Thinking actor

Appreciated

Thinking actor

Armed with back-to-back releases, oodles of confidence and acclaimed acting skills, actor Neil Nitin Mukesh is definitely on a roll, writes Rajiv Vijayakar

It’s been a journey of ups and downs for Neil Nitin Mukesh, ever since he made his debut less than six years ago with Johnny Gaddaar (he had been a child artiste earlier in Vijay and Jaisi Karni Waisi Bharni, and an assistant director to Aditya Chopra, Kunal Kohli and David Dhawan).

He is now having back-to-back releases till April — after David last month (in which his performance as one of the three Davids was, as always, highly appreciated, even though the film was a non-starter), Neil Nitin Mukesh is set to release his first horror film 3G (complete with his first three smooches on screen with Sonal Chauhan) on March 15, and Shortcut Romeo, a South remake and an action thriller, next month.

Why is Neil doing a South remake now? Is it a desire to join the ‘hit’ club after a distinguished innings but only New York to mention as a hit? “I loved the story of Shortcut Romeo and my character in it,” he replies. “It is full of kameenapan on my part and director Susi has made a lot of changes from the original, in terms of twists and turns. But yes, it is a commercial film full of masala, and good music by Himesh Reshammiya, who has even sung a song for me.”

Neil denies a grudge against mainstream films, pointing out that New York and Players were as commercial as one could get. “But New York was on a topical issue and performance-driven, while Players went wrong on the huge budget of almost Rs 75 crore. These films had good stories, and Abbas-Mustan, who directed the latter film, are directors who work on you like sharpeners on a blunt pencil!”

On the other hand, he reveals that Luck and Blue were among the dozen films and more that he turned down and were major disasters. “The dilemma remains,” he smiles. “What films do I do? Do I take on films I do not like, because some of them become huge grossers? Am I doing bad films? Or do I follow my conviction? I am happy that I have always been appreciated. The idea is to go on fighting and not get knocked down. One Friday I will deliver the right punch, with a film that both the audience and I like!”

Lessons learnt

Almost in introspective mood, he goes on, “Each actor has his own niche. I took on 7 Khoon Maaf and David, even though the roles were not long, because there was substance. Jail was a film that I never expected would flop — it was directed by Madhur Bhandarkar and seemed to have everything going for it. Jail taught me not to have great expectations from any film. Besides, I even stripped in the film. Now I have kissed on-screen too, so how much more commercial can I get?” he chuckles.
Neil adds that he did both the sequences because the scripts called for them. “I cannot do such scenes for titillation. When the director of David asked me for lip-lock in it, I refused. That character and the class of audience that would watch the film did not need that. And I do not want to become a serial kisser like Emraan Hashmi. Frankly, I do not have the guts,” he laughs.

3G, he says, is his first in a genre that he adores — horror. “I am on holiday, I lose my phone, and buy a second-hand one equipped with 3G, after which unpleasant things start happening in my life. Like every good horror film, this one’s also a psychological thriller — is my character a vampire, someone possessed, or just mentally unstable?”

Horror film buff

From the Ramsays to all other Hindi and also Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English films, Neil and his father, singer Nitin Mukesh, are horror film buffs. “We like to watch horror films at night before we get — a peaceful — sleep,” he quips. “Dad and I were in London last year where I was shooting for David, and instead of watching movies from there, we went to a theatre that was showing Raaz 3. Can you beat that?”

Does 3G have a strong social message, like Table No. 21, the last film written by Shantanu-Sheershak, who are also the writer-director duo of this film? “Yes, there is the message that technology always has a bad side,” he says.

The actor is, however, a gizmo freak. “I prefer to spend money on gizmos rather than clothes,” he confesses. “I must have the best and latest in everything. My father grumbles about the room occupied by them at home.” Among his latest prized possessions are a four-inch projector that can throw up a 100 inch image on a wall and a three-inch keyboard control that can generate a laser keyboard in mid-air.

What next after Shortcut Romeo, we want to know. “I am doing Manish Vatsalya’s Dassera, a hardcore action drama that is also character-driven. After that, I will turn writer and producer with a film called Paidaar, which means ‘Eternal’. Benoy Gandhi is directing the film for which I have also written and composed six songs, and will be singing some of them.”

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