To what would you attribute your chemistry in Filmistaan?
Sharib Hashmi: I have written many television shows and Inaamulhaq is also a writer, and like me a film buff, so we have a lot in common.
Inaamulhaq: Before the shooting of Filmistaan we used to meet now and then, but during the shooting we became good friends. We bonded well and were comfortable with each other, which translated on screen.
What has been the funniest response you have got to your performance in the film?
SH: When people come out of the theatre and see me in person, they are surprised how small made I am. So the instant reaction is ‘you look so big on screen’! But the audience has loved my performance and I am thrilled to bits. It’s a top-of-the-world kind of feeling. My social networking handles are flooding with congratulatory messages.
I: A director thought that like my character Aftaab I was from Pakistan, and asked me which state of Pakistan I belonged to! He was shocked to learn that I am an Indian. In fact, many people are mistaking me for a Pakistani. So that was funny. But being recognised wherever I go makes me feel good.
The film has several engaging moments, funny and otherwise. Which is your favourite scene in the film?
SH: For me it’s the scene in the end where I confess to Aftaab. It was a very emotional one and close to my heart. There’s also the scene where I get slapped several times when I tell the terrorists not to touch my camera.
I: Hmmm, actually it would be unfair to answer that, because the entire film is very dear to me. But if I were to mention a scene, then I’d go along with Sharib when he reveals about himself to me and our bonding is further strengthened.
We have read that like your characters in the film, both of you are movie buffs in real life too.
SH: Actually, I am not that big a film buff like my character,Sunny Arora, but I would say I am 50 per cent like him. I loved movies so much, as a 10 or 11 year old kid, I would stand outside the window of my neighbours house in Mumbai and watch films on their television sets. One of my neighbour had a VCR and the only film they had was Tawaif so I ended up watching that film about 50 times! In college, I had gone to watch Hum Aapke Hain Kaun in its silver jubilee week and when the song, Lo chalo main I danced on the entire song and the audience cheered me on. I’d call myself a movie buff, rather than a Bollywood buff.
I: I am from Saharanpur and my family did not own a television, so we used to go to our neighbours house and coax them to let us watch. When I was in class nine, I saw a group of four to five boys doing a street play and wondered how they were doing drama on the street. I was very intrigued and wanted to join them. But they used to travel from place to place, so I set out in search of them. It took me two years to locate them, but once I did, I didn’t leave them. That’s how the journey started. Later, I heard about the National School of Drama and was surprised to learn that there was a school that taught one how to act. My goal from then onwards became to join this school. In 2000 after a second attempt at admission, I succeeded. I became the first person to join a drama school from Saharanpur.
I moved to Mumabi in 2006 and started my career with Pankaj Parashar as dialogue and screenplaywriter for Karamchand. Sharib and I have a lot in common, as he is also a writer.
In the film Sharib rattles off all the dialogues from Maine Pyaar Kiya. In real life any films you have memorised the dialogues of?
SH: Yes I can rattle of the dialogues of Chalti Na Naam Gadi, Padosan, Andaaz Apna Apna, Anand, Sholay etc.
Since you are bothe movie buffs, which is your all time favourite film?
SH: My all time favourite film is Anand. It’s very close to my heart. And somewhere my character Sunny is like Anand as he follows the same philosophy. Both are on the verge of death, but still entertain and make people laugh.
I: Mine is Rang De Basanti. It’s entertaining and gives such a big message in a light-hearted manner. Somewhat similar to Filmistaan, that talks about a serious issue like Indo-Pak relations but something that can be solved with fun.
And your favourite actor?
I: We are on the same plane here, as Aamir Khan tops my list too. Then there are others like Irrfan, Om Puri, Shah Rukh Khan. Will Smith is the international favourite.
In Filmistaan, one of the films you screen for the Pakistani villagers is Maine Pyaar Kiya. In real life which Indian film would you like people in Pakistan to watch?
SH: There are so many, but top on the list would be Filmistaan. Otherwise, Anand, Rang De Basanti and other classics.
I: According to me Filmistaan is the best movie that has been made on the Indo-Pak relations and the people in Pakistan should watch it.
Is there anything that you don’t like about each other?
SH: Inaamulhaq talks too much and at times it become difficult to stop him. Otherwise, he is fun to be with.
I: He cracks a lot of PJs and the fact that he is constantly on his phone!
Do you recall any funny moments during the shooting of the film?
SH: Actually there were so many funny scenes to shoot that between takes nothing funny happened, but we were always cracking up with jokes and one liners, imitating Wasim Khan saab who played Inaam’s father in the film. It was a joy ride during the 20 days we shot at Bikaner.
I: Sharib’s craving for food! There were several scenes in the film which showed people eating, like the terrorists or Sharib himself. And there was this local food of Rajasthan, some sumptuous gavar bhaji and rotis that was served for these scenes. In my first scene with him, where I give him a plate with rotis and sabji to eat, I thought after the take I would eat one roti. But this guy polished off the food during the rehearsal itself! We had to order again, but Sharib finished that too, and we would wait when he would leave and we could eat! You can see how fat he was then.
Also there was a charpoi which served as a vanity van during the shoot and there was a constant squabbling over who would lie down on it! There were times when three -four people would flop on it. The shoot was fun despite us having to travel 80 km in the oppressive heat to shoot.
Sharib, you have done Slumdog Millionaire, Haal-E-Dil, Jab Tak Hain Jaan and Inaamulhaq you have done bit roles in Firaaq and Agneepath, did you’ll ever imagine you would land a lead role in a film?
SH: I did one scene in Slumdog.. for which Danny Boyle himself had taken my audition. Never in my wildest of dreams did I think I would get a film like Filmistaan playing the main lead. As a child I would say bada hoke hero banuga, but I had quit my dreams of becoming a hero.
I: I always had this hunger for good work and didn’t mind doing a small role if the script was good. Firaaq was made by Nandita Das who has her own place in the industry and Agneepath was the remake of a cult film. But yes, I could never imagine myself in a lead role. But ever since the time films with diverse subjects are being made now, a new space has been created for actors.
Filmistaan took its own time to release. What did you do during those two years?
SH: I did theatre. I did get a couple of offers from television and some films too but they were not that exciting or challenging. After doing Filmistaan, I did not want to do anything which I would repent later. It became a little frustrating at times, but I was waiting for it to release. It has been worth the wait now.
I: I am a very optimistic person to the extent that if I had bird flu I would try to fly! I was born in a village where one would have to walk two kms to reach the main road, so reaching here is a big high for me. I interacted with high profile people when I wrote for television, so I had this belief that I would achieve something. There were times when we were told that the film would release in the next three months I did let go of some work. This happened a couple of times, but I knew whenever the film would release something good would come out of it.
Any new projects that you’ll have signed?
I: Not yet. But I am waiting as many people in the industry have yet to watch the film. I believe everything happens when it has to.
SH: Talks are on for a film with Nikhil Advani. It’s 99 per cent there. I have heard a few other scripts, but not signed any film.