A talented actor, profound yet simple with his thoughts and opinions, Emraan Hashmi’, the charm
of all blockbuster songs joined us at our office just as his film ‘Azhar’ hits the theatres. He was
accompanied by his leading lady Prachi Desai to share all the details about the film and more.

“People who box me up, generally are living in a of bubble”

“We live in world of make believe that’s what our profession is”
-Prachi Desai

What was the most difficult part right from training for cricket to emotionally getting the tone of the character?

Emraan– The cricket portion was the toughest because I am nowhere close to where Azharuddin plays cricket, imitating that style is really tough and playing the flick shots and all also because he is very strong leg side player. That was the toughest. But you know barring that, of course there is typical thing of getting the body language right, getting his walk down to the point where you can actually get that bang on. The best my memory of Azhar when he use to walk on the field with this Taviz , collar up. His walk, he has very lazy charm and you know he always looked down when he used to walk on the field. This is my instant memory of Azhar. The most important thing in this film was I needed to know where I could take that slight liberty, cinematic liberty at places because you have to be factual, yet you have to be true to the incidences. So the speech is where we have tweaked slightly, that was the first decision we made because this being a Hindi film it has to have punch lines. That was the first decision, which was the toughest decision we had to make. I asked Azhar Bhai we are going to have the initial portion where Azhar meet Naureen’s character in Hyderabad, there is his brother, father and mother and that was initial 20 years of his life, his roots. So, he said that the way that they portray a Hyderabadi accent in Indian films is wrong. It’s overdone, it’s caricaturish. So, what we did is we got Hydrabadi the dialogues dumped. We just sent it to his father, his mother, his brother and we use to get recordings back. So, we started finding those words where you just put in that, they break up lines and they use to send it us. We got the exact way in which it is said. It’s just a small tweak. Those were the few things I guess were challenging. And of course cricket being tough, I use to ice my wrist every day. We use to have throw downs of roughly 120 balls every day. Azhar bhai use to train me. I thought there will be another coach but Azhar said I want to train him myself. So, he use to come and we used to be there for like 2-3 hours every morning.


Did you take a little bit of cinematic liberty even with the songs?

Emraan- Dialogues also a bit. I think what Rajat has done in this is he has hit the sweet spot in the film, it’s not overdone. Like I would say ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbai’, or ‘The Dirty Picture’ were slightly up scaled as far as the dialogues are concern. This has the masala but somewhere it’s spoken to slightly punch lines and not very realistic because it becomes extremely blend. So, we have hit it right in the center of the way we would like to see in an entertaining film of this nature.

How difficult was it for you to portray the turmoil that he went through?

Emraan-  He has been very kind of a guarded person and during the court case we have never seen him come out in the open and speak up about it. And that worked against him. Because lot of the media and people said that he is guilty, he has taken the money. Azhar was extremely mum through this. So, understanding what went through in those 12 years, I had no reference to that. I had reference to cricket portions. I could see that through archives, matches, interviews and stuff. He didn’t give a single interview. So, I was like actually sitting down and drilling him. I had prepared list of 100 questions and I asked him every single one of that. So, he keeps saying this that “it’s easier to make 100 runs on field than answer 100 questions”. I asked everything from his personal life, relationship with Sangeeta, what went through his mind when people were actually badgering him for actually dating Sangeeta which was very unfair. He was guarded in beginning with me but as he got to know me better, he opened up more. I asked him what went through his mind during the court case. It was sad and I keep saying that it tragic tale of a man who was one short of hundred. He is the man who got out on 99, he never played one more test match to complete his hundred. His career was snatched away on 99. He won the court case. In a way was the hundredth test match that he won in court but his was taken away from him, he lost his son right before the test match. Just portraying that angst which in an understated manner was difficult because he is a man who does not open up easily. Like Kapil Dev cried on a hard talk and he got people to vouch for him but Azhar has been extremely stoic, so, I have to bring that portion, at the same time bring in slight of an emotion without making the character too dry. The right blend of being slightly stoic in that way but same time bringing the bit of emotion in the character.

““I see things very differently I don’t see things probably 90 percent of people do and it’s not that I’ve got some high head attitude and all its just that I come from another world and I don’t know if that’s a plus point or negative”

What about your character Naureen??

Prachi- I think the biggest challenge was finding any kind of information on her firstly because she has been such a private person. I don’t think we have seen her at all publicly with Azhar ever. So, we don’t have any pictures of her like that. Interviews and all are very far of any thought from that. There was nothing actually available about Naureen which was the most challenging part about her. But I did get a chance to meet her and that sort of changed a lot of things for me. The tough part t in this role was how the transition was from 16 year old that she is into of course they have met for nine years, when she gets into her twenties and then even after that, after their separation. I think that whole gradual transition of person who is very much there, modeling that on Naureen was little tough to get things about her because there were very basic things that were told to me about Naureen were that she is shy and doesn’t make eye contact easily. She hails from a very traditional family in Hyderabad. There were these presumptions I had that may be there was no exposure that this girl must have ever had. So, I will make her very subdued, let her be very soft spoken. How a girl back then would be. It would be comparatively conservative as opposed to any of us today obviously. After I met her, actually a lot of that changed for me. I will say from what I observed about her. I think she is a woman with modern outlook. She isn’t somebody who you would I think in your conventional way think of Hyderabadi girl who has never come into the limelight or who has never been in the picture as such. She has been very guarded, she have been very private about her life. But it was a completely different person I thought that I met as opposed to the things that were told to me about her. She is very dignified and strong. That was something I was left back after meeting her. That left an impact on me. But also there is something very captivating about her. She is beautiful in every sense but just the way that she is. All that was told to me about her being so subdued and shy, I had to change that into someone who is sixteen years old, who is an innocent girl, little playful who is naive because of her age or because at that point she didn’t have so much of an exposure but she was just married to a cricketer which was big deal in its own. She saw him become one of the most successful captains. The whole transition was quite a challenge on its own because even if I got to meet Naureen, it’s someone who is in a completely different phase of her life now. I was meeting a different person altogether but we did get some of her pictures and I think a picture can tell a whole story.

Does the familiarity with team helps in working on a tough film like this?

Emraan- In this film the way we work is changed. Rajat has to change, the way he is going to write because he has never done film of this nature which is about someone’s life and for me portraying a character like this which is not fictional. In fictional character, you can go all over the place and any decision you make could be the right one if it’s done well. The audience goes for it if it’s entertaining enough. But with this one you had to some where play by the rules, look at things very accurately and then making a great screenplay. Rajat had to do that. That was a huge task for him. Again Balaji Motion Pictures as always likes getting into a subject which was controversial by nature and it was great. ‘The Dirty Picture’ was that kind of a subject. ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbai’ had controversies at that time. This one was more towards realistic zone but with including entertainment stuff. Prachi has also worked in one upon a time in Mumbai which was a huge hit and you know there was this big number “Pi loon”. So, Pritam had another task. Again Pritam is there on this. Everyone came back after a long time, at least after ‘Once upon a time in Mumbai’ which was great.

Prachi – The familiarity that you are talking about helped in a sense that people could be on the same page with each other. You worked with each other before, it’s easy to convey something to another person when you have worked before. Like when we were doing scenes together because there is so much familiarity and I know the kind of actor Emraan is, we didn’t have to spend days trying to bring ourselves to that point. I know probably that how Emraan functions and he is a great actor, he makes life easier for his co-stars. I think one of his toughest playing a real life character like Azhar. So, he could just be Azhar at that time and not think about how we both going to do this or he knew this that she is going to do her thing and I am going to do my thing. It was going to look great like we would complement each other onscreen.

Emraan, most of your characters have been very complex and understated or not a conventional hero so to say. So what is it that makes you naturally pick these characters and understand them and get these human emotions right?
I think it’s to do with the films I’ve been watching when I was growing up. It’s not like I’ve not watched Hindi films I’ve watched Mr Bachchan and Mr Dilip Kumar films. When I started off, there was more family films, action, comedies and there was this whole area of perception which came with films that conceal more than you reveal. That I have probably derived from watching more westernised cinema and my influences have been more of that so I see things very differently. I don’t see things probably 90 percent of people do and it’s not that I’ve got some high head attitude and all its just that I come from another world and I don’t know if that’s a plus point or negative, sometimes I see it as negative because I’m the part of the industry.I should be watching every film out there. I should be knowing the internal working as to how things functions, how every actor has an approach towards things but I did this from a very different kind of cinema and I think the layers get in there and the grey shades, there are hero’s but they are not. There are flout characters when you have hero’s which are fully acclaimed, they do everything right they save the day, they get the heroine in the end they wear great clothes.

“Emraan is a great actor, he makes life easier for his co-stars”

But even you get the heroine, and the best songs! Not to mention, people have put you in that serial kisser image for a long time!

Emraan – At one point most of the men said I was the most hated man, there was a pole done. I was like I have no idea where it comes from. You know people who box me up, generally are living in this kind of bubble and in their own world because they don’t see things out of the box, they like to label things as they go; so that’s alright as long as you know it helped my films that time for whatever reason for whatever name I was called which I unfortunately gave myself and the media picked it up and using it out these days which is fantastic. I’ve got away like half a decade ago but they still on about it.

Prachi, your director Tony told us that you are very disciplined actor, good at taking instructions from the director….what was it that he briefed you?

Prachi – Honestly, actually most of the time when everybody was preparing for the film, I had to completely rely on him to give me any kind of information on Naureen because I could not make this up in my head, it had to be as per the instructions were given to me from Tony because he had spoken to her and had first hand information from Azhar and Abbas who’s Azhar and Naureen’s son. So yes I think things like that otherwise. But he will be the better person to actually answer that what he meant by that but yes in the film; because a lot of things changed after I met her and the way that the role is written so I guess that Rajat had something in mind Tony had something in mind while there is a Naureen who is very much alive and Azhar himself have known her so closely and maybe I had another thing in mind so to get all of that to match at some point and get to put it together; because we had to model that character based on that. So him explaining it to me in simplest adjectives like saying that Naureen was shy, she didn’t make eye contact, she was subduing. You know honestly shy can be like 25 ways of shy even things like that so to get into things that deeper. I think this is the one film where  anything what Tony’s told me okay this line was good but the next word I want you to say this way and the third word say it softly and I was like okay done, and I would do it. Because I guess I just had to go by his version also because the whole film had a certain tone and because everything was paste in a certain way so I didn’t want this role to look off because I was looking at it differently.

Are you now ready to do more these kind of films based out of real life characters or rather, realistic cinema?

Emraan – I’d love too, because it’s a great time for our cinema, because we have so many other films made like that; and the audience is endorsing it although it is tougher. But you know the thing is films like ‘Airlift’, ‘Neerja’ and all I guess stories have been lost in time which are factual but people don’t know much about those characters.  So that’s another kind of cinema which is real and we can see that first hand and we can research about it before we go and see it so that’s very interesting but then again the films like ‘Azhar’ people who have known him; this is the first film coming of this nature where you have a person who’s been love, who’s also been hated and judged and everyone knows him and there’s a film been made on his life.

Everyone has a pre-conceived notion about him.
-You’re talking about cricket, it’s something that everyone has adored for so long so everyone is going to get out to see. We are not trying to sway people our way and say that ‘Azhar’ is a hero and we going to change it, the way we made this film we firstly couldn’t judge his life we couldn’t be bias about things we had to say it the way it was and the way it was told by him from articles from stories from newspapers. Eventually it is un bias opinion by the director and our team. The audience might come out and saying, the critics who kind of hanged him before the court case started inside we know his taken money. But we are not changing the opinion we are saying that, and there is a voice over in the end which says that this is how it played out, this is my life, only god can judge me. Because there was an acquittal and the sad thing is there was hundred articles when he was convicted and one article when he was acquitted. So everyone wanted to judge during execution and say yeah he did it.

What are your expectations from this film – is it box-office wise or the appreciation?

Emraan – Producers are already safe, they all smiling. I guess the way I’ve brought up in the industry was that everyone who’s put in money should get their money back and how much the film runs, a film of this nature you don’t know because a film of this nature have never been made probably it’s one of a kind, a man like Azhar and you know the people who have criticized him who have loved him they are going to see the film and make their own judgments. So we’ll know what is that judgment on Friday and then we know where this film goes, but I’m very optimistic it’s a very fantastic film I think Tony is made a fabulous film it already started off with a great script by Rajat and everyone has performed very well in the script and for me it’s a successful film because we’ve given everything for one and a half year and that’s all we can do as performers as team and it was a fulfilling experience for me. When it’s in public domain you can like it you endorse it you can rip it to shreds that is the public’s opinion and after that it has its life of its own, it’s out of our hands on a Friday it’s there for the people to consume so the film I’ve seen I loved and extremely critical about films. So I love the film what we said out to do we have accomplished that in the texture of the film and the way the story has been told, again the sense of realism and the trade liberties we have taken in the film, I think it’s a great film and people will get entertained on 13th of may.

Prachi – I think it’s very gratifying when a film does well; of course it is for everybody in the film. But there are so many other ways to look at it and how hard we worked on these parts so if someone actually acknowledges the performances that will be fabulous and I think that will be even more gratifying but the film on the whole doing well I think that’s majorly thing that I’m so hoping for because for me this is been a revolution, you know we live in world of make believe that’s what our profession is mostly but even then when I did this film for me there is so many things were a surprise so many things were a shock and I think for people who have been cricket fans for them, like Emraan keeps saying that although you follow it so much and you  think you know a lot which actually you don’t which you will get to know in this film. So I think for people who even don’t like cricket even for them it’s going to be an entertainment story as such, and how sensitively it’s been treated. I think if people like it that will be the most gratifying thing.

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