17 Aug

 Is Emraan Hashmi Bollywood’s unofficial superstar? While we go ga-ga over the new Imran (as in Imran Khan, the Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na heartthrob), spare a thought to the original Emraan. Yup, the serial kisser. Yup, the one who does outrageous things in movies just to get the girl’s attention. In Tumsa Nahin Dekha, he forcefully kissed Dia Mirza the first time he saw her in full public view, in Jannat, he broke the display window of a shop when he saw Sonal Chauhan looking longingly at a diamond ring and in Gangster, he slept with Kangana Ranaut so that he could use her as a bait to trap her criminal boyfriend. Nobody can get away with such murder on screen and still be called a leading man. Well, Hashmi can. In just over five years, Hashmi has carved an identity and a loyal fan base. His films make money (at least one big hit a year; that’s more than John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan and Shahid Kapoor have delivered). His is the face that launched a thousand new voices in Bollywood. It was in Bheege honth that we heard Kunal Ganjawala the first time; his Woh lamhe gave us Aatif Aslam. And who can forget Hashmi and Himesh Reshammiya’s combination in Aashiq banaya aapne. Clearly, Hashmi is in the right business. Clearly, he has mastered the formula of dishing out what the aam aadmi wants. Yet he remains the uncrowned superstar. Why is that? Hashmi decodes the riddle for us.

Do you ever feel that you haven’t got your due? I’d like to think that I’ve got my fair share of hype. It’s been a conscious decision to lie low since I didn’t want to overexpose myself. At the end of the day, newcomers will come and go, flavours of the month will change but good work and successful films never go unnoticed.

You’ve a pretty strong audience base, who do you think is a typical Emraan Hashmi fan? He’s the man on the street. He lives in the interior of our country. He watches his films in the single-screen theatre, whistles at the songs and claps at the dialogues. My audience gives me instant feedback and I live for that.

Why do you think you are unable to attract the slick city crowd and women fans? That’s because of the stuff I do on screen. Women usually are taken aback. The elitist audience looks down on my films but I think it’s hypocrisy. They see more stuff in English films and seem to lap it up.

Why did you join Bollywood in the first place? Largely, it was because of the lure of money. And also, because I was bored. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was studying commerce which was a complete waste of time because I have zilch business acumen. I quit all that to assist Vikram Bhatt in Kasoor and Raaz. And that changed my life.

But whose idea was it to launch you as a hero? I always wanted to act but I was too shy to say it aloud. My grandmother, Purnima Verma, who is yesteryear’s actress was keen to see me on screen. Mahesh Bhatt saab, who is also my uncle, felt I could give it a shot and offered me Footpath.

Do you think the image of being a ‘serial kisser’ has gone against you? Other actors also have an image and live with it. The bottomline is that the audience has accepted me and I’ve to give them what they want. Suddenly, I can’t shift gears by doing an arty, intellectual film. At the end of the day, at least I’ve a recall value. Fifty years on, they’ll still remember me as the guy who used to kiss on screen.

But have you had people coming to you and commenting on your kissing scenes? Oh yeah. I remember when I was shooting for Awarapan in Rajasthan, some parents of schoolchildren came up to me and said that even though my songs are so popular, I’m negating my audience because of my kissing scenes. They felt if I stop doing that then I can increase my fan base. When Jannat was releasing, I had random people coming up to me and enquiring whether they can take their kids for the film.

I’ve always wanted to ask you this, do you practise kissing scenes before a shot? Nope. I’ve practised enough. I don’t think too much about it. I just go and do what has to be done.

Do you guys discuss when to put a kiss in a film, ask the heroine etc? How does it happen? We do have discussions about the kiss. Sometimes the heroine shoots it down on the day of the shoot. Sometimes it’s because the director feels the audience expects it. In Jannat, it was actually supposed to be a peck but the director (Kunal Deshmukh) had a superstition that the film will do well if we kiss.

You’ve mostly acted with new girls; do you remember all of them? Yeah, I’ve acted with some 15 new girls. I don’t remember all of them.

Have you kissed all of them? I missed out on a couple. I didn’t kiss in The Killer and Awarapan.

How does your wife, Parveen, take it? She’s fine. It’s been going on for five years now. She’s immune to it.

Don’t you want to leave the comfort zone as the Bhatt’s in-house hero? See, we are a family. Our sensibilities match. They make the films I want to do. Creatively I’m satisfied. The offers that I get from outside don’t really excite me. I’m open to doing films with other banners but not a senseless comedy film with six other heroes. I’ve a luxury to be slightly selective because I have Vishesh Films backing me.

What do you have to say about the other Imran? I’ve seen his film. I liked his performance. He’s very nice.

The Indian Express

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