Preparing for a role isn’t always easy. Ask Amitabh Bachchan who braved prosthetics for Paa or Vidya Balan who had to put on weight for The Dirty Picture and is now struggling to shed it. Well, even Abhay Deol and Emraan Hashmi didn’t have it easy for Shanghai.

Shanghai Movie Poster
Shanghai Movie Poster

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Writer-director Dibakar Banerjee admits that he only had Abhay Deol in mind throughout for Krishnan’s character. It was when he was writing Jogi’s sketch that he remembered Emraan Hashmi from Footpath, “I had recognized his talent in the film. He was completely approachable and capable of living his character on screen.” But now that Emraan was a star, Dibakar had his inhibitions about Emraan agreeing to do something so different. “Fortunately it took just five minutes for Emraan to agree,” says Dibakar.

On Emraan Hashmi’s Jogi

Jogi's Sketch For Shanghai Emraan Hashmi as Jogi In Shanghai
Jogi's sketch for Shanghai, Emraan Hashmi as Jogi in Shanghai.

Dibakar and his team sketched out everything: from moustaches to ear piercings, dark circles, lightly shaded, paan-stained and yellowed teeth, tattoos painted on brown, sun-burnt arms. To get the lazy paunch in Shanghai, Emraan even went on an eating binge.

“Jogi (Emraan’s character) is a street-smart nobody from Jodhpur. Once a stud who landed small-time modelling assignment, he had slowly gone to seed, but there’s still a trace of the stud in him. It’s there in the jeans, worn well below the bulging belly, the skin tight shirts he wears. Emraan still can’t get over it,” laughs Dibakar. Dibakar even had sweat patches attached to make him look “sexy in a dirty, grimy kind of way”.

“It was challenging and I took it up even if it meant losing the body I had worked for. While shooting my scenes I would often look into the mirror and ask Dibakar, ‘Couldn’t you have made me look worse?’ and Dibakar would laugh. We also got a local to record the lingo and fill us in on Jogi’s background. What would a small town wheeler-dealer, who shoots marriage videos and porn movies, do in the evening? Eat chicken and fish maybe? This kind of research and 10 odd workshops demolished me as an actor and brought Jogi to life,” reveals Emraan.

Abhay Deol’s Krishnan

Abhay Deol, Krishnan As Shanghai
Krishnan's sketch for Shanghai, Abhay Deol as Krishnan in Shanghai.

Abhay Deol’s metamorphosis also amazed the director. “The ‘yay’ guy I knew was gone. In his place was my IAS officer with a stooped shoulder walk, moustache, glasses and a butter-wont-melt expression on his face. The buttoned-up shirts, ties and trousers came with the costume, but the slight Tamil accent was all Abhay’s. He made me sit in the make up van for 30 minutes with his diction coach and rehearse his lines. The efforts have paid off. It was unbelieveable watching the North Indian Jat boy turning into a Tam-Bram bureaucrat!” adds Dibakar.

“It was not easy playing Krishna. Dibakar almost grilled us not only on the looks, but the posture and the gait and everything. I play a Tamil Brahmin in the film, and being as IAS officer posted in Maharashtra, I needed to perfect a lingo that was largely clean Hindi with more Marathi than Tamil words, but spoke with a subtle south Indian accent. I even learnt the Tamil alphabets,” says Abhay.

He adds “The look was that of a bureaucrat… Buttoned up shirts and ties, glasses and a moustache that wasn’t like the one I’d worn in Manorama Six Feet Under. The end result was unrecognizable. Such characters give you a different high!” adds Abhay.

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