Since headlining the political thriller Shanghai in 2013, Emraan Hashmi has determinedly shaken off the sticky labels of ‘hitman’ and ‘serial kisser’. From successful films like Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, Murder 2, The Dirty Picture and Jannat 2, to more recent releases such as the web series Bard of Blood and Mumbai Saga, and this week’s cinema release Chehre, he has reshaped his career.
Former assistant director to uncle Mahesh Bhatt, Hashmi moved in front of the camera with Footpath (2003) and Murder (2004). Shanghai, he says, was the first time people saw him as a serious actor, and with Chehre, he goes head-to-head with veteran film actors Amitabh Bachchan, Annu Kapoor, Raghubir Yadav and Dhritiman Chatterjee.
Hashmi speaks about what attracted him to the Rumi Jafry directed suspense thriller and working with Bachchan.
What is the intrigue of ‘Chehre’, and how would you describe your character?
I play Sameer, the owner of an ad agency. His car breaks down in the wilderness and he takes refuge in this house where he is pulled into a game of a mock courtroom trial. The prosecutor, played by Mr Bachchan, grills him, trying to figure out if this guy has committed any crimes. The film is about what happens as the night proceeds. My character is arrogant and a bit over-confident but there is more to him than meets the eye. He is relatable, super successful, a creative person, a little eccentric and a go-getter who knows how to bend the rules to achieve his goals.
What got you excited about this project—the story or the co-stars?
The story fascinated me first, but Amitabh Bachchan’s presence along with the stellar cast of other fine actors like Raghubir Yadav, Annu Kapoor and Dhritiman Chatterjee, as well as the younger cast (Krystle D’Souza, Rhea Chakraborty and Siddhanth Kapoor) was definitely a draw. It is a fabulous story and I also knew the visual representation would be fantastic because cinematographer Binod Pradhan is attached to the film.
Was there any particular detail you kept in mind when portraying your character?
To make him believable, I had to get into the skin of the character and also create chemistry with the other characters because apart from the script, the performances would carry the story.
What was it like working with Amitabh Bachchan?
It was great. Seeing his process on set was inspirational and heartening. It was so interesting to watch what he does between shots, how he gives his lines, how he projects and emotes on set. Observing him is like a textbook for an actor. There is so much to imbibe and learn from him. What really surprised me was that he even came for a script reading and discussion. I thought I would see him straight on the film set, but he did come and I thought this is probably for us newcomers. I consider myself a newcomer compared to him. During the shoot, he is all there. He doesn’t leave the set till he gets a break or he has to go to the loo. When we were shooting in the mountains of Slovakia, he stood outside in the cold, in a blizzard, for almost six hours. He didn’t get into his car or van. He didn’t leave the location. Even though it was a physically demanding situation, he stood out in the snow.
This is your second theatrical release during the pandemic ('Mumbai Saga' released in March 2021). How do you feel about your films releasing only in some states and not all over the country?
It’s okay. It’s not an ideal situation at the moment with Covid, but we wanted to put our film out there because we missed the earlier release date and this is the right time to put it out.
Of your roles and films, which one do you feel is the most under-rated?
Not so much under-rated, but although it didn’t perform well at the box office, Awarapan (2007) became pretty cult on satellite, DVD, etc. That film tops my filmography in terms of popularity rankings. I think it could have been a box office smash, but we failed somewhere in the marketing aspect.
What else have you got coming up, and what about a second season of ‘Bard of Blood’?
There is the Hindi remake of the Malayalam supernatural horror film Ezra. I am not sure whether that will also be the Hindi film’s title, but we are looking at a September release for that. As for Bard of Blood, the script for the first season came very organically from the book, but it’s very unfortunate that we could not lock a script for a second season.