The cast of the film, Azhar — Emraan Hashmi and Prachi Desai — visited the Hindustan Times office recently. They took us through their journey of making a film based on some events from the life of former cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin.
This is the first time that Emraan has done a movie on a real-life person, and that too a popular, yet controversial sportsman, who allegedly got embroiled in a match-fixing scandal in 2000. Emraan and Prachi got candid, and spoke to us about essaying complex characters and the preparations they underwent for their roles.
Here are some excerpts.
* How would you classify the film — is it a story of a man and his game, or the match-fixing scandal?
Emraan: The movie covers Azharuddin’s life from birth, to the influence his grandfather had on him and his sport. It highlights his captaincy. He was one short of completing 100 Test matches, and his career was snatched away from him. The film also shows 12 years of his court case.
* Emraan, as your last few films didn’t work at the box office, how important is Azhar for you?
Emraan: Whether it is after a successful film or a flop, the pressure remains the same. You put in the same kind of effort for every movie, and then you hope and pray that the audience likes what you have done. It (a film’s release) is still a nerve-racking experience.
* Prachi, how was it like working with Emraan again?
Prachi: It has been great. It’s my second film with Emraan. We did Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (2010) together. Emraan has changed as a person. He has calmed down a lot, and has become more compassionate. His sense of humour has become nastier, but he is the perfect gentleman too.
* Emraan, why have you remained detached from the industry?
Emraan: I think that’s who I am. I love films, and I am passionate about what I do. But I like to segregate my personal life from my work life. I like to keep a certain amount of anonymity, and I cherish that. It’s a life that I have chosen. I like to take time off from being the actor Emraan Hashmi.
* Is the film a biopic or a fictional account?
Emraan: Most Hindi films cannot be classified as true biopics, and we are steering clear of that [tag]. In this film, we have taken the liberty of adding five songs, and cinematically amping up dialogues (making them more dramatic), while keeping the real context of the events intact. I know that people will be shocked, and the movie will ruffle a few feathers, because many other cricketers are being shown in it.
* Tell us about the charitable work you are currently involved in.
Emraan: Charity is one thing that you do in your own time, and it’s a fulfilling thing for me. In fact, in the book about my son’s cancer, I have made up for the past 12 years, as I have spoken a lot about my personal life in it.
* Do you feel like telling the audience that there’s a lot more to you and your films than just the kissing scenes?
Emraan: I think I’ll take it to my grave. People do know that there’s a lot more to me, otherwise they wouldn’t come to watch my films. It has never actually annoyed me; it has amused me. It (the ‘serial kisser’ image) was orchestrated by me, but I didn’t know that it will be stretched for 12 years. Today, kissing scenes have become a done deal in every film. But, for some reason, it’s a lot more in my films, and I’ve got to deal with it.
* Prachi, why have you been away from movies for so long?
Prachi: I am extremely choosy [about my projects]. But I blame the lack of choices too. It’s commendable that Abhishek Kapoor (film-maker) took a chance with me in Rock On!! (2008). I was just 19 back then, and never imagined that someone will take me in a film. After that, everyone gave me similar roles (of a young wife). I do enjoy doing those characters, but I need to balance it out by doing more youthful parts with actors of my age.
* Are you in touch with people from the television industry, and follow TV shows?
Prachi: I am. But, I feel really sad about the fact that TV is becoming more and more regressive by the day. I feel fortunate that when I did TV, it was handled in a mature manner. Today, it (the television industry) is in a worrying state. I wish there was better content on the small screen. But, this is what people are watching. Why can’t we have content like Hip Hip Hurray, Banegi Apni Baat and Saans (popular TV shows from the past)?
* How much could you relate to Azharuddin’s character?
Emraan: I could relate to the character, because both Azhar and I have had similar issues in our lives. That’s something we bonded over, when we met. I’ve been a big fan of Azhar. I remember him walking on the field, with his collar up, and the unconventional lazy charm that he had. When it came to enacting these things, I had to approach them as a professional. It took me around four months to get his cricketing style right. I don’t play anything like Azhar bhai, but I’ve come close to the way he plays his shots.
* Prachi, was essaying Naureen (Azhar’s first wife) difficult?
Prachi: Naureen has been the toughest role I have done so far. Also, as she’s such a private person and extremely guarded, there’s not much information available on her. She was a big mystery for all of us. Luckily, I met her in Hyderabad, and got an insight into her persona. I tried to imagine how a person coming from a traditional background at that time, would be like. There was a lot of pressure, too, because it was the first time that I was playing someone who hasn’t been in the limelight. As an actor, I had to find the right tone. More than anyone else, I wanted Naureen to like how I portrayed her.