Tuesday, June 26, 2007
'Emraan is okay with his ordinariness and that is what is extraordinary about him', says Mahesh Bhatt who is in all praises about his nephew Emraan Hashmi. Bhatt exclusively writes for us, his views about Emraan Hashmi, his star-status in the interiors of India and how he has matured as an actor since his debut in Footpath.
"Awarapan is the best film our company has made since we began our journey 20 years ago. It is our crowning glory. But the person who will astound the world is Emraan. He has touched his inner silence and given a magnificent performance. Even the so called 'greats' will reluctantly concede that when they watch Awarapan."
I scream into the mouth piece of my cell phone. I am talking to my brother Mukesh who has gone to London for the promotion of this very film. I sense that my words put him at ease and ignite a new confidence within him.
As the night deepens I return home happy with what we have created. I know for certain that Awarapan is going to usher in a new phase in Emraan's life. It will in a way delink him from his past works. As I put my head on my pillow waiting for sleep my mind keeps replaying the images of Emraan and his journey so far through the world of films.
I reminded of my visit to Malegaon which is a small town in Maharashtra. Malegaon is known for its power looms and its huge Muslim population. Minutes before I am supposed to make my public address to a large number of enthused youngsters a bearded elderly Muslim gentleman who has been given the task to introduce me to the audience hesitantly asks me a question. "Mahesh saahab, do you mind if I also introduce you to the audience as Emraan Hashmi's uncle? These youngsters who have come to hear your speech would love to hear that you both are related. They are great fans of Emraan Hashmi." His words made my heart swell with pride. I had this uplifting feeling of triumph. After all making people and not movies has been my single minded pursuit ever since I have given up film direction. The utterances of the devout Muslim gentleman had affirmed to me that despite receiving sneers from critics and the so called 'A Class audiences' Emraan Hashmi had a great fan following in the interiors of real India. I was reminded of what I told him at the dawn of his career. "I want you to be a star of the Indian street and not of Indian drawing rooms."
Emraan had touched the goal I had put in front of him. Even his harshest critics cannot deny that ever since he made his debut in Footpath which sank without a splutter he has emerged as the undisputed champ of B grade Bollywood. Emraan's popularity is evident in the unlikeliest of places. Deep in south Bastar, which is the heart of Maoist country in Chattisgarh a VCD shop keeper who makes living selling pirated films, affirms Emraan Hashmi's stardom. Apart from the Khan brigade who's VCDs sell like hot cakes it is Emraan Hashmi who is very popular especially among young boys. "Emraan's VCDs do maximum business along with Mithun", he says. A leading newspaper recently confirmed that in Dungurpur which is a small town in tribal Rajasthan shopkeepers display Emraan's posters outside VCD shops to attract buyers.
Emraan has established the reputation of being the tapori next door in the shortest period of time; barring Footpath and Jawani Diwani almost all of Emraan's movies have doubled at box office. The reason his popularity is tremendous among youngsters is because of his wicked antics and having earned the reputation of a 'serial kisser'. Most of the small town boys these days say "Main Emraan Hashmi banna chahta hoon" . It is difficult to find out why small town India identifies with him and wants to emulate him.
When I look back at the success story I can not help but remember the first photo session of Emraan with Amisha Patel in which he was so stiff and awful that it was a total washout. This is how the story goes; Tanuja Chandra wanted to cast a leading man opposite Amisha Patel after Govinda suddenly backed out at the last moment. The film we were making at the time was called Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar. "Take Emraan" I suggested. Amisha was unhappy about me casting Emraan opposite her. After Gadar she wanted to work with big names and understandably so, after all this is an industry which feels safe holding on to the aprons of somebody else because deep down within they know that despite the success they are empty and without talent. I knew Emraan would be the right choice opposite her in this film but this boy assistant director turned actor failed to rise up to the expectations of everyone in the screen test and therefore had to be dumped. But despite of his disastrous photo session I did not lose faith in him. I had looked into his eyes and realized for myself that this boy who had once wanted to be a pilot had the potential to become a star and that one day he would fly high. It was this that made me repeatedly insist that he should be cast in our forthcoming films. I knew that it was a matter of time before the world would wake up and realize the potential that I saw in him.