Eyebrows were raised when Emraan Hashmi consented to work alongside Ajay Devgn in Once Upon A Time In Mumbai. After all here was an actor with two decades of working experience and a screen persona which could scare the biggest of the actors in the business despite the length of the role. We saw that recently in Raajneeti when people couldn't have enough of Ajay even as Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Rampal and Manoj Bajpayee came up with a bravura act. However, this was certainly not going to be the case in this Milan Luthria directed action drama affair which clearly had much bigger space for the senior actor. No wonder, for Emraan it was no less than a brave decision to not just play a parallel lead in OUATIM but also match his acting skills against Ajay and be open to widespread scrutiny on the release of the film.
In a candid conversation with this correspondent, Emraan Hashmi reveals how he never had any reservations to begin with when it came to Bollywood and in fact has hardly been playing safe ever since he started off in Bollywood over half a decade back.
For someone who is known for picking up only solo subjects, it seems you made a wise decision to work with Ajay Devgn in Once Upon A Time In Mumbai. Audience is loving the scenes where the two of you are together.
Yes, I have been hearing that as well. However, it's a misconception actually that I have been having any reservations about acting in multi starrers. If we go back into the past, I have had the most unconventional launch to begin with. I was a supporting actor in my debut film Footpath where the cast was led by Aftab Shivadasani, Rahul Dev and Bipasha Basu. Now that was some start to my career where I had to carry off a rugged street boy persona. If this wasn't enough, I was the villain in my second film Murder. As you can see, I have never been playing safe after all.
But still, the fact cannot be changed that you have primarily been doing only those films where you are either a central character or the only lead. 20 odd films done between 2003 and 2010 are a testimony to that.
(Adds quickly) Then how about Kalyug? I wasn't the lead there; it was Kunal (Khemu). Then even in Aksar, it was my character that got killed whereas Dino lived on even after committing a murder. Yeh sab preconceived notions hain that I wish to work only in solo starrers. Of course I have had success in films where I am the only lead and I will continue to do such films as well. But I am not saying an absolute 'No' to multi starrers.
Well, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai did require quite some attention from you, considering the fact that it's shooting was spread over quite a few months. While as an actor, the film certainly seems to have paid off for you, didn't you ever wonder during the making that in the same time period, you could have possibly wrapped up two, if not three films? Was there ever a situation where you were truly frustrated?
It's never the time that one worries about; it's the intent that one has to be cognizant about. A film may take six months to finish or perhaps one year but as long as the intent is right, the direction clear and the goal achieved, it's all okay. A film like this takes time and today when audience and observers say that OUATIM actually makes them relive the era gone by, it is gratifying since the hard work has paid off. We wanted to make a winner film and we have done that in OUATIM.
The film's narrative and dialogues have garnered some real all around appreciation...
We knew that there was a certain time zone that had to be depicted so we had to be extra careful and worked really hard to make that happen. Also, the film had to be fast in pace. Moreover, this had to be complimented with some great content failing which, the entire film would have fell heads down. We couldn't be just stylish or get preachy. We had to be true to the characters that we were playing and set the right layout and tone. We had to work on putting together an entertainer. Period.
Milan Luthria says that the inspiration for the film's terrific background score was Don. Did he tell you about any other inspirations when it came to the overall narrative and story telling approach?
(Laughs) No, there is no particular narrative style or reference point that we have taken in the film. The film has lived its own life. In any case, I don't watch too many Hindi films so I am not the best person to compare OUATIM with any reference points. Also, what we were quite clear about OUATIM was that we had to go out there and try something unique and different rather than taking from someone or somewhere. We had to create a benchmark. We didn't have to look at any reference point; we rather had to become one!