My priorities are changed: Emraan Hashmi
The actor talks to us about his upcoming film, Why Cheat India, and the recent shift in his creative priorities
Emraan Hashmi’s upcoming film, Why Cheat India, delves into the criminal aspects of the Indian education system. The film is directed by Soumik Sen and co-produced by Emraan with T-Series and Ellipsis Entertainment. Newcomer Shreya Dhanwanthary, who made her acting debut in the 2010 Telugu film, Sneha Geetham, stars as the female lead. In a conversation with Cinema Express, Emraan talks about shifting gears from a mainstream ‘serial kisser’ to a bona fide serious actor, his insights on the cheating mafia operating across states, the advantages of turning producer, and his upcoming Netflix show, Bard of Blood.
Excerpts from the conversation:
In the last 7-8 years, there has been a decided shift from your earlier image to more serious roles in films like Shanghai, Tigers, and now, Why Cheat India. It seems to be coming from a personal, introspective space…
It has a lot to do with me maturing as a person and my priorities shifting, and also evolving and changing as an actor. As you go through experiences in your life, it reflects in the creative decisions that you make. You can't just do a certain kind of cinema throughout your career because there's no creative satisfaction in that. You reach a saturation point and then there is a deliberate shift. There’s a need to grow as an actor and as a creative person.
What got you hooked to the subject of Why Cheat India, and what was your insight when you looked at the research material?
I know how bad and ineffective the education system has been in my own life. When I came out of school, I did not know what profession to get into nor what major to take. And that has mostly been the case with my friends and the people I've spoken to. The school never gives you clarity about what your forte might be. Then there's the whole thing of rote-mugging, the disinterested teachers... Not that there aren't any qualified teachers, but generally, because of the pay in our country, a lot of teachers who get into this profession are not qualified.
These are problems I knew about. But there's this other aspect of the problems that are plaguing our system, which is the cheating mafia. Across states, middlemen are paid to send their own bunch of scholars to colleges and schools, to write exams for undeserving students sitting at home -- these students then go on to become doctors and engineers.
How did turning producer help in getting this project off the ground?
It was, for me, a great step in the right direction. There were a couple of films of mine where I wasn't quite happy with how things came together. I felt a bit powerless because my contribution to these projects was limited to just acting and maybe promoting the films. As a producer, you get to see a lot more than that; you are a part of the overall decision-making process. After 17 years of acting, I felt the next step was to turn producer so that I could see a project through right from the scripting-stage to its ultimate release.
Is Rakesh, your character in the film, an out-and-out anti-hero? Or is he a man of his circumstances who later on has a moral awakening?
Everyone is the hero of their own lives. We have not tried to find any justification for my character because he himself doesn't look for it. He is unapologetic about what he does and has an interesting philosophy. He says, "Listen, I am providing an opportunity to these kids. It might be cheating, but your system isn't helping them either. The system is pressurising these students, while I am giving them a new avenue to make money." It's as simple as that.
You are making your Netflix debut with the upcoming show, Bard of Blood. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Bard of Blood is an exciting project. We have completed 60 to 70 per cent of it — the last leg of shooting is left. We will release it sometime in August. I’ve been a big fan of web and television shows for the past six years, ever since I watched Breaking Bad. I am a fan of the format. It's like literature where you get to really sink your teeth in, unlike a two-hour film. It's a lot of hard work too, similar to shooting three feature films. I am excited for the audience to see the show.
Here's the video interview