Emraan Hashmi’s career has been a roller coaster journey, with lot of highs and lows. As a second lead in his debut film Footpath, he got noticed but it was his second film, the erotic thriller Murder that made him a nationwide phenomenon. But sadly, his box office track record post Murder was a matter of concern. Barring Gangster and to an extent Aksar, none of his films were becoming commercially successful. Awarapan was an exceptional flick and still ranks as arguably Emraan Hashmi’s best performance till date. But due to high costs and wrong release period, the film was a box office failure. Just before Awarapan, his other films like The Train, Good Boy Bad Boy, Dil Diya Hai and The Killer had also failed. In one of the interview in 2012, Emraan Hashmi had admitted that he was even thinking of changing his career due to his spate of flops and criticism over his ‘serial kisser’ image.
But, then came one film that changed his fortunes – Jannat. Exactly ten years ago, this flick released on this very day and started a new chapter in Emraan Hashmi’s life. It was also a time when Anurag Basu had left the Vishesh Films banner and Mohit Suri solely was trying to hold the fort and give hits. With Jannat, the Bhatts got a new talent to nurture and laugh all the way to the bank – director Kunal Deshmukh.
Jannat was to initially release two weeks before, on May 2, 2008. But the Bhatts feared that Akshay Kumar–Saif Ali Khan–Kareena Kapoor starrer biggie Tashan, that would release a week before, would eat into the business of their film. Having burnt their fingers with Awarapan, which flopped as it was needlessly released on June 29, 2007 with 2 other significant films – Apne, featuring all the 3 Deols and Himesh Reshammiya’s much talked about debut film Aap Kaa Surroor – the producers decided to play safe. Jannat was, hence, shifted to May 16.
This was also the time of the first season of Indian Premiere League (IPL) was going on in full swing. It was widely watched and attracted all sections of audiences and this gave birth to the notion that films shouldn’t be released in this period. The supporters of this theory cited how big films like Tashan and Ajay Devgn’s directorial debut U Me Aur Hum had failed while Rakesh Roshan-produced comic caper Krazzy 4 and the horror comedy Bhoothnath turned out to be average grossers.
Emraan Hashmi critics were also having a field day as they expected one more disaster from the ‘non actor’. The trailers and music had worked very well prior to the release but they didn’t care. But this underdog film silenced everyone. The film opened very big and sustained very well in the weekdays as well. Emraan Hashmi films were struggling to go back the Rs 13-14 crore mark then. Jannat, meanwhile, collected approx Rs. 30 crore! It reportedly earned more than Tashan, Kismat Konnection, Fashion and many other big films of that year. In UAE, the distributor placed an order for an additional 4 more prints of Jannat over and above the 12 prints that he already had. This was rare, especially for an Emraan Hashmi film! This clearly proved that the talented actor was not over and that he’s here to stay. And more importantly, it was the first film to dispel the myth that IPL can affect ticket earnings to a great extent.
Surprisingly, Jannat is no classic. The film has its share of glitches and doesn’t enjoy unanimous acclaim or is remembered one of the best films of Bollywood. However, the film has its charm and definitely, it has tremendous repeat value. The film tells the story of Arjun (Emraan Hashmi) whose only aim is to earn a lot of moolah, by hook or by crook. He has no qualms in taking up challenges, even when the risk of losing money is quite high. However, it’s this attitude that takes him to the pinnacle of success. He realizes that he has a ‘sixth sense’ when it comes to cricket matches and their outcomes. He becomes a successful bookie and then starts working as a match fixer for an underworld don Abu Ibrahim (Javed Siddiqui).
Emraan Hashmi is definitely the soul of Jannat. He plays the character of Arjun effortlessly and the way he essays the part, nobody can. His forte is ‘chhapri’ roles – streetsmart, unabashed, shameless and having a way with women. No wonder, he became so huge with the masses. In Jannat, all these aspects were very much there but in a controlled manner. As a result, Jannat was a rare Emraan Hashmi of that time that didn’t get an ‘A’ rating from the Censors. This also increased its reach, further contributing to its box office success.
The beginning portions of Jannat are excellent and it’s great to see the sinister look of Arjun in the intro scene, even when he loses Rs 1 lakh on a bet. And watch out how he nonchalantly bites off an apple as a recovery agent bashes up a defaulter in front of him purposely to warn him that he can suffer the same fate. The romantic track is also quite endearing and amusing, especially to see Arjun going to insane lengths to woo Zoya (played wonderfully by Sonal Chauhan). Arjun’s first big bet on a cricket match, his first match fixing session (surprisingly Anurag Kashyap’s blue-eyed boy Vineet Kumar Singh played this part, and seemed inspired from Mohammed Azharuddin), his jibe on Navjot Singh Sidhu – there were so many scenes that were entertaining and make for a great watch even after a decade. The writers (Kunal Deshmukh, Vishesh Bhatt) and director Kunal Deshmukh also deserve brownie points as they ensure that anybody can decipher the goings-on, even those who aren’t acquainted with the world of cricket. The love story blossoms in the second half as Zoya wanes Arjun off his illegal profession, but sadly she fails eventually. The climax is moving and very well executed.
Besides the performances, direction and writing, what also worked big time for Jannat was its super-hit music. Each and every song is melodious and soulful and has stood the test of time. ‘Zara Sa’ and ‘Haan Tu Hain’ are already evergreen. The title track didn’t succeed but is used well in the film. ‘Judai’ was a huge sensation at that time but sadly, fizzled out later on.
After Jannat, Emraan Hashmi continued delivering quite a few hits like Raaz – The Mystery Continues, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, The Dirty Picture and Raaz 3. In between, he did give flops. Jannat 2 was also made, in 2012, and it also was a hit like its predecessor. Sadly, the same year, Emraan Hashmi’s career went downhill. It began with the delayed film Rush followed by back-to-back box office flops like Ek Thi Daayan, Ghanchakkar, Raja Natwarlal, Ungli, Mr X, Hamari Adhuri Kahani, Azhar and Raaz Reboot. His last film Baadshaho, thankfully, did quite better, though it ultimately didn’t become a hit. But, the opening was huge and Emraan Hashmi was a loved a lot – not surprising that again he was playing the massy, brash character due to which masses accepted him wholeheartedly. Meanwhile, even the Bhatts, at present, are at a very low point – their last film, Begum Jaan, also a flop, released more than a year back. It’s high time they and Emraan Hashmi revisit Jannat and understand why it worked, despite the minuses. Both have been instrumental in each other’s successes and both need to get back in the big league. Here’s hoping Jannat 3 is announced soon and it turns out to be a well-made entertaining film and that it gets Emraan Hashmi’s career back on track. Life then will be a full circle!