Actor Emraan Hashmi, who is gearing up for the release of “Azhar”, says he had to essay former Indian cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin’s role in a more dramatic fashion in the film.
Q. Were you a cricket player before you did Azhar?
A. I wasn’t a hardcore cricket buff, but I believe cricket is a part of every Indian’s DNA. We can’t escape cricket. I also played cricket. But not the professional cricket that the captain of the Indian cricket team is expected to play after experience of 20 years. I had to observe Azhar’s batting style and try to play like him without aping him. This is by far the most challenging role I’ve done so far.
Q. How faithful have you remained to Azharuddin’s character and career?
A. I wouldn’t call this a faithful biopic. Azhar is inspired by the events in Azharuddin’s life. But we’ve taken cinematic liberties by making it a full-on masala fare. At the same time, we’ve remained faithful to basic facts in Azharuddin’s life and career. So far we’ve never seen Indian cricket players up, close and personal sharing their jokes and hiccups. At the point when all the controversies were happening he was very quiet. The film speaks up on his behalf.
Q. Azharuddin seems very supportive of the film. A. Yes, he was supportive from the word go. My director Tony d’Souza and I had to do nothing major to win over his confidence. He was very frank and honest about the incidents in his life. He was very clear about the way the film would be made and we were also very clear about how we wanted to make the film. Q. Was there a lot of brainstorming between Azharuddin and you?
A. We spent about a year and a half trying to understand Azharuddin’s life and thoughts. We would chat about his younger days and what happened during the match-fixing controversy. He helped us to get a perspective on the way I played the character. Q. Azharuddin is not the first real-life character that you’ve played. I played a real-life character in Danis Tanovic’s “Tigers”. But I had never met the guy. With Azharuddin it was different. People know him and his life. I got to know him too. We got a chance to telescope and microscope 20 years of his life, his victories, the humiliation after the (match-fixing) scandal, the way he lived, spoke, walked and the way he looked. Q. Did you faithfully imbibe all of Azharuddin’s traits? A. I had to play him more dramatically. There were dialogues and heightened emotions that had to be brought in. But at the same time, we haven’t dramatised the actual incidents and events to the extent that the original is unrecognisable. We’ve kept the proceedings real while giving it a Hindi film twist. Q. Has the film taken sides on the question of Azhar’s guilt/non-guilt in the match-fixing allegations? A. This is a story that has never really been told. We read about it. But we never knew what Azharuddin actually went through. We had to enhance the dramatic impact by maybe 20 percent to ensure audiences’ attention.