I had the guts to stand up for what is right- John Abraham
In this interview for Bollyy , half Malayali John Abraham tells JYOTHI VENKATESH that he goes by his instincts when he sets out to produce films as a filmmaker and exults that he is happy and excited that his film Parmanu The Story of Pokhran has crossed 50 cr at the box office.
Congrats. Parmanu The Story of Pokhran has crossed the 65 cr mark at the box office in just a month. What made you take a risk in producing a film like Parmanu in the first place?
In the first place, when Abhishek Sharma narrated the idea to me, I was very excited. Sanyukta Chawla who is the Creative Head of my company had written Neerja earlier wrote the script after we researched thoroughly and exhaustively for over two years before we decided to go on the floors with our film
To what extent, is your film based on the real incidents?
I would say that my film Parmanu is based on 85% of what was truth. We have only changed the names of people. It is a story based on the nuclear bomb test explosions conducted by the Indian Army at Pokhran in 1998.
How tough was the making of the film?
We thought that the making of the film would be tough especially since we had to shoot in excruciating circumstances in the sweltering heat in Jaisalmar at 55 degrees but honestly speaking, I felt that it was the easiest experience thanks to the preparations of the director.
At a time when others think of making commercial main stream films, what goads you to make films like Vicky Donor, Madras Café and Parmanu?
Call it my guts. I go by my instincts. Basically I like making non formula films because it makes my journey as a film maker more interesting and exciting. I like merging content with commerce.
Didn’t you think that it could have also emerged as a boring documentary?
I wanted to make an engrossing film and did not want to make a documentary which sets out to preach or for that matter educate people, though frankly I wanted the by product to be patriotic to the hilt
What exactly is Satyamev Jayate all about?
Satyamev Jayate is an unfiltered and hard core commercial mainstream film in which my co-stars are Manoj Bajpayee, Aisha Sharma, who happens to be the sister of Tum Bin 2 actress Neha Sharma, Amruta Khanvilkar etc. Milap Zaveri is directing the film which has been produced by both Bhushan Kumar and Nikhil Advani
Is it true that you are playing the role of a vigilante in Satyamev Jayate?
Yes. In Satyamev Jayate, I get to show my patriotic streak and fervor once again after Parmanu. I play a vigilante who sets out to take out the rotten apples of the police department who are incorrigibly corrupt in nature. The film deals with corruption and patriotism.
Is Satyamev Jayate an offbeat art house film or a rank commercial mainstream film?
We were very clear even while we were shooting for the film that we wanted to make a very commercial film. It has everything in it. It is a full plate which ahs action, music and drama and I hope that the audiences will have a good time when they set out to watch the film which is slated for release on the Independence Day this year on August 15.
You are working with Manoj Bajpayee after a long time?
It is for the second time that I am working with an actor like Manoj Bajpayee after Shootout At Lokhandwala. When you share screen space with Manoj Bajpayee, you tend to learn a lot about your craft because he is an Institute in acting and his innate niceness is his basic humanity. I feel that he is one of the greatest actors that we have in Hindi Cinema today and sharing scenes with him is very special as far as I am concerned. For people like me, it is like watching a film when you are watching Manoj Bajpayee on the sets as an actor.
Doesn’t Aamir Khan hold the rights for the title Satyamev Jayate?
The producers Bhushan Kumar and Nikhil Advani were keen on Satyamev Jayate and managed to obtain it from Aamir Khan who has a talk show by the same name. Satyamev Jayate is a suspense thriller. Satyamev Jayate, mark my words could turn out to be Milap Zaveri’s trump card. Milap is a very rare kind of a guy. He thinks from the heart while being a part of an industry that is extremely money driven. Both Manoj Bajpayee and I think that he does not realize the potential of his film. It is a very special film for not only Milap Zaveri and Bhushan Kumar and Nikhil Advani bit also for Manoj Bajpayee, Aisha Sharma and I.
How would you evaluate your journey as an actor from Paap till Parmanu?
I think I have matured hell of a lot as an actor. I have understood the nuances of acting and have realized that the subtleties of my acting too have become stronger of late. I have also understood the business very well
What kind of an actor do you think you are?
I am not at all insecure either as a person or for that matter as an actor. I do not consider a project of mine as vanity project or a production house. When I set out to cast actors for my film, I try to reach out to people who I think will suit the roles in my film. Like when I produced Vicky Donor, I did not feel that I could have suited the role and hence Shujit and I cast Ayushmaan Khurana , because he was the perfect choice and suited as a typical Delhi boy and also did a damn good job in the film.
It takes a lot of guts and security to be able to case other actors in the lead in a film that you set out to produce. If a film that I produce requires an actor like say Tiger or Rajkummar Rao, I will not think twice before reaching out to them.
When do you think people in the film industry started taking you seriously as an actor?
Though I did not act in the film but only produced it, I think people started taking me seriously only after I produced Vicky Donor. Madras Café only validated it. And now with Parmanu, I have taken it a step further and now want to be known as a thinking producer who tells a story properly.
Tell me frankly. Did you get your inspiration from an actor-producer like Akshay Kumar who also produces films like Rustom, Padman and Airlift?
No. I do not think I follow the same projects as Akshay Kumar does. I believe my life is strategized. I think of my life as a chess board. I can think of 300 different permutations and combinations.
Is it true that you did not at all plan to become an actor when you started modeling?
Yes. It is 100 per cent true. I would call myself an accidental actor since there was absolutely no design at all on my part to come to this field when I set out to do modeling.
How would you describe yourself as an actor today?
I’d say that I am actually a combination of method and intuitive acting. I now believe that there is an organic flow as far as my performance in films is concerned. *I am glad that the subtlety is my performance is being praised today. Though I do confess that I still have a long way to go as an actor, at the same time, I’d say that it is the right time and the right place as far as I am concerned today.
What was the best compliment that you have received?
Actress Ayesha Sharma told me that she was very glad to shoot with a man who looks like a man when she shot with me and added that most of the men here stand on shoes which have high heels to match with her height.
Do you get rattled when critics call you a non actor?
I recall that Dustin Hoffman told Robert Redford once that because his physicality was overpowering, he will wear an Albatross over his neck. Critics generally talk about my biceps. That’s fine as far as I am concerned but now they will also talk about Parmanu
Which are your ten best films as an actor?
Jism, Dhoom, Garam Masala, Vicky Donor (though I did not act in it but only produced it), New York, Madras Café, Taxi No 2011, Kabul Express, Water and last but not the least Parmanu.
Which are the filmmakers who are on your wish list?
I like Shoojit Sarkar, Aanand L. Rai, Rajkumar Hirani, Subhash Kapoor, Sanjay Gupta and last but not the least Bhattsaab, who is actually responsible for me being what I am today. I’d give my right hand to act in a film he chooses to direct though he has quit directing films. Pooja Bhatt who produced Jism but directed Paap is also fantastic. She calls a spade a spade and is a man in man’s world. I wish I could work with all of them.
To what extent you have been inspired by your parents?
My dad Abraham John is a Malayalee while my mother is a Jew. My dad is my hero, my idol. What is the best about him is that he is a nice guy not only to me but everyone in the world. Though not a Malayali, my mum makes the best Aviyal in the world.
Tell me something about your younger brother Allen Abraham?
My brother Allen is n architect. Allen was offered a lead role in a film but he ran away from the sets when the producer offered to cast him if he was keen on acting in the film, though he loves photography.
Which is your favourite destination in India?
Frankly speaking, I am obsessed with India. Aluwa in Kerala, which is my dad’s home town is my favourite destination as far as India is concerned. Besides Aluwa in Kerala, my other favourite destinations are Arunachal Pradesh and also the entire North East especially since I own a football team from the North East.
Which foreign destinations do you dig?
One place I like to go is Japan, because I like the architecture, machine and food of Japan though I have never been there. I like to go to Yamaha on a motor bike.
We hear that you are very crazy about motor-bikes!
Yes. I am crazy about driving motor bikes. I like wearing helmets. I possess 4 different helmets. I have had 78 different motor bikes till now at various stages of my life.
How homely are you at home?
At home, I am comfortable wearing boxer shorts, though my dad prefers to wear lungis. I also have three pairs of chappals and love wearing them everywhere. If today you see me wear a pair of shoes, it is only because I have been giving interviews today right from the afternoon.
Do you exercise dietary control as far as intake of food is concerned?
I am very consistent with my lifestyle habits. My day to day diet is so boring that you will wonder whether my taste buds are left. During the summer season, I prefer consuming cool stuff. If someone offers me a kulfi, I am particular about asking him to make it with sugar free skimmed milk. I staunchly avoid fried stuff. The last time I had ever had eaten biryani was ten years ago. The last time, I consumed kaju khatri was almost 23 years ago. I survive on power crunch protein energy bars.
Does that mean that you have never done drugs or smoked cigarettes or had alcohol in your life?
I do not at all smoke or drink. What’s more, I do not even like the smell of alcohol, though I may take a sip or two of champagne to usher in the new year.
Is there any actor who are envious of?
I envy Daniel D. Lewis who has had the guts to retire from acting. I am lucky I have been able to carve a niche for myself. I enjoy my space now especially because I am not in the rat race now
What next, as an actor?
On the anvil are films like Milap Jhaveri’s film Satyameva Jayate produced by Nikhil Advani, in which Manoj Bajpayee is my co-actor as well as Robby Grewal’s film Romeo Akbar Walter in which I play three different roles with as many as 8 disguises in it. In fact, I have no qualms to admit that I am very nervous as an actor to face Robby in the film. Besides Satyameva Jayate and RAW, I am also excited about yet another film which I, (after Madras Café and Parmanu) and Nikhil Advani (after winning accolades for his film D Day) are going to launch- Bhatla House.
You emerged a winner in your fight with producer Prerna Arora. Comment!
I choose not to speak about Prera Arora or my tiff with her since the High Court has validated what I have been saying all these days. All that I can say is that I have cleaned up the mess for a lot of people. It was all because I had the guts to stand up for what is right, credible and honest.
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