Satish Sundaresan of Bollywood Hungama met up with Tony D'Souza for an interview. 'Over' to you… Tony…
To start with, are you an avid cricket buff or a movie buff?
I am an avid Azhar-buff! (Smiles) I used to follow cricket very avidly and I used to know the scores and statistics of all the players till 2011. After that, I stopped watching cricket match and I became more of a movie buff than a cricket buff.
Was there any specific reason that you choose to make a subject like Azhar?
To tell you the fact, I did not choose Azhar, Azhar just happened to me. I have always been a great admirer of Azharuddin's game. His style and panache is totally unparalleled. The moment Azharuddin stopped playing cricket; I lost all my interest in the game. If one has to choose the world's top 5 best batsmen, I am sure that Azharuddin's name will definitely be one amongst the five. That was a story that I wanted to tell the world.
So, is Azhar a biopic on Mohd. Azharuddin?
Azhar is not a biopic. It's actually it's a film that is based on certain incidents of his life.
Have you met Azharuddin in real life before the film?
Yes. I had met him as a fan boy. I met him exactly at 7.30 in the night in Delhi. I still have preserved the autograph given to me by him.
What was Azharuddin's reaction when you told him about your film Azhar?
Azharuddin is more like my brother. We have immense respect for each other. It wasn't that tough a task for me to get a nod from him for the film.
Why did you choose Emraan Hashmi to play the title role?
Why not to choose Emraan Hashmi to play the role will be the question! He is one of the finest actors that Bollywood has ever got. When he signed Azhar, he spent almost a year and a half working only on this film. That's the kind of dedication that he has towards his work. He maybe not of the same built and structure like Azharuddin is, but, everything else was bang on.
Did you find any same/ similar qualities of Azharuddin in Emraan Hashmi?
Both of them are dependable, loyal and extremely hard working. They both have a well-defined public life as well as their personal life. And both of them have kept it extremely well balanced. Both, Azharuddin and Emraan Hashmi are extremely private people. The moment they take any task in hand, they go all out to finish that.
If I had got a young Mr. Bachchan, I would have definitely worked with him (smiles). Otherwise, Emraan Hashmi was our first choice.
What kind of research did you do for Azhar?
Our research has been extremely phenomenal. To top it all, there was nothing that Azharuddin had hidden from us.
How much was Azharuddin's involvement in the whole film?
A full hundred percent. He was involved in every aspect and every step of the film.
Can you tell us a bit about Azhar's music? What role does music play in the film? Considering that it's an 'Emraan Hashmi film', good music is an obvious aspect.
A good film would work irrespective of great music. That does not mean that Emraan Hashmi cannot open a film without great music. As far as Azhar is concerned, the music plays an integral part of the film. It's the music that carries the film forward and the songs are totally situational.
Was there any specific reason to cast Prachi Desai and Nargis Fakhri as the leading ladies?
I had seen Prachi Desai in Once Upon A Time in Mumbai, and she was fabulous. In addition to that, the chemistry between Emraan Hashmi and Prachi Desai is extremely phenomenal. On the other hand, Nargis Fakhri was chosen to bring in the glamour and the vivaciousness that's required of her character.
What according to you is the USP of Azhar?
Emraan Hashmi. Till now, he has been majorly associated him with only 'tapori' kind of roles. I think people's perception about him will change with Azhar. His dedication towards this film is simply unbelievable. Another USP is my film's writer Rajat Arora, who has done a fantastic job.
Can you cite three reasons for a person to watch Azhar?
The film has got Emraan Hashmi, who is definitely, one of the most accomplished actors in Bollywood. Secondly, Azharuddin himself, who is one of the greatest cricketers of all times. Thirdly, the film is a great combination of Balaji Motion Pictures and Sony Pictures Networks coming together for the first time.
Are there any cameos in the film?
Yes. Azharuddin's son and his brother have done a cameo in the film.
Do you ever plan to make a cameo in any of your film?
No yaar, I have a mirror in my house and my wife who tells me how I look. That's why, no plans as such (smiles).
Now that Azhar is complete, what next?
I really do not know as of now. I take each day as it comes.