Emraan Hashmi says Bard of Blood was the right show for his digital debut: 'I'm a huge consumer of Netflix'
On the sets of the upcoming Netflix Indian Original Bard of Blood, Emraan Hashmi talks about why he cannot play Bollywood's sleek spy.
(Firstpost was invited by Netflix to conduct interviews from the sets of Bard of Blood in Rajasthan in March 2019)
Unlike other members of the cast and crew of upcoming Netflix Indian Original Bard of Blood, the interview of Emraan Hashmi did not happen on set. Instead, I was ferried to the neighbouring haweli, where his vanity van was parked. Once I entered his private space, I saw him as Emraan, the actor, than Kabir Anand, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) agent.
But when I looked closer, I discovered there are still shades of Kabir in Emraan, including the very noticeable kohl-rimmed eyes (he plays an Indian spy on a self-assigned mission in Balochistan).
"Usually, a film is about two or two-and-a-half hours of given screen time. But since Bard of Blood is seven episodes, 45 minutes each, it's almost five hours of screen time. I've shot for this show for eight months now (he is in the final schedule), which is the longest I've stayed in any character. Surely, Kabir is going to resonate with me for quite a while. But what I'd like to take away the most from this shooting experience is the discipline. I used to wake up at 6 am everyday because we had to start the shoot here at 7 am. So I'll definitely be in the Kabir Anand mode in my next film for the first few days, before the lethargy kicks in again," says Emraan, smiling, and fondly looking back at the journey of his digital show debut.
It is interesting Bard of Blood had to be Emraan's entry into the world of streaming service shows (he has already appeared in Danis Tanovic's Zee5 film Tigers last year). Four years ago, Emraan was invited by the author Bilal Siddiqi to launch his book Bard of Blood, on which the show is based. Emraan admits it is a book that he "could not put down". "I was impressed by Bilal because at such a young age, he could write such an engaging and thrilling book. I didn't interact with him much then but when we co-wrote my first book, The Kiss Of Life (a memoir based on his son Ayaan's battle with cancer), it was then we got to talking a lot," says Emraan.
Though he confesses he did not read the book, thinking of him in the central character, and the casting of him in the show makes for great irony nonetheless. "I read it from a neutral perspective, from that of Kabir, as a reader. But at the book launch, when I was asked whether I wanted to be part of Bard of Blood if ever it's made into a film (digital shows were not a thing back then), I said yes, definitely. And now, four years down the lane, Netflix has actually picked up the book for it to be adapted for a show, and I'm playing Kabir."
Emraan claims he took a long time to warm up to the espionage thriller genre. "I was offered a couple of spy films earlier. But those were not at all my type. I anyway can't play the Rambo-like over-the-top stylish spy, which Bollywood is known for presenting. Once Netflix offered me Bard of Blood, I decided it was the right show to not only play a spy but also make my digital debut. I'm a huge consumer of Netflix, and their spy is designed for a global audience. That's the spy I really wanted to play too. So it's a fine gel of sensibilities there."
It is also ironic Emraan is collaborating for the first time with Shah Rukh Khan, and their partnership is not for a romantic film. Both the leading stars are known for their respective brands of romance in Bollywood, but Emraan is glad the booming digital medium has given both a chance to pursue their passion, instead of a service to what has come to be known as their brand. Bard of Blood is produced by SRK and his wife Gauri Khan's production house Red Chillies Entertainment. "I know he's a great creator. When Red Chillies and Netflix offered me this show, I knew it would be high on production value because Shah Rukh is producing it. I'm glad for once, we can both steer clear of our 'images'. Also, since it was backed by Red Chillies, I was sure the show will have some kickass VFX," he says, laughing.
In the show, Emraan plays a Shakespearean professor, who left RAW five years ago because the agency wrongly alleged he had gone rogue. "You catch me in a Mumbai college, teaching Shakespeare to college students. This other side of his multifaceted personality is to lend intrigue to the character."
As the show would later reveal, Shakespeare has a larger resonance in the show. Titled Bard of Blood, it is inspired from the author's nickname of the 'Bard of Avon'. The name itself lends a lot of weight to the show, which tiptoes the fine line between realistic Indian spy fiction, like the recent Amazon Prime Video India Original The Family Man, and the high-octane sleek spy thriller, like the upcoming Hrithik Roshan-Tiger Shroff film War. It is the middle space, where the new and improved Emraan confesses he operates the best, with a wink of the kohl-rimmed eye.
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