Emraan Hashmi opens up about ‘Showtime’, his famous roles and more

Ahead of the release of his latest OTT series, we catch up with Emraan to talk about the show, his take on nepotism and the many anti-hero roles he’s famous for…
In frame: Emraan Hashmi
In frame: Emraan Hashmi

Post-pandemic, a different version of Emraan Hashmi has been presented to us. Lately, the actor has been quite experimental with his choices. He played an adorable father, a faith-lost-fan of a superstar in Selfiee (2023) and then locked horns with Salman Khan in Tiger 3 (2023), where he stepped into the shoes of a gruffly baddie, with a penchant for mind-games. After the lukewarm web series debut, Bard of Blood (2019), Hashmi is now back on digital screens with Showtime, a fictional take on the behind-the-scenes riots and rivalries of Bollywood. The series, created by Sumit Roy, also stars Naseeruddin Shah, Mouni Roy, Rajeev Khandelwal and Mahima Makwana. It is backed by Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment. We speak to Emraan about being typecast in anti-hero roles over the years, nepotism and trying to shake off the serial kisser tag.

You don’t give many interviews, do you?
I actually don’t like giving interviews beyond my work life. When I have a project coming up, only then I go full throttle on the promotions. I am not shy of giving interviews, but sometimes I can be a bit reluctant. I had a phase of being tired of interactions back in 2008 to 2015, because press interactions could be so demanding. That has changed now though.

Are you an introvert?
Yes, I am quite introverted.

This takes us back to your second film Murder (2004). An introverted, shy person like you must have been a bit nervous doing a kissing scene for the first time?
I have never been nervous or shy while performing on screen. I take some time to open up though. It is a trust thing. It takes some time to build trust with people.

Executing intimate scenes must require some bonding with your co-actor though?
No, you don’t need any bonding. It’s just professional. At the end of the day, you are just putting out what is written in the script. I have sometimes worked with people I didn’t get along with. You might have no chemistry with a co-actor off screen, but you have to create it on-screen.

How do you manage that?
That’s called acting (laughs).

You are known for an alternative brand of cinema. You played the anti-hero at a time when Hindi cinema wasn’t exploring grey characters much. When you were starting out, was this a conscious decision to go for such roles?
When you are young and fresh, I don’t think you choose the films, the films choose you. It just so happened that I did some films and they became successful. There is a thing with audiences labelling actors. I fitted into that mould (of the anti-hero) very well for them and producers saw this as an opportunity. There was a phase where I was doing just variations of the anti-hero archetype. I would say the kind of films I did were an antithesis to the Sooraj Barjatya brand of cinema. My characters were never righteous. I think that resonated with the audience, because ultimately, people aren’t infallible. In our lives, we all operate in a grey area.

When you were getting more and more of such characters, did you feel you were being typecast?
Yes, I did. When something works, people want to do more of that. In our industry, rarely do we come across someone who wants to go against the grain. The typecast was actually less to do with the roles but the tag that I had taken up on myself. I put that out on screen and I had to pay a price for that and in a small way I am still paying a price for that.

Are you referring to the ‘serial kisser’ tag?
Yes. It hampered the perception that I had the ability to do something different. Because back then, I was capable of doing so much more. If you see a Shanghai or a Once Upon a Time In Mumbaai or an Awarapan, I don’t want to boast about myself but there is a range there. But when journalists and certain people put me into a box, I was constantly steered back into that image (of the serial kisser).

But don’t you think even makers are still playing up on your serial kisser image?
Shah Rukh Khan is still spreading his arms at events. I think we, as people, love to label things and put them into boxes because it makes them easier for us to understand. Sometimes people don’t want to change their perception of someone. That’s how I think the industry functions.

Do you think with the advent of OTT, the kind of characters you are known for can get a wider platform and can be explored more deeply?
Yes, totally. I think it is extremely progressive what OTT is doing right now. There is relatable content,
there is larger than life content. You can really experiment on OTT because you don’t have to bear the brunt of the Friday box office numbers. I think theatrical releases in many ways have become regressive because commerce dictates that. But it shouldn’t be like that because whenever a filmmaker comes up with something that doesn’t toe the line, it still manages to get numbers at the box office. I think cinema focused on theatrical releases and numbers needs to change its ways. OTT is going on the right path.

Aren’t box office collections being discussed a lot these days?
Yes, all we talk about is numbers. I think the audience too is being brainwashed of seeing a film only through the prism of collections. There used to be a time when actors and people from the industry used to get up on a Friday morning and check the newspaper for reviews. I think nowadays most, I won’t say all, critic reviews have lost a sense of credibility. So, people don’t go by reviews. They see a INR 100 crore tag and then they decide to go for the film. And even numbers are losing credibility because, a lot of times they are being fudged. I think word of mouth should ultimately be the yardstick to judge any film, but unfortunately for now it is the numbers.

Showtime seems to be The Dirty Picture reunion of sorts. It is set in the world of films. Naseeruddin Shah is there too…
I never thought of that (laughs)! But I think Showtime, unlike The Dirty Picture, is more about contemporary Bollywood. It is not seen from the lens of the Silk Smitha story. It is about newage producers and the rivalry between film studios. I think it is a very different take.

There is a scene in the show’s trailer where your character Raghu Khanna says — that behind the garb of nepotism, ultimately every outsider wants to become an insider. What is your take on nepotism in the industry? Do you think actors from film families, at least, have more chances to fail?
I think for an outsider getting into the industry can be really difficult. Even getting a meeting is tough. I probably won’t be able to understand the struggle of an outsider. It is definitely much easier if you are part of a film family. Nepotism in that way is beneficial in finding those inroads. But once in, the journey for an outsider and an insider is the same. I remember my uncle (director and producer Mahesh Bhatt) telling me once: “We are making this film with you, but if it doesn’t work and the audience doesn’t accept you, even we can’t make another one with you.” Ultimately, it all comes down to the business of it.

Showtime releases on Disney+ Hotstar on March 8.

Email: kartik@newindianexpress.com
X: @kitkitcritic

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