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A czar in his own right

DECCAN CHRONICLE | GAYATRI REDDY
Published Aug 16, 2015, 6:56 am IST
Updated Mar 28, 2019, 4:48 am IST
‘I want to open a cricket academy in Hyderabad. If I get good space in the city, I can do a great job’
Azhar and his son Asaduddin at their home in Hyderabad
 Azhar and his son Asaduddin at their home in Hyderabad

The movie, Azhar, scheduled to release on May 16 next year is an ambitious project for Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji films. The project is the result of at least three years of talks between producers and the cricketer. The project is being helmed by Tony D’Souza who had to show Azhar the full script before the deal was signed.

The wedding season has finally brought Mohammad Azharuddin back to his hometown, Hyderabad... because a few invites just couldn’t be turned down. And since he’s back home, and has some time in his hands to both relax and chat, the former India captain has finally decided to open up about the upcoming biopic on his life which will hit the big screen in May next year.

 

His apartment in Hyderabad’s tony Banjara Hills is not really what you’d expect from a former Team India boss. It does not have trophies or photos reminding guests about the owner’s cricketing glory. But you know this is the home of a famous man... just by looking at the number of people patiently waiting to meet him as you enter the home.

And dressed in a crisp white kurta, pyjama, Azhar, who is chilling in the living room, is in the mood to talk. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed as half way through the interview he calls out to son Asaduddin to come down and join the chat. Thing is, the biopic project is huge and just like the country’s cricket team, it’s shouldering a lot of responsibility. It has to tell the story of one of India’s most famous cricket captains — the professional highs, the personal lows, the incredible achievements and even a political career. It has to go from the streets of Hyderabad, to every cricket pitch there is.

The movie
It actually took a while for Balaji films’ Ekta Kapoor to get Azhar’s nod. “I was not too keen intially, but they were very persistent. They kept coming back to me and finally convinced me. This was two years ago,” reveals the cricketer. The script was completed last year and Azhar gave it his full approval and soon began working with his on-screen alter ego Emraan Hashmi, to show how he could transform into Mohd Azharuddin. But Emraan doesn’t have Azhar’s height. Ideally, who would Azhar have chosen to play him? “I was not involved in the film’s casting. But seeing that Emraan is a good actor, I feel the production house made the right choice.”

Meanwhile, Azhar’s son Asad says for a moment he felt that it was his father on-screen when he saw the movie’s teaser which showed Emraan from the back. “I told Emraan this and he was very excited because he has been working very hard to play dad,” says Asad. But if they were given a chance to choose the film’s hero, who would have Azhar and Asad picked? “I would have been the perfect choice to play dad. Akshay Kumar too would have been a good choice,” says Azhar’s son, because the actor had already showed “some cricketing skills in Patiala House”.

Azhar adds that for someone who has never played cricket before, Emraan has transformed into a good off side player. “He can easily get into any CCL team,” says the former skipper. Azhar is also a proud teacher — because he taught Emraan everything about the game, from how to stand, to holding a bat and the Bollywood actor started showing a hidden cricket talent from day two.

The champ is happy with the film’s hero, but what about the choice of actresses playing his former wife Naureen and Sangeeta Bijlani? Talking about Prachi Desai, who will be playing Naureen, Asad says, “My mum and grandmum used to watch Prachi’s TV serial Kasamh Se and they both loved Prachi in it. Mum used to always find her very pretty, so she is happy.” Naureen  is not worried about how she will be portrayed in the film as both Azhar and Asad spoke to her about it.

There are no complaints about Nargis Fakhri playing Sangeeta Bijlani either, as Asad says, “Nargis will do a good job as she is as glamorous as Sangeeta.” The film apparently will begin with Azhar’s growth into one of India’s most successful captains and end with him becoming a Member of Parliament.
 
A bit of family time
Young Asad is more importantly, thrilled to have not just dad back home, but also mum Naureen — who has shifted back to Hyderabad. “When I was young I spent very little time with dad as he was busy travelling for matches, then he shifted to Mumbai and then politics happened. I feel really happy when he is in Hyderabad because we can now catch up.” Father and son have been bonding a lot because Azhar doesn’t really like stepping out of the house when he is in Hyderabad. “I have to force him to go out and catch up with some of his old friends,” says Asad.

And when he does step out, Azhar says he loves going to the city’s gorgeous Falaknuma Palace. The warm and casual bond that father and son share is visible, when Asad laughingly complains that his father doesn’t talk much. “The problem with him is that he doesn’t speak much.  He is not expressive. He keeps everything to himself. Sometimes I feel it is difficult to have a conversation with him, but when he opens up... he is the best.” Azhar, just like any father, has high hopes for his son. “He is a good boy, not spoilt at all. He has been playing well too, but I want him to do better. He is scoring 50s, but I want 100s.”

Coming to Naureen, Asad is thrilled that his mum has shifted back to Hyderabad permanently. He says, “I meet mum almost everyday. She lives in Somajiguda and I have to pass her home when I go for practise, so I always drop by on the way back.” The youngster also shares a warm relationship with Sangeeta Bijlani. “I have a good bond with her. In the early 2000s, I used to live with her and dad. She was always friendly and caring towards me and will always be there for me.”
 
The match-fixing trauma
Azhar fought an epic 12-year-long court battle to clear his name. “Court dates would keep getting postponed, judges would change... but I remained patient. During such times you cannot be impatient. Also you shouldn’t get involved in the blame game, it makes things difficult. I refrained from that. I did not blame the BCCI or anyone. It was my destiny. It  was meant to happen. I am happy it is over.” He also is happy for cricketers Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, against whom certain match fixing charges were dropped. “It’s a very good thing for them, they went through a lot and finally they were acquitted. The court’s decision has to be respected.”
 
Future plans
Azhar is still looking for a bigger role in cricket. “If I get the chance, I would love to be a part of the BCCI because from my childhood, I have worked really hard at this game. I was always very passionate about cricket. I would be equally happy to be a part of the Ranji team in Hyderabad. Our team has not been doing well, we need to look into this. Standards have to be improved.”

Cricket Academy
Another one of Azhar’s dreams is to open a world-class cricket academy. “I want to open a cricket academy in Hyderabad. If I get good space in the city, I can do a great job. I did give a proposal to the government and all the plans were laid out, but things didn’t materialise. I want to train players from the rural areas and give them a chance to excel.”

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