I would have failed if I hadn’t cheated in college and probably become an actor faster, says Emraan Hashmi

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Fifteen years ago, a virtuous Sanjay Dutt in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. made it cool to get admission in medical college by fraudulently having a practicing doctor write the entrance exam for him. Now Emraan Hashmi appears to be condemning the habit in his new film Why Cheat India that releases tomorrow. Either that, or he’s encouraging the scam full scale and is arms deep in rackets like rigging exams and forging certificates that swindle deserving students of rightful education at the cost of the country finally. The film, directed by Soumik Sen and produced by T-Series Films, Ellipsis Entertainment and Emraan Hashmi Films Production, is a comedy drama that is said to educate, entertain and shock. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the Nation wants to know what the truth is and is waiting in breathless anticipation. In a chat with PeepingMoon.com before his film’s release, Emraan who studied at Sydenham College in Mumbai unabashedly but charmingly revealed that he was no stranger to cheating; he had passed a tough Economics exam with 75 % marks by copying.

Our teachers are not qualified. There’s the influx of so many students coming into the system but not enough university seats.

Excerpts from our conversation:

What would you have become if you had not cheated in that Economics exam at Sydenham College and passed with 75%?

Probably an actor only. But if I hadn’t copied I would have failed in that Economics exam and then become an actor faster!

Your years at Sydenham College, what did they teach you?

I wasted five years studying Commerce. I blame the educational system for this. I should have studied Arts. That was my forte. But my school, Jamnabai Narsee, didn’t show me my strength. It was just doling out facts to me. Which King did what 400 years ago. From which I got no real benefit. It should have given me direction and told me I’m good at Creative Arts. But here’s the thing, Creative Arts is on the lowest rung of our educational system! You can get into an Arts college with 55-60 % marks. Whereas Science is up there.

Emraan Hashmi photographed in Mumbai

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So you’re saying it’s okay to be a scamster and cheat the system?

I’m not saying that. My character in Why Cheat India is saying that. There are two ways of going down a film like this. You can make the guy a hero, a whistle-blower, and say he’s the guy that came and reformed the system. Which is far from the truth because the system hasn’t reformed. We felt it was far more interesting to show it from the eyes of the devil. The broker who has this entire nexus, he does more than student impersonations, he gets people jobs, has got the contacts with school principals and teachers. We felt he should be the guy to see the film through.

 

So what’s the message of Why Cheat India?

It’s not one of those preachy films. But it definitely has an underlying message that is delivered in an entertaining and thrilling way. It’s about a defunct, fractured and (sorry to use the word) s*****d-up educational system that’s been there for 100 years and shows no signs of changing. It’s fundamentally the problem of rote mugging by students to retain information without trying to understand what they are studying. Our teachers are not qualified. There’s the influx of so many students coming into the system but not enough university seats. We tell our kids that they can be what they choose to be but that’s a lie. And there’s the cheating mafia. Every state has a bunch of people who are brokers. They take money from undeserving students who sit pretty at home and get high marks and admissions into prestigious institutes because professional doctors and engineers have given their entrance exams. When you start cheating so early in life then that becomes part of your psyche and later on you think you can get ahead by taking shortcuts, but you’re only creating a corrupt society.

Do you know, 50% of IIT students have copied? That’s Times of India statistics. Why did they cheat? It’s not their fault.

What are you saying we should do? I’m saying bring in creative thinking. Don’t keep schools and colleges just to hear lectures. I would keep the learning at home where you have access to phones and computers and can learn more through the Internet than what the teacher or textbooks teach. Keep the institutional buildings as places of discussion so that the teachers know, and you understand, what you learned. I would also do away with homework. We don’t let our kids enjoy themselves. When they are spending eight hours in school, one hour traveling, one hour in tuitions, and one hour doing homework, where do they get time to play? There’s no room for overall development.

So there’s a big problem with the educational system?

A very big problem. Today, an IIT student has no time to watch a film because throughout his course he’s slogging 16 hours a day. Just imagine the effect that has on this kid’s mind. There’s a suicide (among students) every hour in the country. One of the probable reasons is that we put so much of pressure on these students (to get extra percentage) that they have no choice. Just 5 % can make a difference. A kid who gets 90% may not get a job while a kid with 98% rules the world. That’s the difference. Do you know, 50% of IIT students have copied? That’s Times of India statistics. Why did they cheat? It’s not their fault. We put so much of pressure on them to get those marks. Our society says if you don’t get 98% then you’re a loser. You won’t get a job. And you won’t be able to pay off the loans your father took for your education. So we are pushing them to cheat.

If you want to be the guy who comes and saves the day, sets everything right, and serenades the woman, then that’s not going to happen out here.

Isn’t it strange that despite that clichéd serial kisser image, you have done more roles that are dark and unconventional? Even when you made a biopic, you played Mohammed Azharuddin – a cricketer who went down as a cheat?

I think there’s something written on my face that makes directors only cast me in those kind of roles. A bit is by design, a bit is by what comes to me. I believe scripts choose you. Sometimes it’s the other way around. But when I see righteous heroes, I find them boring. I believe the human personality is more complex than that. We don’t live as good or bad. Sometimes we’re good, sometimes bad. But unfortunately, the Hindi film hero is the most puritanical, squeaky clean guy that didn’t exist in our society. I like to do films that have a bit of reality in them. Unfortunately, most Hindi films are far from that. So I play characters that are in touch with their shadow side. That makes them real for me because I can’t see the other characters being real. If you want to be the guy who comes and saves the day, sets everything right, and serenades the woman, then that’s not going to happen out here. I’m not for that kind of cinema. I don’t believe in it.

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