For Oscar-winning Tanovic, Emraan Hashmi’s “serial kisser” tag didn’t matter

When Danis Tanovic chose Bollywood star Emraan Hashmi to play a Pakistani whistle-blower in his new project, the Oscar-winning Bosnian film-maker wasn’t aware of the actor’s notoriety as Indian cinema’s “serial kisser”.
Tanovic eventually watched some of Hashmi’s Bollywood hits and found it funny that the actor had such a different image in India.

“Here he comes with a bunch of luggage and in front of me he came as a man, as an actor,” said the 45-year-old director, describing Hashmi as a “very calm, decent guy.”

In “Tigers”, an Indian-French production that premiered at the Toronto film festival last week, Hashmi plays a young Pakistani salesman who exposes the harmful effects of the multinational infant formula he’s peddling.

“It’s a story that has been happening since 30-40 years and it is still happening today,” said Tanovic. “Thank God not much in India but there are many countries that suffered. It’s basically talking about corporate responsibility versus profit,” he told India Insight in an interview.

Tanovic is not that well known in India, except as the director of “No Man's Land", a dark comedy about the absurdity of war that trumped India’s entry “Lagaan” to win the best foreign language Oscar in 2001.

“I told him (Lagaan actor Aamir Khan) I was sorry he didn’t win but I am glad I won,” Tanovic said, adding that he would love to make a film based on an Indian story in a country rich in cinematic tradition. Last year, he co-produced the critically acclaimed Indian film “The Lunchbox".

The film-maker has named one of his daughters India and counts chicken tikka masala as one of his favourite dishes, although not as spicy as the putative Indian delicacy.

Edited excerpts from an interview: