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The Cheat Sheet | Emraan Hashmi - Exclusive Interview | Part I

That he has a carved a niche for himself as a star, with films that deliver chartbuster music hits, and his earnest performances garner appreciation from all corners, is a known fact. However, after entertaining the audience as an actor, Emraan Hashmi is now geared up to step into an all new role - that of a producer. With his banner - Emraan Hashmi Films, ready with the release of their first production venture 'Why Cheat India', and a string of interesting films lined up; Hashmi is surely a happy man. On a breezy Wednesday afternoon, we caught up with the busy man, in between promotions of his latest film. Right before a shoot, we were invited for a rather candid and leisurely chat at his tastefully done up (and may I add, beautiful) abode in suburban Mumbai. He is all gung-ho about the release, and seems visibly excited about the digital space, with a plethora of ideas waiting to take off. For those who came in late, Hashmi is all set to join the web series bandwagon with Red Chillies Entertainment's much awaited show 'Bard of Blood', where he will be seen playing the lead protagonist - Kabir Singh. After a long time, fans of the actor will get to see more of him, both on the big screen and other platforms. Naturally, he is enthusiastic about this phase, and so are we. As we settled down after a quick exchange of greetings, armed with questions ranging from his films to digital media and more, the actor looked all set to shoot his responses. So, here we go! Part I of our exclusive interview with Emraan Hashmi:



Why Cheat India - your first production venture,  Bard of Blood - first series for Netflix, and finally saw the release of a long awaited film - Tigers. It’s been quite a year!
It was all pretty unplanned (smiles). Tigers was something that has been waiting in the cans for the past couple of years. It was with the director for the past fourteen years, as he researched the film way before it got out there on the field for shooting. But, for us, we were just trying to get this message out. We are happy that it is finally up there for people to see and understand what is happening in the developing part of the world. I am extremely happy with the response. Also, Why Cheat India has shaped up really well, and I am happy with the acclaim that the trailer has received. When Soumik (Sen - director) came to me a year back, I was really excited about this idea, because it really is one of a kind. We haven’t seen a film that focuses on the education system through this perspective. Not to generalise Hindi films, but usually, there is this whole Masala film zone that does well at the box office. But, there is a certain frivolity in that. You don’t really address issues. It’s really difficult to address an issue, and at the same time, make the film entertaining, which I liked when I first read the script and liked the idea back then. And, I am happy that both the teaser and trailer received a fantastic response. Just like Tigers focused on an issue, this too focuses on a pertinent issue that is plaguing our education system. Of course, this doesn’t resolve things overnight, but it definitely starts a conversation. It’s a film that is not just important for the kids, but also for parents, as they don’t know what’s going on. The nexus that works behind the closed doors, and how the education system has been fractured. 

Talking about Why Cheat India, what was it about the script that caught your attention and left you impressed?
Conversations about the education system. My journey in school and college has not been very different from other people’s journey. Everyone hates it, as there is a laborious process of getting through those various exams. Whenever you talk to anyone who has been through this process, even during the 70s and 80s, or during the 50s when my father was growing up; everyone has the same story. It’s just regressive and is stuck in time. We are seeing the 21st century from a 20th century lens, as it feels like the education system is stuck 100 years back. And, you do see a lot of corruption around in the country, with education being an extremely corrupt system as well. So, one was definitely the internals of the system which is completely fractured. The other one that there are traditional end of things, where people are making money, and it’s a strong nexus. From fake degrees to appointing faculties; a lot of gets done. All of these factors need to be addressed. It couldn’t have been addressed in a film, if it wouldn’t have been entertaining. So, he has added some great characterisation. 


We haven’t seen a film that focuses on the education system through this perspective


Tell us a little bit about your character in the film.
It was a departure for me, from the characters I have played in the past. People have loved the characters I have played on screen, and most of them haven’t been devious. This has shades of that, but he is a very ‘wolf in sheep’ clothing kinda guy. Someone who will pray in the morning, and then makes life miserable for people. He has got no ethics, and is an unapologetically bad guy. Still, he is the loveable bad guy. And, that’s how the anti-hero is changing in the past couple of years. You make the audience hate him, but also add things that he stands for, which you love him for. So, he is a blend of both! And of course, it does have 4-5 songs in it (smiles).

Why Cheat India marks the first venture under the banner - Emraan Hashmi Films. In the future, what genre of films would you be interested to back or support, as a producer?
There are certain genres that work for the audience, but don’t go with my sensibilities. One of them is comedy. Not putting down comedies made in our country, but I don’t connect with that. But, if I had to do a comedy, I wouldn’t mind it, but as a producer I would love to do a comedy that I’d want to see. Something which doesn’t alienate the audience, but at the same time, doesn’t dole the same content that has been churned out over and over again for the past 30-40 years. I like real films like Why Cheat India, which can also entertain at the same time. So, I would want to do more of these kind of films. I would also like to explore the action genre in a manner, which would be a drastic change from the kind of regular action you get to see. They have seen bits of it in films like Awaarapan, Baadshaaho and will get to see a lot of it in Bard of Blood. But, again the action hero in our country is something I don’t get. I don’t understand a guy fighting 15 people. If I get into this genre, I would like to break the mould. Let’s see, once the film releases, I will sit down and choose which genres I would want to explore.


As a producer, I wouldn't want to alienate the audience, but at the same time, I won't dole the same content that has been churned out over and over again for the past 30-40 years



Since Bard of Blood marks your debut in the digital space, I would like to know - what’s your take on the shift of entertainment consumption on OTT and social media platforms?
The shift is huge. Six-seven years back, when the digital boom hadn’t hit, our industry thought that people were consuming things on music channels, television. But, 80% of the people now consume it on YouTube. Most of the people who come to cinema halls actually want that time wherein they can watch their favourite content when they want to see it, and not at a particular or set time. That’s one power we’ve got as an audience, and it’s here to stay. People from our industry resisted, because their major livelihood does not depend on it right now, and they do see it as a threat. But, everyone will eventually jump on the bandwagon, which is clearly happening. It’s like the advent of television after radio, or VHS after television. Initially, people resist and then jump on it. So, digital is in that sphere and is growing very fast. For e.g: Netflix wants their next 100 million to come from India, which is a huge number, and they are willing to explore that in their five year plan. 

Go on....
See, it won’t eat away from films, but it will be parallel avenue. It will certainly make us pull our socks up and think about the content that we are presenting to the audience. Right now, when people are consuming content on these platforms, you can’t keep churning out the same of films that you did a decade back. Because, they are now exposed to a lot more, and have experienced a variety of genres. So, it will definitely keep us on our eyes. Like, even for a show like Bard of Blood. I am a big fan of web shows. With films, everything is compressed into two hours. But here, it’s like great literature, where you have enough time for characters to breath. They can form over a period of 8-10 parts in a series, which is not possible with films. It’s a different platform, but there will always be takers for cinema when you go for communal viewing, and of course, the personal or family viewing would continue on OTT platforms, which is great as everyone has an option now.


The digital space won’t eat away from films, but it will be parallel avenue. It will certainly make us pull our socks up and think about the content that we are presenting to the audience



Would you be open to backing original productions for digital platforms in the future as a producer?
At least in Hollywood, most of the great writing is on the web. Apart from some of the Marvel films, most films have failed to perform well this year. Web shows and original productions have fared better. So, writers again have a space where they can spread their wings, and do things out of the box. So, as a producer, I would definitely want to explore digital productions as well.

Enjoyed reading this post? Stay tuned for Part II of our exclusive chat with Emraan Hashmi.

Are you looking forward to watching Why Cheat India? Share your opinion by leaving a comment below or Join the conversation on

Love,
The Dancebee

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Priya Adivarekar

Priya Adivarekar - Founder and Creative Director at Diary of a Dancebee. She is also a renowned Voice Actress and award winning artiste, with serious passion for dance. When not working round the clock, she can be seen reading, enjoying a movie-binge or listening to music.
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