Khaleej Times - Entertainment
Crime pays...

Jannat 2 stars Emraan Hashmi and Esha Gupta, along with producer Mahesh Bhatt, stopped by the Khaleej Times office last night for a chat

Despite a rumoured stomach bug, when Bollywood’s resident serial kisser Emraan Hashmi finally walked into the Khaleej Times office yesterday evening, accompanied by his Jannat 2 co-star, Esha Gupta and the film’s producer Mahesh Bhatt, there was no sign of ill-health or ill-temper on display.

And though their schedule might have been a bit in dissaray due to the delay, the trio were more than happy to sit back and let loose on their latest crime thriller, which opens in the UAE today.

While former Miss India International Esha, who makes her Bollywood debut with the movie, was more than happy to let the actor and producer take the lead, Emraan initially seemed to live up to his “intense, broody” reputation before loosening up to talk about his respect for the movie-going public and spending his newly hiked fee on expensive cars. A staple of the Bhatt camp, The Dirty Picture actor revealed that he would any day choose box office success over critical acclaim.

Love and crime

In Jannat 2, Emraan Hashmi is playing, in his own words, a “small-time gun-runner” who rises through the ranks and falls in love with a girl named Jhanvi (Esha Gupta).

“The film looks at the illegal gun trade in India,” the actor tells us. “It’s a fascinating world and it hasn’t been explored onscreen before in Bollywood.”

Mahesh Bhatt adds that the criminal industry remains a huge problem in India.

“Home ministry data says that in Delhi, 90 per cent of deaths committed with armed weapons come from the illegal gun trade,” he says. “Most of the guns come from areas surrounding Delhi – it’s a cottage industry which has mushroomed.” 

Is three the magic number?

When we asked whether Jannat 3 is in the pipeline, Emraan replied, “It’s up to him!” with a cheeky nod towards his uncle Mahesh.

Veteran Mahesh gave a measured yet revealing response as to how the film industry operates.

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t milk a franchise like this, because the blockbuster mentality has taken over the entertainment industry the world over,” said the 63-year-old. “The consumer feels a certain amount of safety in the familiar. We had earlier called this film Informer, but the title didn’t catch the imagination of the media or the investors. The moment it became Jannat 2 things suddenly started happening.”

Some-fin special

Mahesh swears he can predict a hit film from reading the script.

“It’s like blood in the shark pool, you smell something’s there and you can’t spoil it by executing it poorly because it’s in the DNA,” he told us. “A well-made bad story will not work, but a badly made good story will work. It holds good for films from every time, in any part of the world. You’re as good as the story you tell.”

Heading overseas

“The UAE is a very big market, it’s now on par with the USA,” says 33-year-old Emraan. “Coming here and promoting a film is as important as promoting it in Mumbai, because the overseas audience now is very tuned in with Bollywood.”

Apple of his eye

We asked Emraan how he enjoyed the trappings of success, leading to a spot of banter between him and Mahesh:

Emraan: I buy cars…I blow money! And I hike up my rate.

Mahesh: He gets stingier – he doesn’t give me the gifts he promises!

Emraan: His demands are actually very unfair.

Mahesh: I want an iPad 3, that’s all.

Emraan: I will buy it for him.

In with the new

As well as having the reputation as Bollywood’s “serial kisser”, Emraan is also known for working with industry newbies (the most notable being Kangna Ranaut in 2006’s Gangster).

In Jannat 2, again he is starring alongside fresh talent in the alluring form of 2007’s Miss India International, 23-year-old Esha.

However, he insists it’s a privilege rather than a chore.

“I think there’s something unique about people who have just entered the industry,” says Emraan. “I know from my first film (2003’s Footpath) there’s a certain rawness in your performance and a certain vulnerability. You’re groping to find your way and get your performance right. That’s part of the process, and it gets easier with years of learning, but that quality is something I’m very jealous of.”

Emraan also thinks that no one could have portrayed Jhanvi better than Esha.

“She has it in the way she has performed in this film,” he adds. “The character needs someone who doesn’t already have an image with the audience.”

That Friday feeling

How much pressure do you feel under when it comes to box office performance?

Mahesh: There’s a lot of pressure on these kids. Now they’re no longer talking about a hit or a super hit – they’re talking about a super duper hit! The bar has been raised.

Emraan: Expectations don’t bog me down, but at the same time on a Friday morning I can’t really deny that’s it’s very tense. I’m not tense right now, I’m trying to keep it cool, but when those collections start coming in at noon…it’s like an examination. You’ve worked for a year on this film, and it’s not yours anymore. It’s for the audience (to judge).

Commercial success vs. critical acclaim

Emraan is adamant that the public’s response to his films outweigh any the view of any critic.

“Critics don’t decide my fate, the man on the street decides my fate,” he says. “They pay their hard-earned money, and that’s more real than someone who has read books about what a film should and shouldn’t be.”

FIVE MINUTES WITH

ESHA GUPTA

How was it working with Emraan Hashmi for your Bollywood debut?

Emraan has been very supportive, because it’s not easy for someone who’s been in the industry for so long to work with a newcomer. I was nervous around him, he knew all his lines, knew what was happening, and was working in front of 2,000 people and still giving his best shot. I was just fumbling around with a blank face. He actually didn’t mind me going through take after take while filming. Being a newcomer, I don’t realise that even if I’m shooting my twentieth take, for the audience all they see is one take. It just takes your morale down after so many bad takes that you start sweating and fumbling. I’m ready to try anything now because I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s really helped me. He’s also always on time!

How has your first experience in the film industry been?

I didn’t expect anything because I didn’t predict that I would be in this industry. I never aspired to be an actress until I started getting offers, but honestly I’ve had quite a smooth experience. I’ve made my mistakes and learned from them. I think I’m the only one in this film who is really nervous because I don’t know how the public will react to me.

Where would you like to be in five years?

Since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a lawyer. I studied and got my scholarship to study law, but I ended up being a model and now an actress. I just want to be happy and successful in whatever I’m doing; I’m not even sure if I’ll be acting until then.

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