Getting real about roles

John tells all

Getting real about roles

A decade after he stepped into the film industry, John Abraham acknowledges that in every actor’s life there comes that one special film that “just happened”. For him it was his debut film, Jism (2003). “In the 10 years since, I’ve done many films, but I was missing the ‘soul’ I’d found in Jism.” he admits.

Realising that this happened with all actors, John made his peace. Then Shootout at Wadala (2013) “just happened”. It’s the biopic of Manohar Surve who served nine years of a life sentence for murder, before hoodwinking the police to return to Mumbai to form his own gang. He then successfully carried out a series of heists for two years, before being accosted by 18 crime branch officials in Wadala and gunned down in the first registered encounter by the Mumbai police.

“I knew instantly that there was something special about this role,” says John, adding that had there been no Shootout earlier, the film would probably have been called Manya after the protagonist, who is at the core of the story and to play whom he had to step out of not just his comfort zone, but out of character too.

Becoming Manya

Cool, suave, gentleman John turned rough and tough, taking not just the audience but even his co-star, Kangna Ranaut, by shock. “After every shot, I had to ask Kangna if she was okay because I could see how disturbed and shaken up she was by this new me. But it was important to leave John Abraham behind and let Manya’s ghost possess me to ensure that I did not look like I was acting,” he reasons.

John agrees that he has played sexy, over-the-edge characters before, in films like Dhoom, Zinda, New York and Race 2, and made evil look good. “But this was worse than evil. Manya had no etiquette and was rough even with the woman he loved. He was also ruthless without remorse and wielded power so effectively that while resurrecting him, I started feeling invincible,” admits John who in this avatar did not expose himself too much in the social world, and was glad he was returning to an empty house.

Now that Manya is out of his system, John is gearing up for fun times with Abhishek Bachchan, as Dostana 2 readies for take-off. He says, “Dostana 2 is a light-hearted, commercial film, neither anti-gay nor fighting for gay rights.” Five years later, Dostana is still remembered for John’s beefy body and yellow trunks. The actor smiles showing off his dimple and says, “The body stays the same, I don’t know about the trunks.”

Which other franchise besides Dostana would he like to take forward? The actor retorts, “Anurag Kashyap’s No Smoking that has become a Bible for many cinema buffs who swear by it. A good film does not necessarily have to be a great success.”

John, however, refuses to comment on the box-office prospects of his next production, Madras Café’ (2013). “J Entertainment is one film old, there’s a lot to do and prove without taking undue pressure. I’m happy Vicky Donor performed so well commercially, but that’s no reason to be over-confident about Madras Café. That is not just going to cater to the domestic market, but to a sizable North American audience too. It’s a film I’ll be proud of,” he asserts.

He won’t say the same for the quickly forgotten I Me Aur Main. Reasoning that even though he released it himself, it wasn’t a film made under his banner. He blames its failure on studio decisions. However, going by gut instincts, Hamara Bajaj, his next home production after Madras Café, featuring Aayushmann Khurrana, will be another of those little big hits.

“It’s a beautiful script of a small town travel guide, who comes to Mumbai with stars in his eyes. I may have experienced the same emotions, but I haven’t given any inputs. The script was locked before I met director Shoojit Sircar. It’s one of the many films Shoojit and I are planning together, the kind of cinema we believe in,” says John.

Is automotive major Bajaj Auto taking an objection to the title Hamara Bajaj? What if they have to forgo it? “Yes, we’ve got a legal notice, and are dealing with it,” admits the star-producer. “It’s a nice title, but if we lose it, it won’t be a big loss. We’ll think of another one.”

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