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Talk of the town

Architect-actor Riteish Deshmukh’s latest mantra is ‘never say never’. Even though the actor found his greatest success in ensemble comedies such as Masti, Housefull and Kya Kool Hain Hum, the actor had declared that adult comedies made him “uncomfortable” and no longer “excited” him. Soon after the disastrous Humshakals followed and then it seemed like Deshmukh was taking his stand of expanding his repertoire more seriously.

His role as the disturbed Rakesh in Ek Villain (2014) had audiences and critics look at the actor with renewed respect. The same year he also acted in his first Marathi film, Lai Bhaari, which went on to become a path-breaking hit.

Since his debut with Tujhe Meri Kasam in 2003, Riteish has been regarded and even typecast as a comic actor. His efforts at playing a romantic hero have met with little success. He has accepted the bouquets and brickbats with equal grace and just when he was about to be written off, he sprung a surprise by turning producer with a Marathi movie. Balak Palak, a comic-drama on sex education was followed by the National Award-winning Yellow, the story of a child with special needs.

His dark side

After 11 years in Bollywood, Riteish began to receive unprecedented accolades — as an actor and as a producer. His dark character in Ek Villain gave him one of his most highly praised roles. The year 2014 was a seminal year for Riteish with Humshakals, Lai Bhaari and Ek Villain releasing and ending with the birth of his son. Ask him if life has changed after fatherhood and the 36-year-old says, “Life changes when you marry and it changes again when you become a parent. My son is not even a year old so it’s too early to tell if there have been any real changes in me.” Riteish married Genelia D’Souza, the co-star of his debut film, in 2012, and he hopes one day to work in a Marathi film with his wife.

Riteish’s latest release is the satirical comedy Bangistan with co-star Pulkit Samrat. “It was fun to work with new energies,” he says, adding, “Bangistan’s appeal is primarily in what it is trying to say and the way it’s trying to say it. It’s a sensitive issue that belongs to the world. It’s not just related to our part of the world. It’s a good take on peace and harmony delivered using humour.”

Ask him why he succumbed and returned to the genre he said he would “never” dabble in again — adult comedies — with Great Grand Masti (Vivek Oberoi, Aftab Shivdasani) and Housefull 3 (Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan) and he says, “That’s a lesson learnt — never say never! I will never say I will never do this kind of cinema or that kind. I am happy doing these films.” And what about some variety to the roles he is offered post Ek Villain? “I did get offered a lot of more serious and bit more emotional roles and I have shortlisted a couple which will be announced soon,” he says.  “It takes time for any decision you take to come into effect — may be even a year. Bangistan and Bank Chor have different humour from Great Grand Masti and Housefull and these will be followed by two dramas in Hindi.”

The actor’s next release will be the comic caper Bank Chor co-starring Vivek Oberoi and Rhea Chakraborty. “Working with Yashraj Films on such a wonderful subject has been an amazing experience. Bumpy, the director of the film, is a crazy guy and good fun,” says Riteish who is also looking forward to adding some more Marathi productions to his roster. “I have locked two subjects — one will be directed by Nishikant Kamat, which I will act in and produce and I will produce the other project with newer talents.”

A producer’s take

A spate of Marathi films have found resounding success recently — from Balak Palak to Lai Bhaari, Fandry, Court and Killa. Speaking on this rise in appeal of Marathi films, Riteish says, “If one quality niche film works, then it gives a fillip to others and opens up the mainstream. If a film makes Rs 40 crore at the box-office, as Lai Bhaari did, then it makes a big difference and people believe in making more films and bigger films like that. It’s about doing it smartly.”

In an earlier interview the actor had said, “As a producer your choices are different from those you make as an actor. I am capable of producing certain kinds of films and will produce films I would also like to watch.” He now adds that what he enjoys most about producing is having ownership of the film in totality, from beginning to end. “I really enjoy pushing the film out there and controlling how it’s pitched,” he says.

Riteish’s resilience is commendable. His efforts at trying his hand at different genres between 2007 and 2010 led to five flops in a row (including Aladin, Rann and Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai). It was Housefull that turned the tide once more. The actor maintained a calm even through this phase of deep criticism. He is measured about both success and failure partially because he is not encumbered by the pressures of being from a film family, and being from a political family (he is the son of the late Vilasrao Deshmukh) has equipped him to handle pressure. “If you carry success on your shoulders, you get weighed down. My wife is also not from a film family, and she is my biggest leveller,” Riteish once said.

An architect by training, Riteish hardly has time for his original vocation though he is a partner in the architectural firm Evolution. His last prestigious assignment was designing friend Karan Johar’s apartment. “I am hardly involved with architecture now, but I do keep my interest going by doing a one interiors project or so a year.” Hindi films remain his mainstay. “This is my career. For now my goal is to produce interesting content and keep trying to do better as an actor,” Riteish says.

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