The Bollywood's masculine heartthrob John Abraham is on cloud nine as 2013 seems to be very lucky for him as his two films 'Race 2' and 'Shootout At Wadala' did really well at the box office. Now it is the turn for his home production political thriller 'Madras Cafe' directed by Soojit Sircar where John is playing a RAW agent in the middle of Sri Lankan civil war. According to Soojit it is the best performance of John till date. IndiaGlitz got candid with this talented actor.
For someone who likes to play larger than life characters, was it a risky proposition to play a realistic role?
Shoojit was very clear from the start. He said that if people expect the hero of 'Force' or 'Shootout..' to be in this film, this is going to be really different. It isn't like John Abraham taking his shirt off and running on the streets. At the end of the day it's a very real film and it's a commercial film and not a documentary.
We believe that there are so many events that happened in the mid 80s, the late 80s and early 90s that actually changed the course of Indian history. If you go back to school and see your textbooks Indian history ends in 1947. America could have 9/11 in their history books, they can have JFK in their history books; we don't have Indira Gandhi in our history books and her assassination. I just believe that there's phase in the Indian history that changed a lot including the politics of this country and the rule in this country and a lot happened in the mid '80s and '90s so I just really feel that our audience of today, I am talking about kids between 20 and 30, they shockingly don't know anything that happened during that phase so it's important for us to present that in a commercial format and tell them, "hey though this is the story of Major Vikram Singh, it's a political thriller it also has the backdrop of a Jaffna conflict that happened. Even though our film is a work of fiction we have been provided with a lot of inspiration from true life characters and incidents and we have been very honest with that. What was the challenge with us is to - simplify it for the audience hopefully to make out audience understand and Shoojit has tried his best to make it simple and present it to the audience. You'll enjoy this as a political thriller but also when you get out I would like you to sit at a coffee table and discuss this part of history. That's what we hope will come out. I say hope because it's very presumptuous to say it's a good film because I don't even know how it will be accepted. We hope people like the honest effort that's gone into making a very honest film.
You mentioned at a press conference that you won't be flaunting your abs in this film, were you taking any dig at any actor?
Not at all. I think it's really sad that's the job of contorted media minds to make an assumption of out of that. I really feel bad about it because the only person at that time I really spoke about was I because I have done it in my earlier films. And I said that because it doesn't have over the top and larger than life action. It's got realistic action so when I said that I really meant myself and I was shocked when I read reports. I have complete respect for Salman, I have complete respect for the films he has done. but not only him, I have complete respect for the films I also have done in the past because they have garnered commercial success. The only point I was trying to make is that this is a very different film and in this we have tried to portray military personnel in late '80s early '90s like they actually were. At that time the concept of RAW did not actually as much of exist as military personnel who are sent into foreign countries for covert operations. So I play Major Vikram Singh who is sent to a foreign country for covert operation. Now if Major Vikram Singh suddenly took off his shirt then I'm defeating the purpose of this film. Yes, it is a risk because people want to see the John Abraham of Shootout, they will see that too. At the end of the day it is also important to tell a good story and to be honest to the story. I know I will find my audience. If I don't find them on a Friday or Saturday, maybe I will find them on a Monday. Shoojit and I both believe that we have made a film which is smart but yet easily understandable by the youth and we want the youth to know what's happened in the late '80s and early '90s but the story is a commercial story and it's about this one character.
You do larger than life characters but at the same time speak about content driven films; do you consciously want to establish two identities for you?
I am trying to create two different identities of John Abraham the producer and an actor in his own production but more so the producer and John Abraham, if I may say so that I am very easily accepted in a commercial format that set formula pieces that I have to do and I know the audience will like it. But how important is it to tell a different story, and if I want to tell that different story I use my commercial standing so I can drive the kind of cinema I believe in. I had to actually use my commercial standing to get Vicky Donor on floor. There was a newcomer, no one wanted to meet Ayushmann Khurrana, when I went to London they said don't get him, and you come. So I went as a producer and I marketed Ayushmann Khurrana. But finally didn't he validate it? He was beautiful, he was amazing. So it's important to use your commercial standing to make cinema that you believe in will make a difference and we hope that Madras Cafe makes that difference.
Conflict in your mindset to do larger than life characters and yet produce content driven films?
I have done an MBA and I have positioned myself differently in the minds of the audience. When I got into films, I was very clear that I want to positioned in the minds of an audience as a biker, as a fitness guy, as a guy who loves football and I have done exactly all that in all my films be it Dhoom, be it Dostana, be it Force, be it Shootout so it's come across. Also in all my interviews I say I love bikes which I do. Similarly as a producer, I strive for content driven cinema, because I think it's important for people to know that I mean and hope to make good cinema. So if I have to use my use my commercial standing yes. Is John Abraham the hero of Madras Cafe? No, I am a character and so is Nargis Fakhri or any other actor. We hope the hero of the film is story.
You had said Madras Cafe is Argo of India...
We have not tried to make a Hollywood film we have made a film that is Indian. We have not tried to ape the west. We have made a film that of a completely different structure and language and never seen before here. So the only example I could draw was of Argo as it was fresh in our minds of people. I could say this film is like 'Body of Lies' or 'Serena' which it is a combination of everything. We did not make 'Vicky Donor' for awards either, we were fortunate it won. We are not making films thinking after 'Vicky Donor' we will get awards for every film. I am only one film old as a producer, I need time to learn and breathe. I am trying to make different kind of films. I hope to get support to make different kind of cinema as people like to see different kind of films.
Is the film Anti or Pro LTTE or Tamilia