Mohammad Azharuddin promotes actor Emraan Hashmi's upcoming film, 'Azhar' at a suburban hotel in Mumbai. Excerpts from the their interview with mid-day
We arrive at a suburban five–star on a hot Wednesday afternoon to meet Emraan Hashmi and Mohammad Azharuddin for the actor's upcoming film, 'Azhar'. It's for the first time that the cricketer is promoting a film and is visibly cheerful when he sits down to give media interviews after a long gap. We couldn't help but notice the trademark raised collar still intact. Excerpts from the their interview with hitlist:
Q. You took over a year to say yes to a film based on your life. And now that the trailer has already released, what do you think of it?
Azhar: You never think about your life being replicated on screen. So naturally it's a different feeling. But I think Emraan bhai has done really well. He has worked very hard, trained and read a lot of paper clippings and is extremely professional. I like his approach towards work. He even hurt himself while training for the cricket portions and you have to make those sacrifices when you know you have to deliver. From whatever I have seen so far, it looks good.
Mohammad Azharuddin and Emraan Hashmi. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Q. People will be extremely critical when they see you essaying Azhar's role on screen. Are you ready for some criticism too?
Emraan: You can expect that from any film of this nature. It is normal because you are playing someone popular and alive. You can't please everyone. It's something every actor would fear, but this is not exactly a biopic in its true sense. The film finds a sweet spot between a biopic and a film which is too outlandish to be true. I would say 90 per cent of his (Azhar's) life is there in the film but it has been made a lot more dramatic. It's a popcorn film; you go there to enjoy and get entertained. So I had to decide where I could take the liberty in treating a scene differently. I am ready to face criticism. But as of now, after the trailer launch, the praise has outnumbered the criticism.
Also read: Emraan Hashmi unveils new poster of 'Azhar'
Q. Once the film releases, people will revisit the controversies of your life. Won't it make you uncomfortable?
Azhar: People are bound to talk, but I don't blame them. I think tough people survive difficult times. If you don't have patience during those times, you will not survive. That is the law of nature. The first two years (after the match fixing case) were really difficult but I stood strong through the case. If I had lost (the case), it would have been a very different story. The film would have been made in a very different way. I don't look at life negatively. I believe good things happen to positive people. Staying positive is my strength and I am thankful to Allah for giving me that strength and patience.
Q. Even though the judiciary has given you a clean chit and withdrawn the ban, there might be people who don't support you. There are chances that negative talk about you will resume. Does it scare you?
Azhar: I am pretty used to it. Nobody can stop them from saying whatever they have to. I don't worry about what people say about me as long as people who love me and my fans, who care for me, are happy.
Mohammad Azharuddin and Emraan Hashmi
Q. A lot of people support you when you are successful. But how did people and the cricket fraternity react after you were connected to match fixing case?
Azhar: When you are doing well everybody wants to know you but when you are not, nobody wants to know you. That's the fact of life and that always happens. But I don't expect everybody to support me. My family and Sangeeta (Bijlani) supported me all along. From the cricketing world Kapil Dev, the late Raj Singh Dungarpur and Kamal Morarka are the three people who stayed in touch and always supported me.
Q. Is it bothersome when people talk more about your controversies rather than your long, successful cricketing career?
Azhar: I think people who are negative will only talk about negative things. If people look at my career in a positive way, they will have good things to say about it. These talks don't affect me. I think it was my destiny and whatever had to happen, happened. I have come out of it now.
Q. You also showed immense strength when your son was treated for cancer.
Emraan: If I look back at the moment three years ago, I wonder from where did I gather the kind of will, courage and strength to go through it. It was a fight that went on for two years and is still on because cancer is not something that goes away after medication. But the doctors have said he is now out of the red zone where it could have come back. It was the mother of all traumas but I overcame it.
Q. After all that happened, do you wish to associate yourself with the Indian cricket team by being a part of the management or becoming a coach?
Azhar: I will be happy if I am given an opportunity. I am willing to give back whatever cricket I have played. A number of players have come to me for advice but I choose to not talk about it for publicity. I am not that kind of a person. As a cricketer you must help people who are struggling and give them proper advice.