Several years after Bol, Humaima Malick is all set for a Bollywood debut opposite Emraan Hashmi and while Pakistani actresses in India have always been a school for scandal, Humaima may actually change that impression. The two stars speak to Ankita R Kanabar in Mumbai, on the set of Raja Natwarlal…
“I don’t plan my future. This is my first Hindi film, and it’s an industry where everything changes, every Friday!” — Humaima Malick
A critically acclaimed film like Bol and a few fashionable appearances later, Humaima Malick might just set hearts racing as she makes her Hindi film debut with Raja Natwarlal. While this is Malick’s first Hindi film, her confidence belies the very fact. Or may be, that comes from her body of work so far, and the fact that she’s already a star in Pakistan. While she was initially apprehensive about how people from her nation would react to her bar dancer act in Raja Natwarlal, she’s relieved that the feedback has only been positive. In this exclusive chat in Mumbai, Humaima talks about her Bollywood dreams, how she functions as an actor and as a person, amidst other things.
So, are you happy with the feedback the promos of Raja Natwarlal have garnered?
Humaima Malick: Yes, everyone loves them – here and across the border too. People in India are excited about the film and are asking me how the film is going to be and how my experience was. I see the same amount of excitement in my nation also because Emraan Hashmi is quite famous in Pakistan. Also, the songs in the film are getting appreciated. I’m lucky that I’m getting to work with Emraan in my first film, because even before the film started, I knew that the film’s music would be good.
Your first Hindi film with an already established star like Emraan Hashmi and a big banner…did you ever plan how your debut should be?
HM: I can’t say that I was well prepared and it’s not like I only wanted to be launched with a commercial, big film. As a person, or as an actor, I’m not in a hurry. I took a little time to think about it and to take my decision, and I thought there’s nothing going to be better than this. Emraan is someone who masses follow like crazy, so I thought why not go for it. Also because I’ve done some critically acclaimed films in the past, so I thought I’d get to do something really different in Raja Natwarlal. For me it was exciting to see how I fit into this commercial space.
Because you hail from Pakistan, and are a popular face there, it would form a major part of the target audience. How do you think the film would appeal to people in Pakistan?
HM: I’m not thinking about what people are going to think. I feel that the target audience in any country is the same, whether India or Pakistan, people just want to come to the theatre and enjoy themselves. They want to forget their problems. These mass-oriented films get the same reaction and a very good feedback from the audience, both in India and Pakistan.
In an interview, Emraan said that one of the reasons you were cast in the film is because you bring in some amount of vulnerability and innocence even to a bar dancer. So, how did you prepare for your role?
HM: It’s very sweet of him to say that. I just had to be in love with my Raja. I think it’s something very close to my heart. If a woman loves a man, she’s a caretaker, and she has a motherly instinct in her. It comes naturally to any woman. She’s very protective about the person she loves. I’m myself a very strong girl and I could totally relate to my character.
So, you aren’t someone who likes to prepare for her role?
HM: I can’t rehearse. But when the camera rolls, the magic starts, that’s what I believe. I love the sound of the camera. I’m myself in front of the camera. When you rehearse a lot, it’s not natural anymore; you have to keep doing different stuff. Practice makes a man perfect, but I feel I’m better when I don’t over-prepare myself.
Talking about working with your co-actor, how was the experience of working with Emraan?
HM: It was threatening at first because when I met Emraan he remembered every scene with dialogues, so I knew I would have to come really prepared. It was challenging and it was a good thing. He remembers everything. Emraan is a very fine actor.
You were worried about how people in Pakistan would react to you playing a bar dancer in the film. Will this thought form one of the criterion while choosing any film even in the future?
HM: If you talk about all these actresses in India, they are very cool about doing a dance number or something like that. But when it comes to Pakistani girls, we have to think about it. That said the audience in Pakistan is quite open about it now and I’m very happy that I’ve gotten good feedback. The only thing I’d consider before choosing my next film is a challenge. I don’t want to do the same stuff. Even earlier, the characters I’ve done have been very different from each other. I like to experiment, and hopefully, I’ll do the same even in my next film.
As an actor, what do you want the audience to take back about you, when they see your work?
HM: People from my country have very high hopes from me, especially after a film like Bol, but a film like that comes once in a while so I’m scared. I want the audience to accept me the way I am, to like the talent I’m displaying. And there’s a lot more talent I have to show but I cannot do it alone; I need their support. I want the audience to think I’m a part of them, and relate to every character I play. I just want to do my best!
So, you’re happy in the moment, without really worrying about what the future has in store for you?
HM: I’m nervous and happy to be a part of a very big film like this. I don’t plan the future; I just go with the flow. This is my first Hindi film and this is an industry where everything changes, every Friday. The ratings and the numbers matter a lot here. But I just want to be happy in my space, and satisfied with my own work. And of course, nervousness comes with every project that you do. As of now, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.
Talking about future projects, there’s also a three-film deal with Vidhu Vinod Chopra…
HM: I can’t talk about that project; we’ll have to wait for the announcement. Right now, the biggest thing in my life is Raja Natwarlal. I hope people love it!
“I don’t source much of an identity from stardom. I want a break from Emraan Hashmi – the actor – after pack-up.” — Emraan Hashmi
While he may come across as extremely flamboyant, thanks to the characters he’s played on-screen with utmost ease, that’s not how it is! Meet Emraan Hashmi, and you’ll discover a completely new side to him. He loves his craft and is attached to it in every way he can, yet he is detached from it as soon as it’s pack-up! Probably that’s the reason why he steers clear from getting affected by the tags pinned on him, or the image people have of him. In the middle of a busy day while he promotes his upcoming film, he takes time out to talk about Raja Natwarlal, with Humaima Malick. Presenting to you, Emraan Hashmi, in an extremely candid, witty avatar!
What was your interpretation of Raja Natwarlal when you read the script and now when the film is ready?
Emraan Hashmi: People have expectations and they assume something when they realise that it has cons in it, but what struck me about the film in the beginning and what strikes me after it’s complete, is that Raja Natwarlal is a very strong emotional story. It’s a dramatic film, and has the technicality of how scams function, all over the country, but the central crux of the film is a very strong revenge story. It starts with a very sweet romance, and how things fall apart, how the hero has to undo something, and teach the villain a lesson, and he does this through the technicality of a scam. Yes it’s a great con film, and I don’t want to sound very boastful, but it’s one of the best con films that you’ll see, inherently because of the way the script is. It’s a film that’ll make you laugh and cry, because there’s a very strong emotion attached to it. I’ve seen it, and the audience is in for a real treat. It’s got romance, drama, fun, great songs, hero v/s villain conflict, kisses, and everything that you’ll expect my films to have (smiles).
They say that the mark of a good actor is when you as a person don’t reflect in your characters. But do you think it’s also important to bring in your individuality to each character you play?
EH: There’s always a part of you in every character that you play. It cannot be devoid of that, because that’s what gives a character its individuality. If there’s no part of you in it, it’ll be superficial. There’s a part of me in every character I play. Even if I play a psychopath on screen, there’s a part of me. I may not be a psychopath in real life, but there are negative emotions in all of us. As humans, we feel hate sometimes. So this is where we have to, as actors, tap into those things within us. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve mostly portrayed negative emotions on-screen, which aren’t the things you should feel in real life. Even revenge is a negative emotion, but in our film it’s done in such a flamboyant and entertaining way that it looks good.
It’s also being said that acting is a lot about reacting; do you agree to that? And so, how was it working with Humaima Malick in this film?
EH: It’s only about reacting. The best actors are actors who listen, and very few actors actually listen. Most actors are mouthing dialogues, but the moment they don’t have anything to say, they look blank on-screen. Very few actors listen to their co-actors’ dialogues. And really, Humaima’s presence in the film has enhanced my performance; she’s an actor with a lot of depth. She has an inherent charisma, good looks and the makings of star. She is already a star in Pakistan, and I’m sure she’ll do very well in the Hindi film industry also. She’s playing a bar dancer, and that could turn downright vulgar, but that’s why we cast Humaima in the film; she makes a bar dancer seem human, respectable, vulnerable and you feel for her. She’s a bar dancer, and she does it out of need, not for the greed for money. She’s stuck in this particular world, and this man takes her out of that world. Humaima has played the character very well.
There have been instances in the past where a few films have been banned in Pakistan. But there shouldn’t be any problem for a film like Raja Natwarlal, right?
EH: No there won’t be because even in India we’ll be going for a U/A certificate. I think there shouldn’t be a problem; my films have been loved in Pakistan and there also, people will like it because of the kind of story that it is and the treatment that it’s got.
So, at this point, after doing a number of films, most of them, hits, what’s your criterion to choose a film?
EH: I think it’s important to find a fair balance of experimenting with films in terms of the different kind of audiences that I can cater to, as an actor. For instance, Shanghai was for a niche audience, but a film like Raja Natwarlal is for the masses. Even my other films like The Dirty Picture or Murder were pitched to a larger audience. It’s important to find a balance between these two cinemas and that’s when I grow as an actor. Raja Natwarlal is as important as Shanghai, and I will always do a film like Shanghai, even tomorrow, if I have to. The trade will tell me ‘yeh film itni nahi chalegi’, but it’s fine for me. It has a niche audience, so what! It’s a great film, it’s something that I’m proud of; it’s something that I’ll show my kids in the future. It might not be commercial, but it’ll always be in people’s minds.
While you’re very much a part of the industry, you’ve also in some way managed to stay detached from it. How does that work?
EH: I don’t source much of an identity from stardom. I want a break from Emraan Hashmi, the actor, after the pack-up. I don’t want to take him home. I don’t want to keep him as a part of my consciousness. When I leave a film set, and the only way I can do it and find some sanity, is by finding another life that is away from films. So, after I pack up, then that’s my time. It’s the guy who is not an actor. So, I will not go to a film party and get myself into a world that I’ve just been a part of. I don’t know, it might work for other people but it doesn’t work for me. I need to detach from films for my own sanity. Films are not only my life. I have another life away from it, and I enjoy that, as much as I enjoy films. I don’t carry that weight of stardom around; I’m not one of those actors.
And does that also help keep you grounded?
EH: Also, it detaches me from both – failure and successful films. It isn’t that success doesn’t make me happy, or failure doesn’t make me sad. They affect me, but you have to understand that it’s just a film and you have to move on because there are better things waiting, and there are going to be hits and flops; you are going to make mistakes. I think it’s important to just keep running and not stop.
As an actor, which is the most difficult emotion to portray on-screen?
EH: I think crying is difficult on-screen. I don’t cry too much for real; it’s an emotion that I usually conceal. I may want to cry, but I know how to control that emotion. That’s the kind of person that I am. So, it’s very difficult for me to cry on-screen in front of people, when for real, I’m not very open about that.
What’s your process like? Are you an actor who likes to prepare before a film?
EH: I’m a bit of both – I prepare and then I leave it to spontaneity on a film set. I can adapt, mould and be flexible on a film set. But I can’t do that if I’m not prepared before I come on set.
Tell me about the line-up of your upcoming films…
EH: Mr. X is about to complete now. It’s about a dark super-hero, and a man who becomes invisible. There’s Hamari Adhuri Kahaani, which is a love story. There’s an international film, which is complete, and we’ll be showing it by the end of the year.