Those who have been fans of Sharib Hashmi owing to the wonderful performances he has delivered on-screen in the last couple of years, would start admiring him a lot more when they meet or speak to him. The kind of warmth and humility the actor exudes is rare and that’s what makes him truly special. A gifted artiste and an extraordinary human being, perhaps that’s the best way to describe him.
In this exclusive interview, Sharib talks about his eventful journey in the entertainment industry, the success of ‘The Family Man Season 2’, the love that he has received for his recent projects, being an encyclopedia on Hindi cinema, love for writing, upcoming projects and more.
‘The Family Man Season 2’ was one of the most anticipated digital series in the recent times. The first season was hugely successful and now, the second season has been received very well too.
Since the first season had done extremely well, I was equally nervous and excited to see how the second season would be received. I was quite certain that it would live up to the kind of expectations people had from it. I am glad to see such positive response coming our way.
‘The Family Man’ marked your first collaboration with Manoj Bajpayee. Very few people would remember that you were supposed to a film with him in 2015 that was to be directed by Samir Karnik.
Yes, that’s right. The film didn’t take off for some reason. I am glad ‘The Family Man’ turned out to be that project on which I got to work with him for the first time.
Despite the lockdown, 2020 was quite an eventful year for you. You featured in a bunch of films and shows that were received very well by the audience. Your performance was one of the highlights in the film ‘Darbaan’ which spanned across three different timelines. One wouldn’t imagine you going through the kind of experiences Raicharan goes through in the film. How did you internalize this character?
I had completely put myself in the shoes of Raicharan! There was no other way for me to do this part. Being a father in real-life helped a great deal in portraying this character. I wouldn’t have understood the depth of the character if I wasn’t a father myself. I am quite an emotional person myself but after doing this film, I became even more emotional and sympathetic about a lot of things.
‘Ramsingh Charlie’, your maiden production received a lot of accolades from the audience. Why did you decide to turn a producer so early in your career?
If one does not take risks, life will become boring. I am happy that the three of us, Nitin Kakkar, Umesh Pawar and I, decided to turn producers and ‘Ramsingh Charlie’ is the first film we produced. When I quit my job to become an actor, that was a big risk too. Nitin came up with the idea for the film. Initially, we had thought of making a film which would be inspired by the life of Charlie Chaplin. For a couple of reasons, we thought that it might be a little difficult to execute film like that. We did not have the backing of a studio or a financer. Hamaare paas film banaane ke paise the, lekin usko release karne ke nahin the. When a film does not feature big stars, it gets difficult to find producers for it. The film was stuck for a while but I am glad it found a home for itself in Sony LIV and was received so well by the audience.
The film was produced by The Goodfellas Co, a production house jointly owned by Nitin Kakkar, Umesh Pawar and you. What is the story behind the name of the company?
I think the name had a nice ring to it. It is also the name of a cult, classic film which happen to be one of our favourite films. I guess the name serves as a tribute to that film. Also, whenever the three of us stand together in a frame, we look like Goodfellas (laughs).
Do you wish to produce more content in the future?
Yes, I do. ‘Ramsingh Charlie’ proved to be an auspicious start to our journey as producers and I hope the three of us can continue to produce a lot of content together.
In the year 2008, you quit your job with a TV channel to pursue a full-time career as an actor. You faced a lot of difficulties for some time.
Yes, I auditioned for innumerable projects for around three years. Nothing was really working out. I did some freelance work as a writer but only sporadically. I was married and had two children. I almost got drowned in debt during this time. After a while, I decided to take up a job again. I joined the channel UTV Bindass. I joined it as AVP – Programming. One day, I got a call from Shanoo Sharma, who heads the casting division at Yash Raj Films. She had seen a short film of mine called ‘Mehrooni’. She liked my performance in and asked me to audition for ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’. I got through the audition. Around the same time, Nitin was meeting several producers for ‘Filmistaan’. He finally met a producer who agreed to produce the film. Nitin asked me to audition for the film as the producer wanted to see whether I would fit the part or not. I got selected for that film too.
You also had to audition for that small part in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ which happened a long time before that.
Yes, that’s right. I was working in Channel V at that time and did not really have the intention of becoming a full-fledged actor. When I was offered that small part in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, I took a leave for a couple of days, shot for my part and came back to work. I also played a small role in the film ‘Haal-E-Dil’ around the same time. After some time, I thought I should give acting a try in a more serious manner. I was supposed to shoot back-to-back for ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ and ‘Filmistaan’. To shoot for the two films, I had to take a leave for a month and a half. I applied for a leave but my boss was not willing to allow me to go on such a long leave. He said, ‘ya toh aap Naukri kar lo, ya acting kar lo’. I could not let go of those two films. I quit my job and went to London to shoot for ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’.
You are known to be an Encyclopedia of Hindi cinema. Does your love for cinema comes from the fact that your father Mr. Z.A Johar was a senior journalist working with the Hindi film magazine Mayapuri?
Probably yes. I have not read much literature. Instead, I have grown up reading film magazines. My father was a very respected journalist. I remember Raj Babbar, Govinda, Anupam Kher, Gulshan Grover and many other filmstars visiting our chawl in Malad. At that time, I thought ‘main bada ho kar hero banunga’ (laughs). I was the youngest of all my siblings and was pampered a lot by my parents. We belonged to a middle-class family and lived in a chawl but I remember always being happy.
Before you became an actor, writing was a large part of your profession. You have also written screenplay and/or dialogues for films like ‘Notebook’ and ‘Ramsingh Charlie’. If you had to choose between the two, what would you pick?
Ideally, I would like to do both. But, if I have to choose one, I would choose acting as I have worked very hard and struggled a lot to become an actor. Acting was always my biggest passion. I want to be an actor for as long as I live.
How was the ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ experience? It was the first time you were playing a prominent part in a film?
It was a dream come true for me. In fact, I would not have even imagined in my dreams that I would get to work with such legends in one film and that too, so early in my career. Getting the opportunity to work with Yash ji was no less than a blessing. He was a sweetheart. He cared for and looked after each and every person present on the set. One day, when it was our day off in London, he met me in the lift and said, “Sharib, London mein mazaa aa raha hai ya nahi?. Thand wand lage toh jacket le lena mere yahaan se”. There was a wonderful scene in the which eventually got deleted. After we finished shooting for that particular scene, Yash ji came up to me and told me that he had tears in his eyes while watching me perform that scene. That remains the biggest compliment for me till date.
You have been one of the actors who benefitted hugely from the digital boom that took place in India in the last couple of years. Would you agree to that?
Yes, my career got revived because of the OTT boom. There was a point when I felt the audiences had started to forget me. After ‘Filmistaan’, I was expecting a lot of offers to come my way but, for some reason, that did not happen. A couple of interning films that I had signed never got made. I did a couple of good films but they were not promoted well and therefore, did not work. During this phase, a lot of my friends and relatives told me that I should consider doing a job again.
‘The Family Man’ was, of course, a huge success. Then, there was ‘Asur’, a show that arrived on a relatively new OTT platform and sans much hype. The show released and soon, everybody was talking about it. It was a classic case of the audience embracing quality content in a huge way.
The success of ‘Asur’ was what one would call real success. The show was not promoted very heavily. Voot had done only a couple of original shows before that. The massive success of ‘Asur’ helped the platform come to the forefront. The show achieved success purely based on word of mouth. The second season is being written and as a viewer, I am very excited about it. I died in the first season. I hope I get to feature in a couple of flashback scenes in the Season 2 (laughs).
You never did television. Was that a conscious decision?
Actually, I did not get many good offers from television. I had done a couple of films, so there was a perception that I was not interested in doing TV. I was sure about not doing saas-bahu daily soaps as I couldn’t connect to them. Having said that, medium does not really matter to me. I should be happy about the project I am doing.
Your cameo in ‘Scam 1992’ was received very well too.
I am very happy that I got to work with Hansal Mehta sir. The show was directed by his son Jai and him. Jai approached me for the show. He was a little reluctant to offer it to me as it was a small part but I was very excited as the role was small but very interesting and impactful. I immediately said a ‘yes’ to it. We took four-five days to shoot the sequence. I am very proud to be a part of the show and I hope to get Hansal sir on another project soon.
Apart from writing and acting, singing has been one of your major passions. Do you hope to being out this aspect of yours to the world someday?
I do hope to come up with a single sometime. Let’s see if I get the right opportunity for the same.
You stated earlier in the interview that you had to struggle a lot even after the release of ‘Filmistaan’. Looking at the kind of line-up you have, it seems you are one of the busiest actors around at the moment. Do you think things have finally fallen in place for you as an actor?
I hope the struggle phase is over now (laughs). This is a very unpredictable industry. Somebody who is doing well today might be struggling tomorrow. I am truly grateful for all the opportunities I have received as I know there are a lot of talented people who do not get as many opportunities.
One of your upcoming projects include a feature film called ‘Biswa’ that has been directed by National Award winning filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda. What can you tell us about it?
‘Biswa’ has been directed by Anuj Tyagi who had worked with Nila Madhab Panda on many films in the past. Mr. Panda has produced the film. I have been a huge admirer of his work. We were supposed to collaborate on a project in the past but things didn’t work out then. I am glad I got to work with him on this film. It’s a sweet, slice-of-life film. We shot closer to Chilika lake which is a very popular water lagoon in Odisha. Some of the other films that I have recently worked on are ‘Mission Majnu’ and ‘Dhaakad’. There is also a series for Hotstar and a film for Netflix in the pipeline.
On people he has collaborated with
Shah Rukh Khan: The best word to describe him is ‘king’! When he is working on a scene, he is not just concerned about his dialogues but he helps his co-actors too. During one scene, he helped me improvise my lines though it was one of the first times I had met him. Despite being a superstar, he is the supportive co-actor you can have.
Manoj Bajpayee: He is a friend, philosopher, guide and an elder brother to me. Shooting with him is similar to attending an acting school. He is dedicated and disciplined about everything he does.
Pranutan Bahl: Unfortunately, I could not attend the shoot of ‘Notebook’. I have a special appearance in her upcoming film ‘Helmet’. Despite coming from an illustrious background, she is a very down-to-earth and wonderful human being. She is very talented and has a bright future ahead of her.
Nitin Kakar: We first met in the year 2000. We started our career as assistant directors on the same film. The film was ‘Hum Tum Pe Marte Hain’. We connected over our bond for love for cinema and watched a lot of world cinema together back then. He left television and I left my job to get into cinema. We are inseparable and cannot imagine my life without him.
Mrityunjay Kumar: He was man responsible for getting me into a job. He was amongst those who encouraged me to follow my heart and get into acting. He was instrumental in my growth in MTV.
Raj & DK: There is a supplement you take in your 40s called the 40 Plus. For me, Raj & DK are that supplement. They believed in me and made me a part of ‘The Family Man’. I had always been a fan of their work since their first film ’99’. Their storytelling is very original and fresh.
Hansal Mehta: He is an extremely sweet and warm person. Though I have spent just about four or five days on the sets of ‘Scam 1992’., it was one of the best shoots I have ever had. I remember when ‘Filmistaan’ had released, we had met at a party. He spoke to me about the film and said a lot of encouraging things about my performance.