Emraan Hashmi on returning to gangster genre with Mumbai Saga: It's a 'cinema film'
'I have never seen characters as black or white, all the characters I have done live in a grey world, which I find to be very relatable.'
Emraan Hashmi is happy to be back in the groove after a year of uncertainty as his upcoming action-crime drama Mumbai Saga, among the first films to resume shooting last year (after the lockdown was relaxed owing to the pandemic) will hit theatres this Friday (19 March).
Hashmi feels Mumbai Saga is perfect for the big screen experience. “I saw the film a few weeks ago in a preview theatre and Sanjay (Gupta, director), John (Abraham) and I were chatting...we have been saying this since the lockdown that it is a cinema film. Of course, it is a little tricky to release it because of COVID but theatres are opening up and it is the right time to put it out there. We really don't know what the (box office) collections will be but people who are comfortable in seeing the film will come and after that we will probably know of OTT release. But it is a film that was made for theatrical release, it's best enjoyed in theatres. But yes, it's a pretty uncertain future, we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, what restrictions will be imposed in Maharashtra due to the spike in cases. This is something we can't gauge but it is an immersive film meant for the theatres so we decided to put it out there," says the actor, who plays cop Vijay Savarkar to John Abraham’s gangster.
Hashmi played a gangster in Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (2010) and post that refused many films in the same genre, "Because the stories that came my way had nothing new to offer". “I was offered a lot of films that were kind of copies of Once Upon A Time ..," he says. And even as with Mumbai Saga he was returning to the gangster genre, getting to play a cop came as a huge relief to him.
“When Sanjay came to discuss Saga, I had pre-decided that he has come to offer a gangster role but I was pleasantly surprised when he said, ‘You’re playing a cop’. After that, I was quite anxious because I didn’t want to play a straight-jacketed uni-dimensional cop. And then Sanjay said that this cop is no less than a gangster, he is a gangster in uniform. This got me more excited because I have never seen characters as black or white, all the characters I have done live in a grey world, which I find to be very relatable," says Hashmi.
Elaborating on his character, the actor says, “So, this is not your righteous cop, it is a guy who has a moral compass that wavers and I don’t know if you can really blame him. My family has watched the film and while coming out of the preview theatre, they asked me if my cop was good or bad. I said you can’t really box people as good or bad, he is just doing his job. So it is to the audience’s discretion how they would perceive him. Moreover, one has to understand that for cops to clean up streets in outlaw situations, they have to bend the rules. There’s a certain morality that his duty commands him to adhere to but the situation back then was tough. Bombay had become a lawless land and Savarkar (his character) had to do what he had to, to take control of the situation.”
“I have never really played a character of this stature but it’s great. There is a certain dignity and that is the first thing that came to my mind when I wore the uniform the first time during the look trial. We had many look trials and we didn’t knock it off in the first one but when I did see myself finally I felt it looked nice, dignified character and that is what the uniform does,” Hashmi adds.
Reported to be based on real-life incidents, the film, set in the 1980s and 90s, chronicles the Bombay's transition to Mumbai. When asked about the preparation that went into the role, Hashmi laughs saying, “My prep included getting my biceps closer to John’s. When Sanjay offered this film to me, the first question I asked him about the work out that I will have to do because I had become so thin, almost emaciated for Chehre (Hashmi’s next release) which I was shooting at that point of time. I had about two months and in that time I trained and put on as much mass as I could. I had to look tough; I couldn’t have looked one sukda (weak and feeble) in a cop uniform. It just wouldn’t make the cut and believable. So I put on whatever pounds I could. I ate a lot which is not fun because I am not much of a eater. I don’t mind working out but eating is a problem. And the prep obviously was just immersing me in the world and I had my own interpretation of the character.”
He furthers, “The film shows the city’s transition..geographically as well. There were lot of mills, lot of redevelopment was taking place at that time and when that happened, there were many who wanted a share of that pie, of course, there is a political clout that comes in, gangsters that support them, cops who try to keep law and order in almost lawless situation in the city. It is that era which is all well documented and people have read about it. Sanjay has brought out a chapter from that."
After Zinda and Shootout at Wadala, Abraham has collaborated with Gupta for the third time with Mumbai Saga. Other actors in significant roles like Suniel Shetty, Mahesh Manjrekar and Rohit Roy have also worked with Gupta in the past leaving Hashmi as the new entrant. “I will be honest, generally actors are insecure a lot. We all hope that when we work in a film we get our due and we are presented well. This can be tricky in ensemble because the director is trying to also present everyone and do his best, so you are just hoping you shine through that because if you are not a protagonist then you have to make an impact with that character. Initially, I just wondered..it was like the unknown. But when I started working with Sanjay, I realised that he is a man of his words and he is fantastic in his presentation. Everything that I imagined it to be, he far exceeded my expectations of how he presented my character in the film. I really enjoyed working with him. He is a director I feel safe working with. You can trust Sanjay, you can let go and he has got your back,” says Hashmi.
While it is well known that Hashmi will play an antagonist in the third instalment of Tiger series, the action-thriller, backed by Yash Raj Films (YRF), marking the first collaboration between him, Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, the actor remains tight-lipped about it. “I can't talk about it now because I haven't yet signed on the dotted line. I will talk about it probably in the near future when things are a little clearer," he says.
Bard of Blood, a spy thriller and Hashmi's digital debut (on Netflix) is another outing that awaits the second season. Ask him where that stands, and he says, “They were ideating the script for the second season. The first season was adapted from a book and it was easier to convert it into a series but it’s trickier to extend it beyond the pages and hence there has been a back and forth with the second season. I haven’t really got any clear word on it.”
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