In spite of never really getting an opportunity to display his talent, Emraan Hashmi is considered by many to be a good actor. There is little denying that no one else could play a typical Emraan Hashmi character better than Emraan Hashmi. This wouldn't be a compliment in the regular scheme of things but with Hashmi it's pretty much his biggest achievement. Is it enough for an actor to be good at what they do best?
Hashmi's first role in Vikaram Bhatt's Footpath (2003) revealed to the world an actor who knew what it took to be fearless. He played Raghu, a street-smart fella, who helps his friend, Arjun avenge his father's death. Years later Arjun returns as undercover cop and infiltrates the murky underworld where Raghu is a dreaded name. Hashmi held his ground and his Raghu is one of the better things in an otherwise forgettable film. But since then there hasn't been a single film where Hashmi hasn't played the same character. While Raghu was nuanced, and being a typical bambaiya character there was little that Hashmi could bring to the table, but every subsequent performance of his is a page from the same book. His second film Murder (2004) established him as star in his own right and also bought a few different but same shades to his prototype character. Besides being a smart alec Hashmi was now impish with a dash roguish topped off with pint-sized cockiness.
Hashmi is a single note actor who has shown that he can put in an effort when required. In Shanghai (2012), a film where he gets a chance to bite into something substantial for the first time, he played a character who is as different as the others he has portrayed as car models from different years. The only variation he brings to his characters is the level of loudness and yet, Hashmi's fans, and he has more than a handful, seem to love him. Such is his magnetism that the audience comes alive the moment he swaggers on to the screen in Once Upon a Time in Mumbaii (2010). Beneath the infectious mannerism of a character based on the young Dawood Ibrahim, which is not only different but perhaps a shade better than that of Ajay Devgn's Malik in Company (2002), is the same single-note actor who mouths his lines in the same manner as he does in every other film of his. No one seems to be bothered with the fact that Hashmi plays the same role and sometimes he's so lackadaisical about it he even sounds the same like in The Dirty Picture (2011).
There have been many actors in the past who have mastered being unvarying but none come close to the level that Hashmi has attained. He has gone on record to say that he can't play a 'good guy', which, to me, means that he isn't open to experimenting. Of course, he can change his look to look more or less the same guy but that's just about it. I must confess that I thoroughly enjoyed Hashmi in Once Upon a Time in Mumbaii, a film where no character undergoes any transformation and everything remains the same. It's impossible to beat Hashmi in such a scenario. For those who have seen Hashmi's Footpath and Mahesh Bhatt's Angaray (1998), a film that provided the former with the blueprint, can't help but smile at the irony that the hugely 'Emraan Hashmi' model is pretty inspired by Irfan Kamal's performance, who played a similar character in Angaaray. Sometimes the greatest music is created by that one-note struck pretty darn well.
Gautam Chintamani is an award-winning writer/filmmaker with over a decade of experience across print and electronic mediums.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)
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