Tired of his kissing boy image, Emraan Hashmi hurled himself wholeheartedly into offbeat director Dibakar Banerjee’s school of filmmaking. The duo talk about how they made this oddball combination work in Shanghai, which will premiere at IIFA 2012.
What do you like about each other's brand of cinema?
Emraan: When I saw Khosla Ka Ghosla, I was impressed. Later, I came to know this strong and conceptually brilliant film was made on a miniscule budget. When Dibakar first messaged me, saying he wanted to meet to discuss a possible film, I had already decided to say yes. I had to work with him. He makes unique films that others would shy away from, and yet manage to strike a chord with the audience. Shanghai, though different from his usual films, does have his stamp on it. It’s a thriller, a whodunit and entertaining as well. The film is profound but it’s not preachy.
Dibakar: I have liked Emraan since his debut film Footpath (2003). He had little to do in that film, but he stood out from the rest. Despite the glam-heavy films he has done, you can see how his eyes speak a lot. I love how they can emote so much. Emraan always clicks with the audience instantly. He is so relatable in the films he has done that your heart goes out for the character.
So far, both of you have explored diverse sides of filmmaking. How has working together benefited both of you? Also, tell us more about each other's contributions to the film.
Emraan: There is a certain way in which Dibakar envisions characters in his films, a quality that is is very unique to him. I haven’t seen things like that before in the films I have done so far. There is a certain subtext to every performance and role. He goes into the complexities of what each character is thinking — where it’s coming from, where it’s going and what it’s going through. That means even more hard work for the actor. He does a lot of prep work.
Dibakar: It is a winning formula for both of us. We were diametrically opposite, but what is more important is the coming together of Abhay Deol and Emraan Hashmi on screen. That is the odd, unique combination; people don’t know what to expect. A lot of people told me I had gone mad casting these two together and warned me against it. But I enjoy going against the grain.
Emraan, will being in a Dibakar film help you shed the serial kisser tag and let people take you seriously? And Dibakar, will Emraan’s mass appeal help you get eyeballs for your films?
Emraan: I don’t sign films with directors simply because their previous ventures had a Rs 50 crore opening. I don’t do south remakes just because it’s the trend now. I don’t jump onto those bandwagons. I like people like Dibakar Banerjee, Rajkumar Gupta who are make interesting and unique cinema. I want to be part of their films. It’s not the need to shed a tag but the desire to do more. I take my films pretty seriously, be it Jannat 2 or Shanghai.
Dibakar: Of course. Emraan has a pull with his audience. However, we aren’t totally counting on that because we have cast Emraan in a non-sensual role. In fact, Emraan was excited when we told him: ‘You won’t look hot on screen!’. He jumped up and down in excitement when I said :‘We will make you look ugly.’ In this film, you will see a very repulsive and grotesque Emraan as Jogi Parmar.
Emraan, was it challenging to work with a director known for his strong subject-oriented films and maverick style of filming? Dibakar, was it daunting to cast Emraan in a non-glam avatar?
Emraan: I had to go through ten workshops with Dibakar’s team. It breaks you as an actor! He hurled me into the fire with this one. Jogi is not even five percent close to who I am. The character is someone I don’t understand at all. The whole shooting experience has been a discovery of sorts for me.
Dibakar: The audience is in for a surprise from Emraan in this film. He was initially uncomfortable and nervous about becoming Jogi. But he has put in a lot of hard work. Which other established actors would go through acting workshops to get into character? The first day when he came to the sets after the workshop, the crew was abuzz about how they saw Jogi in him and not Emraan!