Emraan Hashmi has been busy with the promotions of his upcoming film, Cheat India for the last couple of weeks. The actor who is known for portraying an array of characters throughout his career is all set to portray another memorable one. He will be seen playing a professor who is neither interested in being a hero nor a villain, and in his own words is simply a ‘khiladi‘. The sneak peeks of the film look interesting and we recently got to know about his character, the film and a lot more.
The trailer of Cheat India looks quite interesting and it is also your first film as a producer. What made you pick this film?
Well, being a student of the education system, I passed out from my school I think in 1992, 1994 and college in 1998. It’s the system that hasn’t changed much. The board I was following, the entire system of rote mugging, a fair chunk of disinterested teachers because it’s a low paid job. Teachers are not being qualified enough generally in college, at least at my college. It is something that is not showing signs of changing. These are things I discovered myself as a student and post that when I heard the script I didn’t know there were things such as cheating mafias. There are people middlemen who take money from undeserving students. They have their own team, this mafia of doctors, engineers, scholars who go and give examinations for those other kids. They get merit sitting at home. So where will the merit students go? With money on your side, you can buy degrees. It is very disconcerting and unnerving that those very kids that didn’t have the merit go ahead and become doctors. They are the doctors that write our prescriptions. There are engineers who build our bridges. So it’s a bit unnerving.
Do you think making films that bring problems like this to the forefront helps create awareness or bring a change in some way?
I am hoping. There is no instant change and I am not disillusioned that a change happens overnight. It starts a conversation and hopefully in years to come, Cheat India will have a small, little contribution to that. Shedding light on malpractices in our society and that’s what I am hoping for. That’s what we can hope for as creative people. It’s a problem that is still prevalent and it has not shown any signs of improvement in the past 100 years. We are not seeing any signs (of change) right now. There need to be aggressive changes made by the government. I don’t see that. Teachers, faculties and at the receiving end who else is but the students? You need to nurture them well at that age and that, unfortunately, is not happening.
Agreed. It’s an entangled web. You’re a father too, does it hit close to home knowing that what’s going on out there and this is where your son is going to grow up studying?
It’s scary. That’s why I didn’t put him in the board that I followed and studied in. I put him in IB, which is slightly more evolved, that helps and nurtures the overall development of a child. It is very important for that because this puts no emphasis apart from the rote mugging. No analytical, creative or original thinking. These are things that are important. Also, fun. An element of fun has to be there in the education system and we don’t allow that. We have 8 hours of school, 1 hour of travel, 1 hour of tuition, 1 hour of homework. What does the child do after that? He/she sleeps. It is very important to have a sense of play and fun which unfortunately our system doesn’t propel.
Talking about your choice of characters, most of them have been grey, they are neither white nor black. Is that something that attracts you to a character?
I believe people are grey. There is no one who is black or white. I have always respected cinema that is an entertaining way and a reflection of how people are. They had a logical and practical way of pitching this character. It’s a very anti-heroes space, like a lot of real people are. I find them interesting. I just find very righteous people fake. The real world people don’t really function that way. It’s a bit more complicated than that. We are sometimes good in situations morally. Sometimes we do questionable things. In these times, it’s not good to be too honest, you will be trampled upon. Not that I would promote being dishonest. But if you are naive, vulnerable, these kinds of things, you can’t really play the game then.
So, when you select a film, is it just because of the character or do you think of its box-office value?
Of course, it is. It is very important because box-office ultimately decides the financial fate of your film. It’s very important to earn a buck on the investment you make on a film. Apart from that, there’s a creative *ting*. You need creative satisfaction as an actor and as a producer that you made something that was very giving. I think it’s a blend of both but financial aspects are also very important. Any actor that says box office is not important is just lying.
Do you think they’re trying to be too much in the white area?
It is. It’s wearing that mask and not revealing the true nature of the business. Any actor, any producer’s fear is you have to churn out those numbers and at least make a buck on what the producers and investors have put into the film.
Since this is about college students, are you going to be hosting special screenings for them?
Sure. We don’t have any plan as yet. As we inch closer to the release I am sure we will think about this.
You have acted in so many films, you’ve also written a book and are producing movies now. Which other creative hats can we expect you to wear soon?
Not direction. I don’t think that figures for at least the next decade because it took me some time to get into the shoes of a producer. It requires mental and emotional preparation to step into different shoes but never say never. I never even thought I will write a book but I ended up doing that 4 years back. Right now, I think I am involved in this whole production thing and as an actor obviously. Let’s see where it goes.
Talking about the industry at large, the #MeToo movement that recently surfaced, stirred up a storm. You were one of the few, maybe the first one to put such a definitive step towards correcting and avoiding such misconduct on your sets. Why do you think there aren’t more people coming forward and doing it?
People who have resorted with things like that have obviously not tired to make amends. Because then, if they do that, suddenly a bunch of women will sit up and say that, “Hey, who are you to preach when you have done this?” It’s partly that. It will trickle in. I mean people who really feel it should be done, will. In this patriarchal society, it is kind of important to stand up for women. Women have always wanted to have a voice and now they do. It’s partly because of social media. It’s a change in society and I think it’s here to stay. At least they know now there is an avenue to vent out if such a thing happens and men are forewarned to not get into that, kinda deep, sexual predators. It happens a lot, it happens everywhere. So not to take women for granted and that’s what is happening right now with social media. I didn’t know that so many cases were happening around and every day there was something. Now for some reasons, it’s become very quiet. There were so many cases that came on board in the first 2 months, 1 month.
The actor’s take on the #MeToo movement strikes a chord. As we saw, there was a big storm that was stirred up because of all the cases that came out. But it has slowly lost its momentum in some ways and the only way we can keep it going is by making sure that there are corrective measures set in place to bring such horrendous acts to justice.
Emraan’s film highlights another side of the society that we often play blind to which is corruption in the education system. Cheat India releases on 18th January and here’s wishing the actor good luck for the film.