Free Press Journal

Interview: Playing ‘Azhar’


With less than two weeks to go for his upcoming film to release, Emraan Hashmi looks positive about his portrayal of the legendary cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin. A hardcore cricket fan, he talks to Viraj Sawant about being shattered after the match fixing controversy.

Were you a fan of Azhar? And how did the match fixing charges affect you as a fan?

I have been a big fan of Azhar and I have followed his game in the 80’s and 90’s. It was a bit shattering in 2000 when the claim was made on him. It’s the game that you truly love and the players whom you have loved and respected for so long, it’s upsetting when you hear that they are fixing matches. It just shatters your trust. All the matches you cheered for them and their victories and losses. You feel bad when you know the faith of the match is pre-decided. Being a human, you are tilted towards a certain decision, to believe the cricketer or to believe the allegations. I am someone who doesn’t reach a decision when a court case is going on. It’s only after the final verdict that I form my opinion. I might not have followed the court case for these many years but eventually when court gave him a clean chit, I accepted that decision of the court. There are people who refuse to believe the court’s verdict and say that he took the money. If you believe the law, you might not agree with the verdict but you still have to accept it.

Tell us something about your upcoming film AZHAR.

AZHAR is a semi biopic. You have biopics and docu dramas. Docu-dramas show every incident of ones life. Here in AZHAR we have tried to balance his private life and his life on field. This film is more on the factual evidence and what all Azhar bhai has told us about the film. The perspective of the audience about the whole controversy will be shown in the film. We spoke to Azhar and got to know many things that the world doesn’t till today. We have obviously dramatized the film and added a few songs. In 2000, the investigation on the match fixing case began, the film starts with his marriage with Naureen his first wife and moves on to the match fixing allegations. The film is more on the factual evidence and the court case. Eventually he won the court case and he got a validation saying that he wasn’t involved.

What all nuances did you pick up from Azhar when you met him?

It was definitely difficult to play this one than any other normal character. There are around 200 ways of playing a normal character but when it’s about a real person there can only be only one way of portraying it on screen. You have certain leverage to play him dramatically but that should have a certain essence of Azharuddin in it. The way he walks or the way he played cricket. All those things are very difficult. People have seen him and seen him closely. So I had to get that right.

To get to his height, I had to wear a 4inch heel. I am 5.8 and he is 6.1. To get his batting stance right, I had to wear the 4-inch heel and play cricket with that. I had to imbibe the way he walks, holds the bat and the way he talks.

To play a real personality, you have to look like him. Your looks are way different from his. How did you manage to look like Azhar?

Before starting with the shoot, I flew off to London to a prosthetic guy to get a facial mask of Azharuddin. Azhar’s nose and ears are much different from mine. But then looking at the climatic condition of the place of our shoot(Hyderabad), the mask would melt. So we thought of taking the traditional way of making changes. His receding hairline is something we could try and his ears are bigger than mine. These were the things we could work with. There had to be a hint of him. My first validation came when his son told me that I was walking like his dad. He asked Azhar bhai if it was him in the teaser walking in the stadium.

Tony Dsouza is a relatively new director, working with him on a controversial cricketing hero’s biopic, were you apprehensive at any point?

Tony’s research on Azhar and his life is much much more than mine. I may have started working on the film in December 2014 but Tony started off with his research long time back. He would keep discussing with me every scene of the film. He envisioned this character that you’ll see in the film. So I wasn’t apprehensive at any point.

Will this film be like an Emraan Hashmi film or is the bold content held back?

It’s not an erotic film like MURDER. It’s more about the cricket world and stories of cricket.

A film on Dhoni and Sachin are also coming up. Does that add pressure on your film?

Comparing the films on Dhoni, Azhar and Tendulkar is very unfair. Sachin’s film is a docu drama. Whereas Azhar’s story has a lot of spice, drama and the potential to be a potboiler. The glory days of cricket in the 80’s and 90’s are shown wonderfully. Cricket hasn’t been the same after that, especially after the match fixing allegations. People were hurt after the match fixing controversy. But that said, its unfair to compare the three films.