He’s no more the young hero I’d first met when he was 28, proud and flamboyant as he spoke about the film on cricket he was then doing. His new film also revolves around the same sport, but a lot has changed in the way he plays his own game. The subjects in his life may still be the same, but his contexts now differ a lot. His son’s struggle against cancer has humbled him; his film choices, such as Tigers and Azhar, seem to have grown up just as he has. The actor agrees, sharing with us the journey of coming of age.
You have lately been undoing the Emraan we once knew. What has helped you evolve?
It could be the sadness associated with my son’s cancer. It could be the grief, or the joy of overcoming it. Those things, more than anything else, and being a father. You’re always a changing person… and with each passing year in the film industry too, you learn a lot. Fighting to stay afloat. Debacles. Failures…failures more than successes mould you into stronger stuff. I think success numbs you; it makes you weak. It is failure that has always kept me strong, it has helped me fight back each time. Those are the things that have changed me over the years.
What does Azhar hold?
Azhar is not just another biopic; it’s much more than that. It’s not just Mohammad Azharuddin’s story but one that reveals many dark secrets about Indian cricket—it’s been thoroughly researched and despite the many things that were going on in my life then, I loved working on it.
You were writing your book at the same time that you were shooting Azhar. How did you switch roles between actor-by-day and writer-by-night?
I was shooting for Azhar in London those days, and I would get back at night and sit down to write. And shooting itself wasn’t easy when my son was being treated. But that’s what actors are good at—switching on and switching off. It took me some time, a week to ten days, to come to terms with it. But then it became this escape in front of the camera and when it went out, you went back to reality. So it was very important for my sanity to also act. I think that really helped. Still, if I had a choice, I’d have liked to go back and be there for the entire treatment of my son. Instead, I had to come back and shoot for these films and simultaneously coordinate calls because there were so many hurdles and complications during the chemotherapy. My mental state was troubled. But then actors can suddenly let go of everything and play a character on screen. You can’t carry all that with you when the camera comes on.
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