He might have had a rough journey at the box-office in the last couple of years but that has barely made an impact on his popularity as an actor. The masses still love Emraan Hashmi and he might seem to get them back to the theatres with his next film in which he plays a morally corrupt character, an avatar which his fans have loved him in. In this interview, he talks about ‘Cheat India’, the perks of being a producer, playing the anti-hero and upcoming projects.
What is that one factor that made you say a ‘yes’ to ‘Cheat India’?
What got me interested in the film was that one line which Soumik narrated to me a year back. It was a subject on which people had not seen a film on before. The scam business, especially in the field of education, is huge in India. Our education system has never been in a good state and now, these activities are making things worse for students and the parents. I strongly felt it was a story that had to be told. I feel proud to be associated with this film in the capacity of an actor and a producer.
You are father to a school going child. What are the kinds of changes you think are needed to be implemented in the education system?
The education system in India needs a complete overhaul. The government has to step in and take effective measures to correct a few things. Parents also tend to push children towards opting for conventional career choices even when their children are not interested in them. I think they should be given a little more freedom to choose what they want to do. Education is not just a means to earn a living. It is an important tool to become a good human being. It teaches you social skills, etiquettes and manners. Unfortunately, today, people see it only as a way to earn a living. That mind-set should change.
You are back to playing the morally corrupt anti-hero with this film.
Yes, I have made a career out of playing character with grey shades. Rakesh, the character I play in this film, has been written in a similar mould but he is still a little different from the ones I have played in the past. When you meet him, he comes across as a sweet person but his mind is devious. He is an honest cheater. He has got his morale in place. He is not trying to be a hero or a villain. His only motive in life is to make money and he is honest about it. Also, he feels there is nothing wrong about using unlawful means to get deserving students a seat in universities.
This is your first film as a producer. Did that also make you feel more empowered as an actor?
Yes, when an actor produces a film he feels a little more powerful for sure. When I am just an actor on the sets, I feel a little vulnerable. You feel vulnerable as a producer too but you tend to have more control over things. You are a part of the entire process from the inception of the film to the marketing and release. It is quite a fun process to be a part of. You get to experience everything that goes into making a film.
A lot of your films have had some great dialogues. The film has an interesting tagline ‘nakal mein hi akal hai’. Can we expect more of such dialogues or punch-lines in the film?
The film is set in a realistic space, so there is not a lot of dialogue-baazi in it. However, the film has some good dialogues as Rakesh has the gift of the gab and speaks very well. He is not a typical hero but has certain philosophies in his life which he expresses through dialogues.
The film is set in Uttar Pradesh. Did you have to work towards getting the language and diction right?
I had to work hard during readings. I believe script is the most important aspect of a film, so I spend a lot of time reading the script. That is when I grasp the character and the world he belongs to. I got a lot of help from one of our assistants who was from Uttar Pradesh. He was always on the sets and would correct me whenever I said a line in an incorrect manner.
Which areas of Uttar Pradesh did you shoot the film in?
We shot primarily in Lucknow. We shot across different universities in the city. There were no sets. We shot only on real locations. Since we had planned to wrap the film quickly, we used to shoot for twelve to fourteen hours a day.
The film is based on real events. Is your character, too, based on someone?
No, not really. The film is based on a few incidents that happened in the past but the character I play is fictional. The team mostly met people in and around Lucknow to get an idea about the kind of personality Rakesh could have. We borrowed their mannerisms and other nuances to incorporate in the character.
You will be seen in the Netflix show ‘Bard Of Blood’ and the film ‘Father’s Day’ next year. Can you share something about these projects?
I will start shooting for ‘Bard Of Blood’ from the next week. I am very excited about it as this is the first time I am doing a web show. The shoot for ‘Father’s Day’ will commence sometime early next year. It is being directed by ad filmmaker Shantanu Baagchi. I play a detective in it.