Bollywood actor Emraan Hashmi talks about his choices in cinema and his upcoming two releases Raja Natwarlal and Tigers.
Since your last two films, Ghanchakkar and Ek Thi Daayan, didn’t do well at the box office, did that prompt you to go back to commercial fare like Raja Natwarlal?
Even if those films didn’t get the desired box office results, they worked for the niche audience they were made for. Raja Natwarlal is a formulaic, massy film but it’s also the best con film you will see in the country. At the end you only have five stories to tell, it’s the way you tell them that makes the difference. Raja Natwarlal gives the con movie a kind of flamboyance that Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai gave to Mumbai gangster movies.
Tell us about the role.
It’s a David vs Goliath scenario, where a man from the streets takes on a larger than life villain. He’s got a talent of conning people and he uses that device to bring this man down. Raja has an emotional context as to why he does what he does.
Shanghai and Ghanchakkar brought out a side of you that many of us had sensed, but not seen before.
Shanghai pitched me to a certain multiplex audience, who hadn’t woken up to my existence. Actually I always wanted to do these kind of films. I may have a mass following, but I am not a traditional mass actor. People who meet me off screen don’t see me as a hero of the masses. My personal tastes are different. I am the kind of guy who would go to watch a Shanghai. I am currently watching a lot of TV series such as Walking Dead, Homeland, Breaking Bad and True Detective. I end up doing a Murder because it’s targeted for the mass audience who bring in the numbers. I do films like Murder for my bread and butter. My sensibilities are more attuned to international cinema. I don’t like over-the-top performances.
Did the box office failure of these films hurt?
It always does but then you can’t have an upward moving graph all the time. Ek Thi Daayan was an experimental horror while Ghanchakkar was black comedy. You can’t expect a big commercial box-office success where the hero is slapped throughout the film and in the end doesn’t even get the money. Our audience hasn’t evolved that much. Every film can’t translate into numbers and box office. But I grow as an actor with every film. The growth shows even when I am playing those cool urban characters in other films because of the theatre exercises those films and filmmakers made me go through.
What kind of theatre exercises did you go through?
Dibakar Banerjee put me into a 20-day workshop where you had to do embarrassing things in front of people. These are exercises that bring you to the edge, even scare you. Like you are asked to perform like a baby, cry or laugh loudly, and improvise constantly. These exercises change your perspective and really break you as an actor.
What was it like working in director Danis Tanovic’s Tigers?
Since he’s an Oscar-winning filmmaker, I thought he would be more controlling but he gives space and doesn’t question. He lets you interpret the character and will listen to your point. One can have a healthy debate with him. He is very open minded, and I think open-minded people make the best directors. I don’t like working with autocratic filmmakers.
How did you get the role?
Anurag Kashyap loved my work in Shanghai. He met Danis at some film festival where Danis narrated to him the synopsis of the film. Kashyap suggested my name. Danis messaged me from Bosnia, and sent me the script. He’d already seen four of my films. He said he loved my work and that I am tailor made for this role. We are premiering the film at the Toronto International Film Festival on
What’s next after Tigers?
I have Hamari Adhuri Kahaani, a mature intense love story. In Mr. X, I play a vigilante, a dark superhero.
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