New Delhi: There is something about Emraan Hashmi's almost decade-long career in cinema that defies established logic. Try a simple search on YouTube with his name as the key word. The auto-suggestions are his various on-screen kissing exploits with his co-stars from the time he debuted in Footpath (2003) to his last big hit - The Dirty Picture (2011).
Actors of his generation would have cringed at the early nickname of a 'serial kisser', but Hashmi embraced the title, scoffed at his critics and sportingly endured the roasting by the media to churn hackneyed performances film after film that somehow struck a chord with his audience.
Throughout the nine years and the 24 films he has appeared in, Hashmi's initial backing came from blood ties with a family of filmmakers known for experimenting with erotic thrillers. His debut in the film Footpath was nothing to write home about. Yet, there was something about the actor even as early as 2003 that connected with a section of audience, a school of acting that differed from the roles played by Bollywood's established royalty of the Khans and the Kapoors.
He is perhaps the only actor who has acted opposite a cluster of newcomers struggling to make an impression through their on-screen sex appeal. His masculine, brooding sensuality perfectly complimented the provocative sexuality of Udita Goswami, Geeta Basra, Sonal Chauhan, Tanushree Dutta, Hrishitaa Bhatt, Prachi Desai, Kangana Ranaut and Nisha Kothari. While most of his female leads have faded into oblivion, Hashmi has unabashedly explored his sex appeal to create a niche that A-listers deride and newcomers avoid.
Hashmi is Mahesh Bhatt's discovery and it was Bhatt who gave him his first break with 'Footpath' where he played a supporting role alongside Bipasha Basu and Aftab Shivdasani. But, it was 'Murder' a year later that made him a star. The Bhatt camp has seen him through 'Zeher' (2005) 'Gangster' (2006), 'Awarapan' (2007), 'Jannat' (2008), 'Raaz -The mystery continues' (2009), 'Tum Mile' (2009) and 'Murder 2' (2011).
Take the example of his contemporaries - Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham. Family background, a famous last name or brawn - Hashmi had none of the advantages that have given his colleagues a leg up in the industry. Yes, he was promoted by the Bhatt family in his initial days in the industry. But Hashmi's true claim to fame was a series of B-grade non-conformist erotic thrillers that made money at the box office.
Filmmakers had a safe alternative in Hashmi, when it came to a crime thriller. After 'Jannat' and 'Murder 2', Hashmi established himself as a bankable actor. If stereotype was part of the package, Hashmi wasn't complaining. But the major breakthrough came with 'Once Upon a Time in Mumbai' when he proved that he could pull off a sensitive role, if he had the right director and a script that required him to do much more than just kiss. The film was one of Hashmi's best films till date.
Milan Luthria's 'The Dirty Picture' followed Madhur Bhandarkar's 'Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji'. Suddenly, everyone wanted to work with Hashmi. Hashmi promoted his image of an actor insulated from the success of competitors Ranbir Kapoor and Imran Khan. He was never the critics' actor but ploughed his way through consistently well-performing films at the box office.
As his latest film Jannat 2 hits the screens, Hashmi can proudly look back on a career spanning a decade during which he has worked his way up to prove himself dependable to directors such as Milan Luthria, Kunal Deshmukh and Mohit Suri - the few who have dared to bring the bedroom out in the open.
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