Emraan Hashmi: Can't be doing the same stuff all my life
Emraan Hashmi, who makes his digital debut with Bard Of Blood, now wants to surprise the audience and begin anew.
He feels his sugar level is dipping. Emraan Hashmi's already given some 15 interviews and has more lined up. The actor deliberates over candy or perhaps a hot cup of coffee to recharge his batteries.
We are with him at a Lower Parel hotel where he is promoting his digital debut, Bard Of Blood.
Last seen in Why Cheat India earlier this year, Hashmi is the latest Bollywood star to jump onto the digital bandwagon with the Netflix series.
The actor says he "was not apprehensive about taking the web route. It is just something that did not cross my mind earlier. Initially, there is always resistance to something new."
Bard Of Blood, which also marks Shah Rukh Khan's digital debut as producer, is based on Bilal Siddiqi's 2015 novel of the same name. "I knew Bilal and we used to talk about bringing the spy thriller alive on the screen. We would often discuss the names of the actors who could play the protagonist."
Siddiqi co-wrote Hashmi's book, The Kiss of Life, an autobiographical account of how the actor coped when his son Ayan was diagnosed with cancer. "So when the project was taking shape, Bilal suggested I give it a shot as I had not explored the medium or played a character of an espionage agent before," he says.
Hashmi took it up "as a challenge to test my skills as an actor. I can't be doing the same stuff all my life. An actor has to keep reinventing himself. A film has its space, it is something you are familiar with, but the web world is a different ball game. At the end of the day, you have to test your skills as an actor."
Still from Bard Of Blood
In Bard Of Blood, Hashmi plays Kabir, a former Indian spy who now teaches William Shakespeare to school students. "People have a certain image of me. The last thing that anyone would imagine was me speaking Shakespearean language." This was yet another reason for him to take the plunge. "I would not have got a Bollywood film of this nature in which the characters are so nuanced and detailed. Something that is real and entertaining where the focus is only on the story. I wanted to go into a direction in which something new is expected of me."
Ever since he experienced success with films like Murder (2004), Aashiq Banaya Aapne (2005) and Gangster (2006), Hashmi became to be known as Bollywood's serial kisser having locked lips with all his heroines. Hashmi, 40, says, "Some 10 years down the line, I don't want to be that guy who puckers up with girls half his age on screen. Back then, I was some sort of a cultural phenomenon. We, Indians, are not open about sex and kissing though today's kids are. It is still something that is discussed in hushed tones. So, I became this guy who made all their fantasies come true." He says it "is difficult but not impossible to shed this screen persona. I want to deconstruct myself and start afresh. I want to constantly remind the audience that I can do this as well." He hopes that his upcoming slate of films, which include The Body, Mumbai Saga, Chehre and Ezra does so.
Hashmi is also synonymous with having chartbusters, "make that Sufi songs," he says in his films. "Imagine if I had to break into a song every few minutes in Bard Of Blood, except for India no other Netflix viewer from around the globe would stay tuned. "They would most likely switch off. Now, I don't miss the song and dance. I have moved on," he says.
From book to screen
Ribhu Dasgupta, Gaurav Verma, Shah Rukh Khan and Bilal Siddiqi
Author Bilal Siddiqi on whose book Bard Of Blood is based was interning with Shah Rukh Khan’s production house, Red Chillies, when a casual conversation about the spy thriller resulted in making it into a web series. He presented the book to SRK who liked it. "He was contemplating getting into the digital medium and felt this was apt. Everyone liked the conflict in the title. You don’t associate William Shakespeare with blood," says Siddiqi. Director Ribhu Dasgupta, who recently wrapped up the Parineeti Chopra starrer The Girl On The Train, makes his digital debut with the seven-episode show. He says, "I had not read Bilal’s book till I was on board to helm the series. What attracted me was the genre as I am inclined to thrillers. The way it was written, it was visually rich, which made it ideal for a screen adaptation. We shot extensively in New Delhi, Rajasthan and Ladakh in freezing cold," says Dasgupta who has also directed the Amitabh Bachchan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Te3n (2016). "The audience usually binge watches web shows, so each episode has to be captivating in order that they continue viewing," he says. Adds Gaurav Verma of Red Chillies, "We spent a lot of time in pre-production as we wanted to cast actors who have not done anything similar before. We were all working together for the first time so we wanted the approach to be new and interesting."
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