I am happiest in front of the camera – Sharib Hashmi
His loveable and goofy role in Filmistaan won him much-deserved recognition and accolades. Sharib Hashmi will soon be seen as a Haryanvi don in Amit Khanna’s Badmashiyan. The actor talks about his love for the camera, his acting journey and upcoming film.
You’ve always wanted to be an actor but didn’t pursue it for the longest time. What finally pushed you to give it a try?
While I was working in TV I also acted in the shows I wrote, and did a lot of MTV Bakra shows. During that time I also did miniscule roles in Slumdog Millionaire and Haal-e-Dil. I’ve always said that I am happiest in front of the camera and when I did those movies I realized how much I loved it.
Acting wasn’t a sudden decision but something that grew slowly. I was offered a role in Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghat but a few days before the shoot I was told that that my look isn’t matching that of the character. That was a big setback for me and I was very upset. At the same time I happened to see Rock On and got inspired (laughs). So I decided to quit my job around 2008 and pursue acting. From 2008 to 2011 I did several auditions but managed just a few commercials and channel promos. Eventually I exhausted all my savings and had to take up a job in 2011. Soon after, I got an audition for Jab Tak Hai Jaan as the casting director Shanoo Sharma happened to see a short film of mine called Mehrooni. And I got selected. Around the same time we were also working on the script of Filmistaan and suddenly we found a producer. So things started rolling.
From a writer to an AD to facing the camera for the first time. How comfortable or nervous were you?
I was never nervous in front of the camera even when I faced it for the first time.
Your performance in Jab Tak Hai Jaan was noticed but did it make things easy? Does being associated with a big banner help?
It actually didn’t help me. Maybe I didn’t push myself, didn’t hire a PR at that time and didn’t have any clue how to go about it. I thought people would see my work and offer me roles. Also it was a supporting role so interviews and media interactions didn’t really happen. Though I didn’t get any big or small offers, I got great reviews from audiences and from the industry too.
What role have Filmistaan and director Nitin Kakkar played in molding you as an actor?
When I took the decision of quitting my job and pursuing acting, one of the few people who supported me was Nitin Kakkar. I know him since 2000. Movies brought us together; we would always get together, watch good movies and wanted to make films like those. But we were busy with our respective jobs. Nitin finally quit TV to pursue filmmaking and in 2007 we completed a script based on the partition. We managed to find a producer in 2009 but due to the recession he backed out. So nothing happened.
Post that Nitin got the idea of Filmistaan, I liked it and he started developing it. Whenever I got free from my job we would meet and discuss the story. And I really liked the character of Sunny Arora and could identify with it. But I thought that once Nitin finds a producer he would look for a bigger actor. But when he found the producer he insisted on casting me after watching my audition. I almost didn’t do it as my dates were clashing with Jab Tak Hai Jaan. But Nitin said that he would start the film only once I got free and pushed the shoot for 19 days. Things have really changed after Filmistaan and it feels great.
How did winning the Best Actor in a Comic Role (Life OK Screen Awards) change things on the professional front?
It hasn’t changed things much. But I’m still riding the Filmistaan wave and it feels nice. Big people congratulated me. To me winning the award is a huge achievement; I don’t think about how it will benefit my career. I started as an AD with a film called Hum Tum Pe Marte Hai featuring Govinda. And here I was nominated in the same category as him alongwith names like Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani. That was the biggest award.
You play a don in Badmashiyan. Tell us about your role and what attracted you towards this film?
Amit Khanna (the director) gave me the script of the film and I found it very unique. The way the screenplay unfolds is very fresh, nothing Indian cinema audience has seen before. My first instinct after reading the script and my character was that I want to play this role. And I went with my instinct.
Be it Filmistaan or Badmashiyan, how do you go about getting into the skin of the character?
I don’t have any formal training in acting nor do I follow any particular method. I do some research and basic reading of the character. For Badmashiyan since I play a Haryanvi don, I started growing my moustache. My co-actor, Nitin Goswami, who plays my right hand in the film, is from Haryana. I started reading the script with him, learning the accent, and that’s how I went with the ‘preparation’ for this character. I also saw online videos of Haryanvi people to understand their mannerisms.
I was shocked when Amit told me I had to play a don because post Filmistaan I was getting roles similar to that of Sunny Arora – goofy, cute roles. This don was a different character. The character has some scary elements but he is a cute, loveable don as well. He is tough from outside but is a closet romantic who falls for Suzana Mukherjee’s character and how that affects his life.
How was it working with director Amit Khanna during Badmashiyan? How was the entire experience?
Amit is a gem of a person and it was a pleasure working with him. We completed the film in flat 22 days and it was a complete joyride with the cast and crew. My co-stars and I hit it off from the first day itself. Karan Mehra is a bundle of energy; Sidhant Kapur is a dedicated and serious actor. Suzana and Gunjan are both very talented actors. I hope that people enjoy the film as much as we did. Also this film is really special for me because for the first time, I’ve danced on screen and done full-blown action as well.
So you are open to doing song and dance kind of roles?
Yes, who wouldn’t? Be it Nawazuddin or Rajkummar Rao, everybody wants to do it. As long as what we are doing is challenging and exciting, it is great.
But most of the films that you are doing/have done are comedies. Any apprehensions about being typecast?
I’m really trying to avoid being typecast. One of the main reasons why I agreed to do Badmashiyan was because I’m playing a don. Though it has some funny elements, there are various shades to his character. There is another film I’m doing, Adaab Dawood Ibrahim Bol Raha Hoon, which is an out and out comedy. But I’ve just signed a film with Roller Coaster Productions and it’s a dark thriller where I play the lead.
Which filmmakers do you look up to and wish to work with?
There are so many; I’d love to work with Anurag Kashyap, Dibaker Banerjee, Sriram Raghavan, Raju Hirani, Karan Johar. I’d love to do commerical cinema but my heart lies in films like Ek Haseena Thi, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!. I want to do as different cinema as possible.
One reason why the audience should watch Badmashiyan?
The USP of the film is its screenplay; it’s unique and refreshing. And the music is brilliant. There are two romantic and two fun songs and the entire cast is fresh. And I’d just say, “Jo badmashiyon se kare pyar, who Badmashiyan se kaise kare inkaar.”
You wrote the dialogs of Filmistaan. Given an opportunity, will you continue writing?
Nitin and I just completed a script. I’m also working on another script. I’m open to writing and love doing it.