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Birthday special: How can Emraan Hashmi return to his successful days?

On the actor’s 38th birthday, we look at his career and the possibility of his return to box-office success.

Keyur Seta

Not many people remember that Emraan Hashmi actually made his debut with a Vikram Bhatt film called Footpath (2003). The film received neither appreciation nor box-office success. He truly came into the limelight with Anurag Basu’s Murder (2004), opposite Mallika Sherawat. It was his kissing act and songs like ‘Bheege Honth Tere’ that made him a star overnight. 

On his 38th birthday, we revisit Hashmi's rise to stardom through his home productions, success in non-Bhatt films, and the road ahead. 

After Murder, the actor would not have expected to be branded Hindi cinema's 'serial kisser’. However, kissing scenes became his identity, and the actor locked lips quite frequently in films like Tumsa Nahin Dekha (2004), Chocolate (2005), Aashiq Banaya Aapne (2005), and Zeher (2005). 

Yet, along with the infamy, these films also made him hot property at the box office. Most of Hashmi's early films were produced by his uncles, Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt, under their banner Vishesh Films. Some of these were Murder (2004), Zeher (2005), Kalyug (2005) and Gangster (2006). Though Awarapan (2007) did not earn commercial success, the film was appreciated for Hashmi’s performance. In fact, this was the film that marked his arrival as a good actor.

Unsurprisingly, the success in his uncles’ camp led to films from other production houses as well. His biggest success with a film outside the Bhatt camp was in Milan Luthria’s Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (2010). Despite Ajay Devgn’s presence, Hashmi got a meaty role as the gangster Shoaib, which he performed with sincerity. 

Hashmi's luck with Luthria was not a one-off. He played an important role in Luthria’s next, The Dirty Picture (2011). His transformation from a hard-core art filmmaker to a commercial one was impressive. In between Bhatt productions like Jannat 2 (2012) and Raaz 3 (2012), he starred in the critically acclaimed Shanghai (2012), directed by Dibakar Banerjee, where his act as a roadside ruffian with bad teeth came as a pleasant shock. This is considered his best role till date. 

However, from here on began a dark period, which, unfortunately, has continued till now. Not a single film of Hashmi's has worked at the box office since Raaz 3, though he has tried different genres. In fact, Hashmi has had as many as eight flops – Rush (2012), Ek Thi Daayan (2013), Ghanchakkar (2013), Raja Natwarlal (2014), Ungli (2014), Mr X (2015), Hamari Adhuri Kahani (2015) and Azhar (2016). Of these, Ek Thi Daayan was produced by Vishal Bhardwaj's VB Entertainment, Raja Natwarlal was a UTV production, while Azhar was produced by Ekta Kapoor's Balaji Entertainment. 

In terms of genres, the actor has experimented with the comic (Raja Natwarlal, Ghanchakkar, and Ungli), thrillers (Mr X, Ek Thi Daayan, and Rush), as well as biopics (Azhar). It shows his increasing penchant to experiment with roles as an actor. 

However, in a market driven extensively by commercial success, having so many unsuccessful films on the trot spells trouble for any actor. To make matters worse, none of these eight films contained a memorable performance from Hashmi, barring Azhar. 

The big question facing Hashmi right now is whether there is a way out. Will he be back to his good old successful ways? Considering his commercial value, it doesn’t look possible for him to strike gold as the main lead. The only alternative is to play supporting roles, or second leads. 

Coincidentally, the stage is set for him to do just that. The actor will next be seen in Luthria’s Baadshaho, which is scheduled to be released on 1 September. The film, set in the Emergency period of the 1970s, has him playing second lead to Ajay Devgn. Luthria's record with Devgn is a positive sign for Hashmi as well. Barring Chori Chori (2003), the director has delivered quality films in the form of Kachche Dhaage (1999) and OUATIM. 

If their combo works again, Hashmi may reap the benefit in a big way.