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Interview Hindi

Sharib Ali Hashmi: Wanted to become an actor after growing up, but I didn’t grow up enough

In a friendly and funny chat with Cinestaan.com, the Filmistaan actor speaks about his next release, Phullu and his journey so far. 

Sharib Hashmi

Keyur Seta

The Hindi film industry has seen a lot of people with no filmi background leave behind everything to try their hand in acting. Most of them are people in their early 20s who have no immediate responsibilities of family or relationships.

But there are very few like Sharib Ali Hashmi who dare to quit their jobs to take the plunge in the uncertain world of acting despite having the responsibility of feeding a family. The actor has managed to swim well after taking the plunge. In his short career so far, he has acted in films like Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), Filmistaan (2014) and also played a part in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

He will be seen next in Phullu, which will be released on 16 June. In a fun-filled chat with Cinestaan.com, Hashmi opens up about his career, the risks he took and his experience of working in films of diverse scales.

Your film Phullu is ready for release. How did the idea originate?

The film focuses on the lack of menstrual hygiene among village women. It’s about how one man addresses the issue and goes ahead. I am playing the central character, Phullu. Our producer Anmol Kapoor is a Canada based heart surgeon. This is his concept actually. Around 20-25 years back he had a medical camp in Punjab. He met a man who used to give low-cost pads for village women. Kapoor thought that he had to address this issue some day. So, he decided to make a film with Saxena, with whom he has already made a Punjabi film. Saxena developed the film along with writer Shaheen Iqbal.

Sharib Hashmi in Phullu

You were a writer in television. How did you venture into acting?

I started off as an assistant director with Hum Tum Pe Marte Hain (1999). Then I started writing non-fiction for television. I did some freelancing. Later, I joined MTV as an in-house writer for Bollywood based shows. But my interest in acting developed while doing the MTV Bakra segment. I made bakras of a lot of people.

After doing few other jobs, I realised in 2008 that the acting keeda (bug) has bitten me completely. Right from my childhood, I wished to become an actor after growing up. During those days, you wanted to become a hero, not an actor. But I didn’t grow up. I remained only five feet four inches tall (laughs).

My dad was a film journalist. I used to attend film parties and shoots with him. Few actors also visited our place. I saw that even supporting actors have a certain height. I used to think that for actors there is a minimum requirement of height, which I don’t match. Hence, I decided I couldn’t be an actor and went into direction and writing. Then Rajpal Yadav entered the industry. Later on, I felt more passionate after seeing Nawaz bhai (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). I gathered the courage this way and decided to pursue acting full time.

You started off with Haal-e-Dil (2008).

Yes, that was my first film. I used to work with Channel V. I went for an audition for this film after a friend informed me and I got selected. Then another friend told me about a requirement in Slumdog Millionaire and I was selected there too.

After doing these two films I started thinking seriously about acting, although I was also working simultaneously. But the problem was that I was married and had a kid too. So, you have responsibilities. After considering all these things, one day I left my job for acting. The day the 26/11 attacks happened was my last day in office.

How did you get selected for Slumdog Millionaire?

I had one scene in Slumdog Millionaire. Director Danny Boyle himself took my audition. Frankly, I am not qualified enough to sit in front of him. I improvised and included one more line. He asked the meaning of it. Loveleen Tandan explained and he laughed out loud. When I went for the shoot, Boyle told me that he has incorporated the line I suggested. He said, ‘You are even part of the script now.’ I thought, over here people don’t give credit even when you have worked a lot and here is this person, so genuine and down-to-earth. He was a sweetheart to work with.

Sharib Hashmi & Inaamulhaq in Filmistaan

Filmistaan (2014) must be a special film for you since you played the central character. 

My life has been pre-Filmistaan and post-Filmistaan. The film holds a high place in my life, not just in my career. I had never thought that when I venture out to pursue acting, I will get to play such a fine character in a film that will receive the National Award for Best Hindi Feature Film. I consider myself fortunate and I am thankful to God for this.

I had read somewhere that the desert location, which you have shown as the Indo-Pak border, was miles away.

We completed the film in just 20 days. We shot in Mumbai for two days, which were quite leisurely. We shot for a day in Jaipur and a day near Jaipur at Sambhar. The area where my character is held captive was shot at a village which is 80 kilometers away from Bikaner. There were no facilities to stay; there was no electricity. So, we used to do up-down from Bikaner daily. So we spent four hours in travel alone. We shot there for around 16 days and completed everything. We used to sleep for around three hours.

How was your experience in Jab Tak Hai Jaan and how were you cast in it?

It was a huge thing for a nobody like me to star in Yash Chopra’s film. I didn’t have a project before this film. I had been giving auditions for three years. Nothing fruitful came up. So, I started doing a job again with Bindass TV. In between I had done a short film, Mehrooni. Casting director Shanoo Sharma saw the film and she called me for the audition. And that's how I got selected for Jab Tak Hai Jaan. I still remember the first day I entered Yash Raj Studio for the shoot, I saw art director Sharmishta Roy, cinematographer Anil Mehta, Karan Johar talking to Adi sir (Aditya Chopra). I thought, 'where have I come?' This was like my dream!

I was rehearsing for my first scene where I am sleeping. I had a cloth over my face. I removed it and saw Shah Rukh sir standing. He said, ‘Hi, I am Shah Rukh.’ I almost fainted there (laughs). After the first day, he said, it was a pleasure working with you. I told him that I can’t express my happiness in words to him. He never let us feel that we were working with the biggest superstar. He was a darling. As a co-actor, he used to think only about the film.

In your short career so far, you have a National Award Winning Film (Filmistaan), Oscar winning film (Slumdog Millionaire) and Yash Chopra’s last film. How do you look at this?

When you put it like this, I feel like I have achieved everything. But I still have so much more to do, so much more to achieve, so much more to prove. Though I haven't gotten any mainstream film post Filmistaan, I am am proud of whatever films I have done. Now Phullu is releasing so I am really happy. I hope the film gets as much, if not more, appreciation as Filmistaan did. It feels good that whatever worked I have done, it has been with good prominent people and I hope to continue this.

These days new actors enter the industry every now and then. Don’t you think you should do more films to be in the public eye? Are you choosy?

I want to do many films. I have entered the industry after quitting jobs. So, I am eager to do a lot of work (films). This doesn’t mean I would like to go on four sets in a day. I am choosy in a way that I take everything into consideration before signing a film. But at the same time, there hasn’t been any big offer that I have rejected. But please don’t change my gender. I am not choosy, I am chooza (laughs).

You are also doing a film called Ramsingh Charlie. What is its status?

Yes, I have written Ramsingh Charlie along with Nitin Kakkar. I am not acting in it. I have also co-produced it with Kakkar and Umesh Powar. It is under our banner, The Good Fellas Company. We have invested our hard-earned money into our film. It should hopefully release in the second half of this year. It stars Kumud Mishra and Divya Dutta. The film has come out very well. We will disclose more when the time is right.

Which are the other films in the pipeline?

I have a film called Vodka Diaries. It has Kay Kay Menon sir, Raima Sen, Mandira Bedi and myself. It’s a thriller. It was an honour for me to work with Kay Kay Menon sir. I also have another forthcoming film called Darbaan. It’s directed by National Award winning Marathi filmmaker Bipin Nadkarni.