years where the first film was shot in a bungalow in Ooty. After that, the second and the third were more urbanised, set in the heart of a bustling city like Mumbai. These films gave the feeling that paranormal activities can happen in metros. Then we faced the question of 'what next'?  So, the fourth one was taken to Romania and everything about Raaz has been rebooted — the way the scenes have been shot, the way we’ve tried to instil fear in the audience with the visuals, less VFX, but more psychological stuff... That is something which we are hoping that the audience will enjoy.

How was it to shoot in the land of Count Dracula?

Oh, fantastic. That is one thing that I was really looking forward to do in Romania. I’ve read up on stories of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, seen the movies and then I went to the Bran Castle in Transylvania. It was snowing, actually it was a blizzard. As we walked up the staircase, the bells were ringing. It was exactly what I had envisioned in films. We went inside and we saw all the rooms, it was all very eerie. Unfortunately, couldn’t spot the legend, but he must have been there like an invisible figure. 

What does Raaz Reboot promise this time?

It promises a different experience this time. Honestly, I didn’t see this franchise beyond the third part. However, I was really surprised by the third script. It’s very unpredictable, it’s scary as hell and you wouldn’t know which way it’s headed right till the end.

From romancing Kangana Ranaut, Bipasha Basu to Kriti Kharbanda now. What is it about pretty ladies that the ghosts possess only them? Will this raaz ever be demystified?

I guess that makes for great viewing. Pretty girls are wonderful eye candy on screen for the ghosts. And I don’t blame them for it. In horror films, it’s always the possessed girl or the kid that make for eerie viewing on  screen. Kids are more terrifying than women being possessed. 

You've hardly had much success in the last three years. Isn't it vital that Raaz Reboot help reboot your career?

(laughs) Yeah it does. Success is imperative for any film. But sometimes you just have to get up, dust yourself and try once more. I’m sure it’s not the end of the road for me. As long as I have the will, the courage to get up again, and take one more shot, I will not bog down. I still have the hunger and thirst to be part of great cinema.

Looking at your films in the last 3-4 years, quite a few of them weren't entirely different than your early films, and yet they flopped. Why do you think your last eight films haven’t done well?

I’m lost. Do you have any take on that? By no means are they bad films. At the most, if someone had to critique these films, they would say it’s an average film, a decent watch but I don’t know… (pauses)

We often hear that Emraan Hashmi isn’t a bad actor, but it’s just that he’s taken up bad scripts. Do you agree?

I don’t know. These scripts seemed like good scripts, and the films too seemed to be enjoyable. I can break down why a sci-film like Mr. X didn’t do well. We didn’t really understand the sci-fi genre. Besides, this genre never does well in our country. So it didn’t make sense to make one film, we thought we could change the things, but it didn’t work. Each film comes with its kundali. We all strive to make it a success, but sometimes things don’t fall into place. May be the stars weren’t aligned as they were a few years back.

As an actor do you feel picking a script has become more tough than a jigsaw puzzle?

I do feel that sometimes. When I see a script, now I question it even more. Self-doubt creeps in when things don’t go your way. You feel you are doing things wrong, but then there’s also a feeling that I’m probably analysing more now than I used to when I had successful films. So, by that logic, I should stop analysing it. However, it is also very important that with changing times, it’s always good to a break a script down, analyse it properly before signing on.

One of the criticisms against Azhar was that it glorified a tainted sportsman and how the film may have distorted the facts. What’s your reaction to such criticism?

That is the feeling I got from the press while giving interviews. They were of the view that this could be a PR exercise for Azhar and why would he want anything negative in the film. So, how can any person not have any negative in his life? From match-fixing to his affair with another woman, everything in the film was justified. So, probably we ended up justifying more than we should have. May be, he didn’t turn out to be the person people expected to see in the film. 

While the film had its flaws, as a cricket enthusiast, I felt that the perhaps the media shut its eyes to the fact that the Andhra high court had later quashed the match-fixing ban against him.

Well, that’s the thing. A court has given its verdict and we aren’t ready to abide by it. We’ve pre-decided in our head if a person is guilty or not guilty. Well, that his how the public thinks because they have their own jury in their head.

Even if they are exonerated by the courts, tainted people seldom win back trust of the people. Is that what made it doubly difficult for Azhar to prosper?

I can break down and tell you why Azhar didn’t do well. It was a decently made film, but it was just the perception of the man (Mohammed Azharuddin) that unfortunately didn’t match with the image that people had in their mind. We showed Azhar as a hero, but the perception was something different. People haven’t forgiven him after he apparently took money in 2000.

How do you deal with your low phase?

Well, even the Khans have their low phase, every Kapoor too has it. So, this Hashmi is going through a low phase. It’s all in your attitude and the way you weather the storm. If you are willing to get up one more time, that’s what make winners and that is what keeps you in the industry for the long haul. I’m willing to get up every time when I fall. 

What’s the update on Tigers? Why has it taken so long to release in India?

You should ask the producers. It’s been floating around the festivals, but the India release is a bit more complicated than that. So, we have to wait and see. 

When you  make a film based in Pakistan, is there a fear of alienating your mass patriotic Indian audience back home? Besides, such films also run into trouble with the Pakistani CBFC. Do you have such fears for Tigers?

Well, some of the trade may have that fear, but I don’t. I think that you can celebrate anyone’s life. Bajrangi Bhaijaan had one of the protagonists from Pakistan, and you feel for her. If it’s a well-woven emotional story than you can accept it. 

But can a Tigers be accepted by the Indian masses?

I’m not so sure about the masses, but there definitely will be an audience that will enjoy this man’s journey, irrespective of where he came from.

It was strange to find a calm person like you react to Twitter trolls over your Captain Nawab poster which bears a striking resemblance to the Call of Duty (video game franchise) poster.

It was not anything malicious on my side. I wanted to make a joke out of it, it's silly, there’s always a perception to it. Some think that it might be inspired or ripped off, but who the hell has a copyright over a picture of a man sitting with two guns? Call of Duty definitely doesn’t have it. If I stood with two guns, they could rip it off for some other film. So, anything that you do can be lifted off anywhere.

Post The Dirty Picture, both Vidya Balan and you have had a similar career graph. Have you'll ever discussed this common slide with her?

(laughs). I guess we use our own roadmap. You can’t expect 100% success in this industry. You have to be prepared for winter sometimes and at times, it turns out to be a long winter. That is the time when you got to just think and have the will and belief in yourself that you will come back one day. I’m not putting anything to luck. I’m putting as much hard work, probably now triple the hard work than what I was doing when I was successful. If there’s any truth in my efforts, then there will be a success down the line.

You were long tagged as the 'serial kisser', but now the title is being given to Vaani Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. Are you happy to pass the baton to them?

(laughs) You have no idea how happy I am to pass on this baton. I think I should throw a party.