‘Anyone can get corrupted by power,’ says ‘Why Cheat India’ actor Emraan Hashmi on #MeToo

One of Bollywood’s favourite actors, Emraan Hashmi’s latest film Why Cheat India is all ready to release this Friday. It is an attempt to expose the harsh realities behind the corrupt education system in our country. While the film was previously scheduled to release on January 25, the producers unanimously decided to shift the release date to January 18, to avoid a box office clash with two big-budget Bollywood films – Thackeray and Manikarnika-The Queen of Jhansi.

Lead actor and co-producer of Why Cheat India, Emraan Hashmi in an exclusive interview speaks about his character in the film, the last-minute name change, his take on the #MeToo movement and how to not get swayed by success.

Giving an insight into his character, Emraan says, “My character is a guy who couldn’t fulfil his father’s dreams whereas his brother did. He has a problem with the system and tries to hack the system. So he starts to build a nexus by giving fake merits to undeserving students with his team. Through the film, we’re holding up a mirror to the system. Although, one must note that we’re not glorifying the cheats, but showing things exactly the way they are. We’ve said some very uncomfortable truths in this honest film.”

From Cheat India to Why Cheat India

The film’s original name was Cheat India, but just a week before it’s release the producers issued a statement renaming the film, based on CBFC’s order, to Why Cheat India. About the changes before release, the actor opines, “The release date change was a good thing since we wanted a solo release, and didn’t want to come on a day when there’s too much noise. But the name change — the addition of the ‘Why’ — doesn’t make sense to me. In our country, we like to change titles without trying to change the system. It somehow gives one a sense of power and fulfilment that they’ve done something for the greater good.”

“The Censor Board suggested the title, and the last minute change happened because they knew we couldn’t fight it, with the release date preponed… The original title was in relation to the cheating mafia and how they are cheating the country, hence ‘Cheat India’; but the ‘Why’ doesn’t make sense. It’s ridiculous,” he shrugged.

What is the Why Cheat India team expecting from the audience? “I’m expecting the audience to love our performances, and like the film. I’m personally very proud of the film, for what it sets out to do. It attempts to show some uncomfortable truths, about the things that take place in the education system, that people must know. This is our base, our foundation, and our entire lives are based on the education we’re given in schools and colleges — and it is fundamentally flawed. There’s more to the film though, it’s also an enjoyable experience as an entertainer. It’s sardonic; there are sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humour.”

Locking horns with the system

Having talked about the flawed system, has the actor ever witnessed anything like it in person? Well, yes he has. “I’ve had an ICSE paper leak in class. I’ve had an invigilator who allowed mass copying/cheating of an entire paper at a centre in Bandra, Mumbai…,” disclosed Emraan.

“I was very proud of the film when I read the script, it’s one of its kind. We’ve not had a film like this on the educational system of India, so I felt very proud to present this to the audience. They would see me in another light, and I hope they’d appreciate the intent, for the honesty in the film. Very few films really lock horns with the system and speak of things the way it is; our film does it, and therefore I felt like I should come on board not just as an actor, but also as a producer,” expressed Hashmi, who’s
debuting as a producer with this film.

‘Anyone can get corrupted by power’

Talking about the onset of the #Metoo movement in India, Emraan says, “It’s really high time that it came here in India. A lot of women have come to the forefront and spilt the beans about sexual predators in the workplace. Not just women, but even men can get sexually assaulted or harassed by women. It’s actually not a gender thing, it’s about power. Anyone can get corrupted by power, and misuse it to exploit either gender. The movement should safeguard both men and women.”

“Like there are devious men, there are devious women as well. There might be some women in the #MeToo movement who are trying to settle scores with guys, although the guy hasn’t done anything. But there’s no due process to understand it soon. But if someone points a finger at another, there has to be some kind of investigation into this,” adds the actor.

Discussing a possible way of preventing assaults and harassment in the film sets, Emraan says, “In my production company, I’ve made sure to set aside a set of guidelines that amount to sexual harassment. In the future, I’d want to get these contracts signed by both men and women. I believe, production houses should put it down in the paper stating what amounts to sexual harassment, (as per the guidelines set by the government), and when anyone is found committing something which amounts to sexual harassment, necessary actions would be taken against them.”

Being at the top and leading life as a public figure comes at a cost, as even a celebrity has to go through the cycle of success and failure. When asked about his advice of dealing with disappointments and failure, to fans who often find it hard and start to doubt themselves, Emraan had a beautiful and empowering message to share.

‘Your race should always be with yourself’

“Hope for the best and be prepared for the worst, leave both options out there. Be optimistic, but at the same time, always have a plan B, and look at things in a very pragmatic way. Disassociate yourself from both failure and success – these are events, don’t let them define you. Sometimes you get swayed by success, a bit too much, and you get really pompous about things, and then again you get really dejected by failures. You have to be detached from failures, you have to understand that failure is an event, it’s not you; people must not label themselves as failures if things don’t work. ” suggests the actor, as cool as a cucumber.

“Most disappointments come from the fact that you want validation from people, but your race should always be with yourself. Better yourself every day, and try to achieve those macro goals you have set for yourself. Failure is only but delayed success, and you’ll find that success if you keep trying. Yet again, success won’t always last, you better be prepared for it, but sadly our school system doesn’t prepare us for that. It doesn’t prepare us to make mistakes and fail, that’s the weirdest thing about the system,” Emraan adds on.

Emraan will next be seen in a Netflix show titled The Bard of Blood. He also has a few films lined up to release later this year — Father’s Day, The Body which is a murder mystery, and another untitled film.

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