Sharib Hashmi is hands-down one of the best and the most under-appreciated actors working in the industry right now. He has starred in movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Filmistaan, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Badmashiyaan, Phullu, Vodka Diaries, Batti Gul Meter Chalu, Nakkash, Fastey Fasaatey, and in web-series like A Viral Wedding, Asur: Welcome to your Dark Side, and of course, The Family Man. Recently, he collaborated with Hansal Mehta in the Sony LIV series Scam 1992 and I got a chance to chat with him about that, J.K. Talpade, and more.
Tell us something about the role you’re playing in Scam 1992?
“I have a very small part to play in the series. It’s an interesting cameo. But I don’t have a major part in the series. And it’s a very interesting cameo. In fact, I am playing the guy who, you know, breaks the scam to Sucheta Dalal. I play the whistleblower. So ya, it’s a very important part and that’s why it made it to the teaser.”
Did you have any prior idea about Harshad Mehta and did you gain any additional insight after working in it?
“Ya, ya ya. Well, I didn’t know about my character before doing the series. I learned about that later. Again, as I said, I don’t have a major part to play. So, I haven’t seen the entire journey of Harshad Mehta. That I will explore with you all while watching the series. Whatever I have seen and that way that it has shaped up, it’s really well. I am very very happy the way my scenes have been shot. In fact, it’s just a scene. Just a small sequence. But we shot it over a period of four days. I had a lot of fun. I always wanted to work with Hansal Mehta. So, that dream came true. And Jai, who’s the co-director of the series, is brilliant. Brilliant! And you’ll get to see it in the series. He’s the one who had contacted me, narrated the story to me, [explained] the character to me. And I was sold out immediately.”
The roles and projects that you choose always end up being very relevant e.g. Ram Singh Charlie (Which I really loved!) and now Scam 1992. So what are your primary criteria while making those choices?
“The story doesn’t have to be relevant to the current times or whatever is happening. That’s not one of the criteria. My criteria before selecting anything is that it should interest me. As an audience. First, as an audience, it should interest me. It should engage me enough to read it first. If I don’t enjoy reading it, then how am I going to partake in the project? [laughs] So, for me, the story has to be engaging and interesting. It doesn’t have to be masala or entertaining. Entertainment doesn’t just mean songs and dance. It has to engage you as an audience. It can be an edge-of-the-seat drama. It can be a thriller. It can be anything. And if the world-building in it is well done, I’d like to be a part of it. It’s not like it has to be relevant or I have to have a big or if I have a small role. All that isn’t important. The story and the kind of story that’s being told, who’s telling the story, all that is very important. Because if the storyteller is problematic, then they can ruin a good subject. Also, the people who are associated with the project. Because whether it’s a film or a series, we spend a lot of time together. So, if you work with like-minded people, that time becomes very enjoyable. That’s also one of the criteria when I say ‘yes’ to a project.”
What’s the major difference that you face between playing in a feature film versus doing the same in a series?
“Umm, I don’t see any difference in working in a series or a movie because once I am in front of the camera, I am playing a character. The only difference is that each and every character is established in the series. It has the time to do so. Jaise ek mushaira hota hai na? Toh mushaire mein shama hoti hai ek. Harr shayar ke saamne rakhi jaati hai aur usko ek mauka milta hai apni poetry bolne ka [Just imagine it like a social gathering for a poetry reading where every poet is allowed to present their work]. So, a series is like a mushaira where I get to do more. In the case of a film, the time is limited and everyone cannot be explored equally. They’ve to focus on the protagonist. So, this is the main difference that I see. Otherwise, whether I am working on a film set or a series set, as an actor, I don’t see any difference. Even the medium doesn’t really matter to me. Whether it’s playing at the theatre or the television or the corner shop, what matters to me is what I am doing, who I am working with, and if I am progressing or not.”
You’ve gone from strength to strength to build this amazing body of work. But now a turbulent phase is in effect due to the pandemic and the news circling the industry. How can we ensure that you don’t have to start from scratch in terms of getting roles or pitching scripts etc.?
“Well, in fact, I am going through a very good phase in my career where I am getting offers to play different types of characters. Earlier, I was only getting parts that are like happy-go-lucky like the ones I played in Filmistaan. But now I am getting different shades to play thanks to the OTT boom. I am enjoying the phase I am in right now. So, I hope that I don’t have to start from zero again. I am happy with the films that I recently shot for and I also shot for the second season of The Family Man, which went great. So, I can’t wait for it to reach the audience. I am not worried about starting from scratch. And even the situation arrives, I have no qualms about starting from any position. I have seen a lot of struggles in my life. So, I am not afraid of it. I enjoy it. My entire career/life has been a rollercoaster ride and I have enjoyed the lows as much as I am enjoying the highs.”
Finally, since I am a huge fan of The Family Man, tell me anything about Season 2 and what new shade of J. K. Talpade can we expect to see?
“Well, I can’t say a lot about it [laughs]. We’ll get to see a new and improved Talpade. But I can’t divulge into it a lot. I am not allowed to talk about the content of the second season. What I can say though is that I recently dubbed for it and I couldn’t sleep that night! Because the things that I witnessed were so amazing! I just want everyone to watch it. There’s a new mission. There are new characters. Like everyone knows about Samantha Akkineni who’s playing one of the most important roles and the stuff that I’ve seen about her character, looks and everything, it’s amazing! Beyond amazing.”
Sharib Hashmi has been one of my favourite actors since his Filmistaan days (I cannot recommend that movie enough) and I am so incredibly glad to see him doing the work that he’s doing. And while I am all against idolising people, I had a certain mental image of Hashmi and there’s something satisfying in knowing that the persona of that individual matches and even exceed that mental image you had. I genuinely wish that Hashmi keeps doing the work that he’s doing and continues to give us quality content that enriches the overall image of Indian cinema. And with that teaser about The Family Man Season 2, I think I’m going to have sleepless nights because I absolutely cannot wait to watch Talpade in action again!
Cover artwork by Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India