You can tell from the excitement in his voice, that Sharib Hashmi is in a happy place. He’s currently road-tripping with a bunch of his closest friends in south India — they’ve just halted in Mysore, and en route to Wayanad, Kerala, catching the sights and trying out new dishes along the way – with his journey documented in fun snapshots on his Instagram profile. “We’re all big foodies,” says the actor who became instantly recognisable after his role as the affable, loyal, and hilarious, “yaaron ka yaar” Mumbai cop JK in the Netflix series The Family Man, with Manoj Bajpayee. “Jo mil raha hai, khatey ja rahen hain!”
And while indulging in his favourite Chicken Chettinad and Pongal on the road, the Mumbai-born and bred actor is taking a much needed break, basking in the success of his last OTT film, The Great Indian Murder, where he plays tribal welfare officer Ashok Rajput in this murder mystery filled with twists and turns, that allowed Sharib to travel from Delhi to Kolkata, Chennai, Chhatisgarh, and The Andamans, where he shot scenes amongst the local tribals. “They were actually junior artistes, but they were tribal people from the interiors of Gujarat,” says Sharib. “Havelock Island has always been my dream destination, with its unreal, clean water, and thanks to The Great Indian Murder, I got to travel there!”
As he strikes some of these pristine Indian locales off his travel bucket list, Sharib Hashmi’s got his plate full of new releases for 2022 — Sharma Ji Ki Beti, Mission Majnu, Dhaakad, an untitled film by Laxman Utekar, with Vicky Kaushal and Sara Ali Khan, and cop film noir Vikram Vedha (the remake of the 2017 Tamil film of the same name, starring Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan), where he promises we will see him in a different light.
Adept at playing roles that shine for their authenticity — and the Marathi-accented JK Talpade of The Family Man is a brilliant example (the character was originally a Bengali, Ghosh, but was changed to fit Sharib’s persona) — life’s come full circle for Sharib, who began his film career at 33, leaving a comfortable writing career (he worked for MTV and Channel V) behind as he auditioned for parts — one of his first roles was in Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.
The actor, whose father ZA Johar was a noted film journalist (“We’re from the same fraternity!” he tells me), says he’s a “harmless flirt” much like Talpade. “I’m very bad at flirting. My friends are tired of my PJs!” But he’s a devoted husband, who recently spent Valentine’s Day with his real-life “sweetheart”, his wife of more than 25 years. “We’ve lived almost half of our lives together,” he says. “And without her support, I wouldn’t be able to achieve a thing. When I quit my job to pursue acting, she’s the only person who supported me through thick and thin.” And of his fame, Sharib says that his 14-year-old son is his biggest fan, while his eight-year-old daughter is completely oblivious.
“As a child, I would attend film parties, premieres of films like Sajan and Parinda, and mahurats,” says Sharib. “I’ve seen the real show biz. Today, the show part is missing, it’s only biz! Actors would come to my house – Bhid jama hoja ti thi ghar ke paas. Raj Babbar saab, Govinda ji, Divya Bharti, Gulshan Grover, and Anupam Kher saab would come to meet my father. I still get a lot of love and respect from the older generation in the industry.” And he dreamt of being a hero — “At that age, you don’t know what it is to be an actor,” says Sharib, “But then I didn’t grow beyond 5’4”, and felt I didn’t have the personality as I was too short. I had that complex.” So he shelved his dreams, until he felt a calling, that if he didn’t give it a shot, he would always regret it.
TAKING BABY STEPS
So the actor who had no theatre background, joined the industry as an assistant director, working on the 1999 film Hum Tum Pe Marte Hain, post which he became MTV’s inhouse writer, but the moment he decided acting would be his meal ticket is when he started auditioning, winning roles first in Slumdog then in 2008 Nakuul Mehta and Adhyayan Suman-starrer Haal-e-dil. “I had improvised a line in the scene during the audition for Slumdog, and Danny started laughing,” says Sharib. “When I saw the script, I saw he had incorporated that line in it — the way Danny acknowledged me was the most beautiful day of my life.” Sharib says that eventually, he wants to write-direct his own films.
One of his favourite directors is Tigmanshu Dhulia of The Great Indian Murder. “He’s a beautiful man, and I have huge respect for his work – like Paan Singh Tomar, Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster,” says Sharib. “I’m grateful to God for the opportunity.” But there was a time, after the National Award-winning Filmistaan (2012), when Sharib “thought (he) had arrived” — he was nominated for numerous awards, and even won the Screen Award for Best Comedian. “Some of my films got stuck,” he says. Only Vodka Diaries and Phullu made it.” That’s when the OTT format came to his rescue, with him bagging Asur and Scam 1992 besides The Family Man.
DRIVEN BY OTT
“OTT has given me a second life, and everyone is getting their due,” he says. “In fact, this is the best time for us actors. And the more actors, the better, as you have 7-8 hours to establish a character, versus two hours in film. Everyone gets their moment in glory, their time to shine.”
Sharib would love to explore negative roles in the future. His dream role would be akin to Om Puri’s role in Ardh Satya or Kamal Hassan’s character in Sadma. Right now, he’s just focused on his upcoming releases, such as the yet-unnamed Vicky Kaushal and Sara Ali Khan starrer, in which he has a cameo. “Both are wonderful people, with no starry tantrums, or attitude,” he says. “Vicky was always encouraging and had great things to say about me.”
Is he fashion-forward in real life? “I’m not too bad,” he laughs. “I love dressing up, and enjoy shopping so much so that my wife gets upset. It’s the other way around for us, as a couple!” Most comfortable in jeans, tees, and chinos, Sharib has a penchant for shoes. “When I was younger, I would economise with shoes that went both with jeans and formals, now I don’t need to!”
While he enjoys tucking into home-made butter chicken, and relaxing in front of the TV, Sharib is also a singer — he’s recorded a cover version of Jagjit Singh’s ghazal Baat Niklegi – and could possible sing for one of his future OTT ventures.
And what advice does this late bloomer offer to other aspirants in the highly competitive film industry, where even modelesque good looks aren’t enough? “The road ahead is very rough, and you need to be ready to face anything,” he says. “But if you’re still not discouraged by then and are really passionate, come into this field and try it, but remember you can only make it if you have self-confidence. You need a thick skin to face rejection on a daily basis, so surround yourself with people to support you through bad times!”
Sharib has achieved what he set out to do, from that first day on set for Slumdog. “I wanted to make acting my bread and butter when I quit my job,” he says. “Whatever extra that happens is a bonus. Today, I’m doing what I want, and not for money or out of obligation. There are so many more who are more talented than me. It’s my destiny and God’s will.” And this year we will see many more iterations of this modest, and convivial actor.
Hair & Make-up: Rohit Mahadik
Production: OUTTASYNC Production and Studios
Artist PR: Affiliates PR
Artist Management: Suchi Kapoor, Bhavya Patel