Back in action

Back in action

Bollywood buzz

Back in action

The words slow, steady and secure describe John Abraham’s 13-year career since Jism. The actor has not only earned his stardom (Dhoom, Garam Masala, Dostana, Housefull 2 and more) but also impressive brownie-points as producer of Vicky Donor and Madras Café.

In a relaxed and (for him) voluble mood at his office, John is now to set to release his third production, Rocky Handsome, in which he plays the hunky hero who is out to protect a kid from the baddies. Not very novel, people will say, but the actor feels that the story and treatment will make all the difference. “I have made a film that families will enjoy,” he says confidently.

‘Handsome’ returns

“Action backed by strong emotion always succeeds,” he continues. “But for that you need a great director, and so when I was shown the Korean film The Man From Nowhere that is a record-breaking hit in South Korea, I decided to buy the rights and thought of only one name here. So I showed the film to Nishikant Kamat, my friend for 12 years and the director of Force, and he said that he liked it, but would turn it around in his own way. And I agreed to that, because whenever Nishi, as I call him, does that, the result is even better.”

Passionate about his banner, John says that it is important that his company is known for good, credible films. “I want the audience to leave the theatre thinking, ‘Acchi film thi yaar!’ My banner is bigger than I am, but since my name is associated with it, the content should be strong. Some people make films for money, some for credibility, and I belong to the latter group. Interestingly, despite the cost and the huge release we are planning, Rocky Handsome is the safest commercial film from my banner, and will make profits for all — my company, my co-producers, the studio and the distributors.”

The actor reveals that he is planning two big films, one with Shoojit Sircar, who directed his earlier two productions, and one with Abhinay Deo, his Force 2 director. “But I am planning films for Varun Dhawan and Tiger Shroff too, kids whom I really love, and I would like to co-produce a film with Akshay Kumar as well.”

Where did John and his team locate Diya Chalwad, the small girl who plays the pivotal part with him? “It was a difficult search and we had to delay the film because of that,” he confesses. “Kids, as I can tell by my own experience, are difficult to work with, as they tend to be temperamental, but this one was a dream! We auditioned so many girls and then zeroed in on her because she had done a small role in Kick. We wanted a sweet-looking girl who had to speak fairly long monologues.”

Raving about the prodigy, he goes on, “Diya is fantastic and the way she emotes will give you goose-bumps. She was 6-and-a-half when we started shooting and she knew the script by-heart. She would remind us on the sets about which line belonged to which actor and in which sequence. She is a complete natural.”

John is grateful to another “lovely person” with whom he struck a nice relationship during Welcome Back for doing a small but special appearance in the film — Shruti Haasan. “She comes and goes, but is there throughout the film,” he smiles, nixing rumours that it was Shruti who had asked for this tag as her role was small.

Making of a film

We finally get to discuss John’s character. “The USP of my film is the action, which is so real, yet like poetry in motion, just like a dance form,” he says enthusiastically. “Women in our test audience have loved the action as much as they liked the film’s emotions, referring to it as ‘sexy’. I trained for it in Thailand. I was an actor there among the world’s best fighters, training for 14 hours a day. I wanted my action to look like a natural extension of me, and Nishi’s statement when I returned, ‘You look as if you have grown up learning martial arts’ was a great compliment. We have kept the action palatable, not gory, which is why everyone will enjoy it.”

It is time to talk about the director again, for he doubles up as the main villain as well. “A close friend of Nishi’s was to do the role, but two days before the shoot, he developed cold feet,” laughs John. “So Nishi’s assistant suggested that he do the role himself as he knew the script in and out. You see, a villain is special. In Force, the villain was all muscle. Here he is a thousand times as dangerous as he is small compared to me, but edgy and intelligent. His forte is playing mind games.”

Nishikant tonsured his head and John recollects the time he first saw him. “I said to myself, ‘My God! I am facing him!’ There is something in his eyes and that edgy look that will make the audience fear for Rocky’s life, though he is 6-feet-2 and weighs 94 kilos! But the double job of acting and directing got to Nishi, and he told me, ‘John, I am never going to do both together again.’”

We have heard that John was extremely elated about the film’s title because Sylvester Stallone, who played Rocky in the films in that series, was his idol and the reason he turned actor. “I was studying in Jai Hind College in Mumbai when the principal showed me Rocky IV. I was so impressed that I wanted to build a body like Stallone’s. I was about 17 then, so that day, on my way to the nearest railway station, I ate 12 bananas to beef myself up.” He adds, “My film has an international look, and if Stallone ever watches it, it will be great. I have always felt that Stallone was an underdog and I think I am like him as well.”

Like Stallone, John is also a fitness freak. “I have not cheated on a meal for 20 years,” he declares proudly. “I would like to convey this message to my audience not through books but directly, like I did with a Facebook video recently. The key to remain fit is in discipline, not making excuses about diet and lifestyle.” John will soon go to Los Angeles to get his own certificate in Nutrition and Fitness and plans to launch his own brand of nutritional supplements as well.

“If you want a high one day, drink whisky. But if you want a lifelong high, be fit!” he says with a smile.

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