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Few minutes into the conversation and you realize that Emraan Hashmi offscreen has a very different persona from his reel life. Somewhere in between, the actor even spills out that he has a dark sense of humour. For someone who is quite articulate about his thoughts, don't be surprised if few of his revelations take you aback a little!
Over to Emraan who speaks his mind on his choice of films, the number game and much more.
Excerpts from the interview-
'Shanghai Is One Of My Best Works On Screen'
Q. You have done a not- so commercial film like Shanghai and then, there are several commercial films like Baadshaho, Jannat. Which is the space which excites you the most as an actor?
A. Each film has its own bonuses. I would definitely pick the one that goes out to the wider audience.There is a very clear divide in our country, that is the masses and classes. The mass audience wants escapist cinema. They want a film that helps them forget the stress in their life. Masses don't want to see a film like Shanghai as it is about corruption and very close to the reality.
Baadshaho is a mass film, which appeals to a wider set of audience. Classes on the other hand like the evolved cinema. They want certain logic and aesthetics in the film. Milan has managed to hit the sweet spot here as I think Baadshaho would suffice the need of both audiences. Shanghai is one of my best works on screen. Without undermining it, I would pick a film like Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai and Baadshaho as they appeal to wider audience
'There Is A Perception In The Industry That The Mass Audience Is Diminishing'
Q. Do you think in today's times especially the Indian directors are ignoring the mass-centric films which are being made. There are very few directors who are attempting this genre any more..
A. There is a perception in the industry that the mass audience is diminishing. There were certain directors who used to make such films, but slowly the business diminished in those pockets. A film like Baadshaho doesn't only target the masses, and it would have been in a trouble zone if it was just a mass-centric film.
The number of people watching a film in the mass centers might be a lot, but the figures are not. Probably 20 people in a mass section might mean 2 people in a multiplex. If you want to make a film, target it to both the sections of the audience. A very few film makers can do that and Rajkumar Hirani is one of them.
'A Megastar Without Content Is Not Going To Get People In The Cinema Halls In The Long Run'
Q. Do you think content has taken over the concept of stardom given the fact that a few superstar films in the past have failed to do well at the Box Office?
A. I don't think it only depends on the content. Yes, content comes first, but there has to be a face value attached to it. Even the films that have not done well of late, if you put a new comer in it, the films would do 1/10th of the business they did with the stars. So, you can't undermine the fact that a star like Shah Rukh Khan does not get the people in.
Right now, it is legit that a megastar without content is not going to get people in the cinema halls in the long run. Nowadays, the audience has so many options to get entertained like Netflix, Amazon. With all these things coming up and with so many choices, they don't want to see anything mediocre. Mediocrity worked probably five years back, but not anymore.
Earlier, the audience didn't have so many choices, but now they can go to YouTube and watch a short film. There are so many things to do, so I think they are less tolerant to the material which isn't very evolved.
Q. But a few years back, the films used to sustain for at least three days, but that's not the case today...
A. The word of mouth spreads faster due to the social media. Earlier, it used to take time for the word of mouth to spread, but now due to social media, it is out at 12.30 pm. People who initially used to watch the night show of a film irrespective, now decide that based on the reviews on social media. So, content is to be blamed for everything.
'There Is Nothing More Important For Our Longevity As Actors Than Box Office Numbers'
Q. How much do box office numbers matter to you?
A. We work for box office numbers and there is nothing more important for our longevity as actors than box office numbers. If we invest a certain amount, it is done with the intent to recover. We work in an industry where there is 90% failure. So, this is an industry with 90% failure rate. In any creative process, you have to be ready for failure.
As a creative person, I have to be slightly detached from box office numbers, but it does matter a lot. It's a little bit of mixed bag for me. That's what I didn't set my foot in this industry for. There is certain innocence in acting which is deviod of box office numbers which is when we had to most amount of fun as actors. I don't think you can gauge a film only by box office numbers.
I don't want to lose the fun of film making, by thinking about numbers all the time, but on the flip side, I don't want my films to lose money.
'I Had To Shift To A Certain Kind Of Cinema Because Of My Fan-Following'
Q. Because of the number of years you have spent in the industry, you have a vast know-how about film-making along with a good exposure to outside content. Does this also reflect in the choices of films that you make now.
A. People have created a perception of me from the kind of films which I used to do, but when they met me, they realized I was a completely different person. I did the films that I personally never used to consume. Because of my fan following, I had to shift to a certain kind of cinema more that I didn't know much about.
I just went ahead with the team and conviction of the director. and the writer. I think right now is a great time because how cinema literate people have become.
Now ,I think this is the good time for me to explore with films that I always had a personal liking to. Most of the films that I did, I found a big disconnect from what I wanted to do. I did them just because there was an audience for such films. I have never seen mass films, I just act in them. I used to just read the script and then do what the director used to tell me to do. I never saw films that way. I never consumed those kind of Hindi films.