Out From The Shadows: Emraan Hashmi
Despite his repetitive lip-lock acts with small time female co-stars, and his unglamorous boy next-door looks in essentially Bhatt Brothers’ productions, he had been steadily pushing himself for the leap to upgradation to the top rung of banners and filmmakers, Emraan Hashmi had not been succeeding in breaking down the shackles, and rise above. Until two successive hits changed it all: Once Upon A Time in Mumbai and The Dirty Picture. And now he suddenly finds himself in the big league with big banners and sellable directors wanting to sign him up for their future productions. This has thus far the film journey of 5.6” actor who has notoriously been nick-named ‘serial kisser’, a tag that seems to have done him more bad than good, often in news for tiff-offs with female costars, mostly newcomers
One always saw the potential in him despite a tentative starts with the flop, Footpath (2003), quickly following it up with a controversial, but nevertheless a hit, Murder opposite debutant Mallika Sherawat. It had sixteen kisses that later earned him the sobriquet—‘serial kisser’—a tag he has been unable to shed till this day. Then came a disaster Tumsa Nahin Dekha (04) and a string of other not earth-shattering performances in Chocolate, Zehar, Aashiq Banaya Aapne, Kalyug (05). The next leap year came with Gangster but also the equally disastrous Jawani Diwani, Aksar, The Killer, Dil Diya Hai (06). Even that too from the in-house Bhatt-camp failed to break the jinx, as also Good Boy Bad Boy, The Train, Awarapan (07). In the next year he only had one release, a blockbuster in Jannat. Followed Raaz and Tum Mile (09), and the path-breaking Once Upon A Time in Mumbai (a second Filmfare Best Supporting Nomination), and the non-starter Crook (10) in quick succession. However, the role of the rising underworld don did to him which no other flick had done before.
And its success opened up avenues, outside of the Bhatt cottage industry. For the first time, the industry bigwigs realised there was a potential star in him, who could also perform, though Madhur Bhandarkar’s Dil to Bachcha Hai Ji and Murder 2 did nothing to enhance his import as an actor for that was left to the third release of the year (11) The Dirty Picture. Though hailed as an out-and-out Vidya Balan film, his performance did not go un-noticed, and his solo number Mera ishq sufiana becoming a chart buster.
This writer was a tenant of Emraan’s grandmother, old time character actor Purnima, also Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt’s aunt two decades ago. Director Mohit Suri is a cousin. A quiet, shy, short and stout teenager, devoid of any mannerism and histrionics, often getting reprimanded by her parents for his grades. A chewing gum freak then, he reportedly continues to use it as a mouth freshener. But he betrayed no streaks of a possible future film star, hardly bothered about his looks, or presentation. When exactly did he start nurturing is difficult to state, but once he did that the family persuaded the Bhatt brothers, in any case trying to break away from the shackles of stars and their tantrums and digging into an entirely new genre of lost-cost sex and gun movies that provided little risk even if they did not work at the box office.
Forthcoming Jannat 2 dealing with illegal arms trade with Esha Gupta and Randeep Hooda in news for being a copy of Hollywood flick The Mechanic’s ; Murder 2 co-starring Sri Lankan beauty Jacqueline and Ashmit Patel is again a sizzler dealing with Mahesh Bhatt obsession, extra-marital relationship; Dipankar Banerjee’s political thriller Shanghai more in news for wrong reasons—rivalry with co-star Abhay Deol and Kalki Koechlin; Raaz 3, a third instalment again has Jacqueline Fernandez (the earlier incarnations had Bipasha Basu, Dino Morea, and Kangana Ranaut, directed by cousin Mohit Suri) being made in 3-D and directed by another cousin Vikram Bhatt; Rush, a crime thriller again costarring Neha Dhupia and Sagarika Ghatge, playing an investigative television journalist, a film that was stalled because of director Shamim Desai’s untimely death, now completed by his widow.
Born on March 24, 1979, Hashmi has 23 releases in nearly a decade’s career so far (nominated 10 times for popular award including Filmfare Best Actor in a Negative Role—for Gangster and Best Supporting Actor for Once Upon A Time in Mumbai; winning Screen Best Villian Screen trophy twice for Murder and Once Upon,) and then comes The Dirty Picture and suddenly even leading producers not only giving him a second look but also making scriptwriters to rewrite the narrative propelled by Hashmi rapidly risen stock behind the glass walls of corporate producer in those high rise buildings. He has been booked by UTV for their next, Ghanchakkar with Vidya Balan his co-star to be directed by Raj Kumar Gupta and; short-listed for Yashraj and Dharma Production banners. And in this era of multiplexes he has been hailed heir-apparent to Salman Khan’s kingdom, commanding an eight-figure fee already. Interestingly, it is no longer his ‘serial kisser’ image that is raising the adrenalin in Bollywood bed-and-board room, but his coming of age as an actor who stands tall in a league of his own, standing apart and at a fair distance of other younger actors trying to find a place on Hindi cinema’s celluloid horizon.
Having found his slot and now poised to play a big innings, Emraan has no option but to move away from the Bhatt camp. And mentor Mahesh Bhatt is philosophical about this parting of ways having worked hard and nurturing the dormant talent (obviously invisible to myopic vision). In a recent interview to PTI, he candidly confessed: “Emraan, post Murder 2 and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, has had phenomenal success. Today, he is a major star. Having created a monster, we will not let this monster devour us. Otherwise, what is the point of saying that we will not work with stars…He is our flesh but he does not have to work with us always…We will not lean on Emraan only. We will move away from the safety of being with him.” Sometimes you have to gulp your own bitter medicine, Mr Bhatt, however much you may decry it. After all, it isn’t really eons when stars have refused to work with him.
In the make-believe world of Hindi cinema promises are not always meant to be kept, commitments get pushed under the carpet once the going gets tough. What ultimately matters is luck. And every dog has its day…with or without barking. How long the ride last time alone will determine.
By Suresh Kohli