After helming two films with Akshay Kumar (Blue (2009) and Boss (2013)), Anthony D’Souza now directs Emraan Hashmi in Azhar. He talks about the challenges of adapting Azhar’s life onscreen.
Why did you choose Emraan Hashmi to play the title role in Azhar?
I could not find anyone better than Emraan. He is underrated but is one of the best performers I could find. I don’t think any actor besides Emraan would have given me one-and-a-half years just to do homework...he has not done any movie; he was just doing homework. Now he is just like Azhar — the way he sits is like Azhar. I think for the rest of his life, he will have this problem (laughs).
What motivated you to make a biopic on cricketer Mohammed Azharruddin?
The film is based on Azhar but it is not a biopic. Azhar must have not gone singing with his wife or kissing the way Emraan does in the film; we have taken a lot of liberties. The character of Meera (played by Lara Dutta) is imaginary. Also, Azharruddin was my favourite while growing up. I was his biggest fan. When Azhar stopped playing in 2000, I stopped watching cricket. My first meeting with Azhar was when I reached his house at 11.30 in the night after getting his address from a minister. I didn’t have a pen and paper to get his autograph so I made him arrange for it and give me his autograph. After that we became good friends. When I was offered this film, I could not wait because he is one of the greatest cricket players that I have ever seen.
Was it tough for you to convince Azhar to come up with his story?
That was done by Ekta (Kapoor, the producer). I came in later. Rajat Arora did the script and a lot of credit should be given to him for writing such a well-researched script.
How much of Azhar’s personal life will be seen in this movie?
Everything. We are not showing much of the bedroom scenes. The idea is not to sensationalise.