May 192018

After a two-year lull since his last outing hit screens, John Abraham finds himself flooded with films. In an interview with Sunday mid-day, he talks about returning stronger every time he’s “written-off”

John Abraham
John Abraham

It has been two years since John Abraham last appeared on screen in an out-and-out actioner. Awaiting the release of his production, Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran, John confesses he’s going to be seen in an avatar that’s distinct from the commercial ventures he’s been part of. He talks to mid-day about working on the venture, and dealing with criticism every time his films tank at the box office.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Your last, Force-2, hit screens two years ago. Have you consciously picked fewer projects over the years?
The idea was to select the right kind of subjects; case in point being Madras Café. People feel, that has been my best performance, and that is because I lived the film for a long time. I was convinced about it, and it brought out the best in me. Similarly, Parmanu is a special subject. When we narrated it to studios [to get co-producers on board] they said they hadn’t come across such an interesting subject in the past few years. I didn’t want to rush and sign something. I’d rather wait for a credible film. I have never been in a hurry, and have been relaxed about my work.

Suddenly, your calendar looks full. Is it an interesting phase in your career as you have four films (Parmanu, Satyamev Jayate, RAW and a film on the Batla House encounter) lined up.
It is exciting. I am enjoying my work. I signed these films over a period of time. I will soon complete Satyamve Jayate, after which, I have a two-month-long schedule of RAW. I didn’t plan to do so many films at one time. I didn’t sign them together. Sometimes, when I count the number of films that I am doing, I get nervous, but at the end of the day, I feel content. Currently, I am in a secure space.

Did you always want to come on board as producer on Parmanu?
Yes, I knew on the first day itself that I’d like to produce this film. Abhishek [Sharma, director] and I wanted to work together for a long time. He came to me and said, ‘Let’s make a comedy.’ But I asked him if he had another idea too. He told me he had a 10-page idea. When I read it, it played out in my head. I decided to develop the script under my production. My team worked on it.

You have only a two-week window to promote your films. Postponing it would have given you sufficient time to promote it better. Was that not crucial?
When the verdict [against former co-producer KriAaj Entertainment] came out on May 10, I told Abhishek that we would release the film on May 25, and launch the trailer on May 11, as it was the same day that the nuclear test took place 20 years ago. The film will pick up due to [positive] word of mouth, we didn’t think of postponing it. Every Indian will be proud of it as this incident made everyone take India seriously. We have tried to stick to reality, and have not taken commercial liberties.

You will also showcase real footage in the film. Did you have to take special permissions to do so?
We researched with the entire cadre that has been through this in real life. We met people who discussed the issue with our then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We narrated our script to them [his office], and they even made corrections to it. I also met Arun Jaitley, who was the defence minister when we started shooting the film, because we were shooting in Pokhran, and needed special permissions to fly drones there. We had to get a go-ahead from the Border Security Force, which we obtained. We applied for permission three months in advance and everyone was co-operative.

The kind of films that you act in are different from those you produce. Is that a conscious decision?
I turned producer because I wanted to be part of a certain kind of cinema. But, as an actor, I was hungry to do hardcore commercial cinema. My next film, Satyamev Jayate, is purely a commercial film. The idea behind running this production house was not to drive it with my star presence. If a film requires Tiger Shroff, Varun Dhawan, Rajkummar Rao or anybody else, I wouldn’t have any qualms in approaching them.

How do you take to criticism?
My obituary is written every year [laughs]. [It seems] everyone has the right to have an opinion about my film. There has always been a phase in my career where, when one of my films works, the next two won’t. But, I have survived for 15 years now. It is nice to be written off so that you can come back stronger with a vengeance!

You take pride in being known as an action hero.
I’ve always said that action is something I enjoy doing. I have always had a fascination for the genre and, coupled with my love for fitness, this genre comes naturally to me. At the same time, I try and bring a variety of it and don’t like to be repetitive. Being tough is not always about bullying others. It is about being protective and that is what I am all about. I am the most non-violent guy you would meet [smiles].

Also Read: When an army colonel took John Abraham to task on Parmanu sets

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