OTT platforms have helped me revive my career, says actor Sharib Hashmi

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In a video conversation with YourStory Weekender, actor Sharib Hashmi, who plays JK in hit web series The Family Man, talks about his journey, working with Yash Chopra, and why starting is important.
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As JK Talpade or ‘Just JK’ of OTT platform Amazon Prime’s series The Family Man, Sharib Hashmi has become a household name. The espionage thriller’s second season premiered earlier in June, and has been topping various lists across India. It is amongst the most viewed web series on the OTT platform, and even created an IMDB record in a poll that reveals the show is the fourth most viewed around the world.

For Sharib, the two hit seasons of The Family Man has been akin to a shot in the arm. 

“I had finished Filmistaan a while back, and a had a few projects. But there was a big lull. And in the film industry, if you don’t have projects, it becomes difficult. When I was called for an audition for The Family Man by the creators Raj & DK, I really was praying and hoping I get through,” says Sharib in a conversation with YourStory Weekender. 

Affirming that rejections are all a part of the game in this field, Sharib says,  

Sharib Hashmi with Shekhar and Manoj Bajpai on the sets of The Family Man

“You simply cannot let rejections affect your self-confidence. In many cases, it simply shatters your belief in yourself, but somewhere you need to understand that the rejection isn’t for you or your craft, but the character. And being a part of auditions is like a training ground for any actor, you get to play many roles in one!”

Sharib informs that the shooting of Season 2 of The Family Man was completed in February 2020 before the lockdown, and the post-production work happened during the lockdown.

“If there is one thing I have learnt and would advise anyone who wants to start anything it would be do it NOW. There is no better time than now. And the pandemic has taught us how uncertain everything is, so work hard now, start up now, join that acting class now, direct now. Begin, and things will fall in place.” 

Growing up with dreams

For many people, dreams of making it in the Bollywood industry leads them to Mumbai. For Sharib, Mumbai was already home, and Bollywood was a distant connection. Growing up in the chawls of Malad, Sharib’s father ZA Johar was a noted film journalist. Films, parties, and the glitz associated with Johar’s position left Sharib starry-eyed. 

As a young 10-year-old, he remembers dancing to Govinda’s songs in his room, and stopping by to watch a film playing on a neighbour’s television. 

“I have watched the movies Ghar ek Mandir and Tawaif on my neighbour’s VCR close to 50 times,” he recollects. The close association to films just got him deeper into the world of cinema. 

An average student, Sharib finished his degree in Economics from Bhavan’s college, Andheri. His father wanted him to become an actor, but Sharib always felt his height just wouldn’t help him make it. He tried his luck as an assistant direction, and writer for MTV.

Sharib Hashmi with Manoj Bajpai

“While my parents were of the impression that I am good looking, I had no such delusions. Also, even for character roles, I felt my height would be a problem. I just naively gave up on my dreams without pursuing it,” jokes Sharib. 

College friend Rajul Mishra helped Sharib get his first job as an Assistant Director to Nabh Kumar Raju for the film Hum Tumpe Marte Hai in 1998. The combination of chaos and order on his very first film set is an experience Sharib will never forget. 

“It is something that taught me a lot about the art of filmmaking. I have no formal training in acting or direction, so I learn everything on the sets. And the first film I worked on had stellar actors like Govinda, Urmila Matondkar, Dimple Kapadia, and Paresh Rawal. For a film buff like me, it was a dream come true. I want to become a director,” says Sharib.

From writing to Slumdog Millionaire 

Between 2003 and 2006, during his stint with MTV, Sharib went ahead with his writing projects. He also went on to work for MTV rival Channel V for a year. At the end of 2007, a friend asked him to audition for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. 

“I still wasn’t very keen. I was to audition for the role of the constable that Saurabh Saxena had played. The AD had wanted me to go dressed as a cop and prank Danny Boyle bakra style for the role. But I thought it was too much of a task, and I hadn't considered acting as a serious option yet, so I just went for that one short role," recollects Sharib. He ended up playing a small role in Slumdog Millionaire. 

Sharib then moved to Dubai with a job in hand, but the seeds of childhood dreams were firmly planted, and he was back in Mumbai soon.

“I knew that I had to stay in Mumbai if I wanted to act, and wanted to try this at any cost. It was my first trip out of India. I got my passport made for that job, but then I just wanted to come back and within a month, I was back,” recalls Sharib. 

Once back, Sharib worked as a creative content head for a channel before getting called to audition for the movie Dhobi Ghat towards the end of 2008. It was for the role of Prateik Babbar’s brother, and while Sharib bagged the role initially, the script eventually demanded a different kind of personality and Sharib eventually lost the role. “While it was the right call as any director would take keeping their film in mind, I was shattered. I took that a little too personally, and decided to get into acting full-time,” recollects Sharib. 

Sharib along with Shahrukh Khan during the shoot of Jab Tak Hai Jaan

The world of movies 

From there on, his years as a struggling actor began - working in TV commercials, short films, independent films, and as AVP of programming - until he got Yash Raj Films’ Jab Tak Hai Jaan

“I was working so I had some cushioning. But within a few days, I got a call from YRF, and was asked to come for another audition. I went to the YRF office and gave an audition, and within half an hour, I got a call asking me to come for the shoot the day after. It was a sudden shift. I had given up my dream again,” says Sharib. Luck did start to favour as around the same time, Sharib got another role in the movie Filmistaan, which also won him the Best Actor in a comic role Screen Award.

Sharib particularly treasures the opportunity to work with veteran director and star-maker Yash Chopra, for which Sharib even had to quit his full-time day job. “It wasn’t an opportunity to be missed, working with a director like Yash Chopra. And it also happened to be his last film, so in some way, I have become a part of history.” 

The actor acknowledges his days of struggle is what has gotten where he is today. Advising others who are struggling, Sharib says, "There are ups and downs in life, that is normal. You cannot let either get to you. But always keep working at it - start your dream business, begin that acting lesson, propose to that girl or guy now, because life is too short for regrets.” 
Edited by Anju Narayanan

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