Cricket and Bollywood are two of the most loved things in the nation. And when the two come together, sparks fly. On Monday, much to the delight of the winners of HT City Stars in the City contest, former Indian cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin visited the HT City office along with actors Emraan Hashmi and Prachi Desai to promote the upcoming film, Azhar.
The 53-year-old cricketer shared many anecdotes form his cricket days. He also pleaded guilty to sledging, when he shared, “Pehla match jab khel rahe the England ke sath, waha end mein last ball tak teen ya chaar run maarne the England ko. Player ka naam nahi lunga, par waha pe humaare fielder ne mid-off pe misfielding ki. Ball fielder ke pass se nikalgayi, mujhe bhot gussa aya tha. But maine field pe kuch kaha nhi. Baad mein andar jaake maine bhot kuch kaha. 2-3 matches mein maine bhot kuch kaha.” (“Once we were playing against England and they needed 3 or 4 runs till the last ball. I won’t name the player, but someone from our side misfielded on mid-off and I was very angry. I did not say anything then, but in the dressing room I gave that fielder a piece of my mind, and I continued telling him things for the next 2-3 matches.”)
Having captained India for almost a decade, the batsman also shared that his successors, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni have been the best captains for India so far. He also said that throughout his playing career, he found former Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram to be the toughest bowler he has ever faced.
“It’s very hard for me to say who’s the best bowler, but I found Courtney Walsh very difficult to read, he was the hardest bowler to read. If you ask me the best bowler then Wasim Akram was the best bowler because he had a lot of variety. Even when you were batting on 100 or 150, you’re not very sure... He could still get you out. That was his forte. That was the best thing about Wasim Akram. He is probably the toughest bowler I have faced,” he said.
In a freewheeling chat with Sonal Kalra, National Editor, Entertainment and Lifestyle, Hindustan Times, Azharuddin shared many secrets from his days as a cricketer, while the actors shared many anecdotes from the shoot, during a fun session of HT City Stars in the City.
Excerpts from the session:
Emraan, What was your first reaction when you got to know you have been cast in the biopic because you know he’s been a legend?
I didn’t even want to hear the script, when I was first told that they will be making a biopic on him. Obviously I knew about him. I have followed him through his cricketing career. However, back in 2013, he had rejected the first draft of the script. But then, it was beginning of 2014 when we took it to him again, and then he gave us green light. That’s when we started working on the film.
Azhar, what changed between the first time you said no to the film and finally when you said yes to the film? Did they chase?
I think they persuaded me a lot actually. Yeah, chase kiya. They used to give one month off and again then come back after one month. Then I said, since everything is there. Everyone knows what has happened about my life. So I thought ‘may be, people can go and enjoy the movie’. It’s a very positive movie. If you look at it in a positive way, I think you can learn a lot from the movie. It’s not just about my life, it’s something more.
Prachi, how was the experience working in this movie?
I think it was amazing. I had Emraan for company once again after Once Upon a Time in Mumbai. I think his sense of humour really kept me going through the film. It was wonderful. It was a very impactful journey personally because playing a real-life character can sort of impact your life in a certain way. But I’m glad, this was the first real life character that I’ve ever played till now.
Emraan, How’s the little one now? Does he enjoy cricket?
Naughty as ever. He’s just a bundle of energy. He’s trying with football. He loves cricket. He watches the promo on repeat. I have to cover his eyes when I’m kissing the ladies. He’s confused who mommy is!
Emraan, you have the ‘serial kisser’ tag. When you started your career, were you okay with the tag? People ask you to give kissing tips, how do you take it?
That was a tag given by myself to me. Something that I think the marketing team at that time would say, and I started saying it, then the media picked it up. Kheeche ja rhe hain abhi bhi, 12 saal ho gye hain, abhi tak wahi likhte aa rahe hain. There is more to a film and to an actor than just that. But all of us like to label things, there are things that are like templates to actors. You should actually not run away from it, maybe. It’s very great to have those templates, templates for you, for yourself. The things you’ve become, household names, people identify with something. For instance, Salman’s template is that he removes his shirt, or Shah Rukh Khan’s that he opens his arms and that his signature pose also.
Prachi, you’ve come back to the big screen after a long time. If given a chance would you like to go back to TV?
Will it be okay to say ‘no’? You know I left television when I signed my first film Rock On, and strangely or thankfully so after that nobody has offered me anything on television in terms of daily soaps ever. So I love having a life which is why I wouldn’t like to go back to daily soaps (laughs). It would be fantastic though to do a short series, like a finite series. Something that would be extremely interesting but which has like a deadline, a timeline. It need to end there. For instance, Amitabh sir (actor AMitabh Bachchan) have done an amazing series, Anil sir (actor Anil Kapoor) has done a great series..So doing something that would be nice.