Playing Azhar was most challenging role I’ve done so far: Emraan Hashmi

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Emraan Hashmi Speaks To Subhash K Jha On Why Azhar Has An Important Story To Tell

Were you a cricket player before you did Azhar?

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.

Emraan-Hashmi

 How faithful have you remained to Azharuddin’s character and career?

I wouldn’t call this a faithful bio-pic. 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 upclose 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.

Azharuddin seems very supportive of the film?

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.

Was there a lot of brainstorming between Azhar and you?

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.

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 (matchfixing) scandal, the way he  lived, spoke ,walked,the way he looked.

Did you faithfully imbibe all of  Azharuddin’s traits?

I had to play  him more dramatically. There were dialogues  and heightened emptionsthat had to be brought in. But at the same time we haven’t dramatized the actual incidents and events to the extent that the original is unrecognizable.We’ve kept the proceedings real while giving it a Hindi-film twist.

Has the film taken sides on the question of Azhar’s guilt/non-guilt in the match-fixing allegations?

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.

How different is your Azhar from the real Azhar?

In real-life Azharuddin is a man of few words. If you see him on news channels he is stoic. But I had to play him as more articulate and  accessible. The real-life Azharuddin doesn’t show emotions.If we had not dramatized the events this would be a docu-drama. We were not interested in making  that.

There is a bio-pic on another cricketer Dhoni coming up. Is that a good sign?

Any story about a sung or unsung hero is worth telling. This is a good time to capitalize on the lives of real-life heroes who are relatable(to the audience).

Lately you’ve been doing less work?

No, actually even when my son fell ill I shot and completed three films Mr X,  Raja Natwarlal and Hamari Adhuri Kahani. Azhar took more time.We had to gather all of Azharuddin’s thoughts and information on him before we could start shooting.And that took time.But yes, now I’ll be signing more films.

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