John Abraham on doing films like Batla House: ‘Just to be in the rat race to push big numbers has never been my intention’
John Abraham will be seen as India’s most awarded police officer in his upcoming film, Batla House.
The patriotic streak in actor John Abraham is more than evident through his film choices — 2018 saw him doing Parmanu- The Story of Pokhran, followed by Satyameva Jayate, and in both, the theme was John’s love for his country. But he maintains that his idea of patriotism is not ‘jingoistic’.
His next, Batla House, is inspired by the 2008 incident which took place in Delhi. While there have been objections raised, the actor maintains that the treatment of his next is sensitive.
Excerpts from a chat with John, recovering from a hectic round of promotions, and juggling multiple projects:
The subject of your next release, Batla House is very sensitive. How did you manage to retain the sensitivity, yet have the scope for an item song like Saki, and the masalafication?
To answer the former part of your question, I think we have actually left the film open to debate. There’s a court verdict that hasn’t been passed, we have shown them the film. We have also told the film from three different point of views- the victim/terrorist point of views, court point of view and the witness’ point of view. When you walk out of the film, we want people to discuss it, if they agree, disagree, or whether they have a different point of view not shown in the film. The item number part- Nora’s (Fatehi) has got a full-fledged role in the film, and a crucial one. Just to weave in that song was the most difficult part for my director (Nikkhil Advani). Once you see the film, you will forgive us for having a fantastic number in it, which is also a draw right now.
John Abraham in a still from Batla House.
What was it about the story, inspired from the real-life incident in Delhi, that made you say ‘yes’?
As an actor, consumer and viewer, I thought the script was very exciting. There’s a saying in English that fact is stranger than fiction. This factual story seemed unbelievably… even if you had to concoct a story, I don’t think it would be as crazy as this. I think it came together really well. I like political and psychological thrillers. I thought this is a perfect film to not only act in, but produce too.
You also screened the film recently in Delhi for H’ble Vice President of India, Shri Venkaiah Naidu. What was his reaction to it?
It was nice meeting Shri Venkaiah Naidu. Being a senior political leader, he threw some light on the political situation in the country and me being politically aware, it was a great opportunity to meet someone like him. He’s a very learned man, and at the same time, extremely down to Earth. We showed him some parts of the film, he was very excited to know the way we have presented the film. He didn’t have the kind of time to watch the entire film. Whatever he saw, intrigued him.
How did you go about the prep for the film, based on a real-life person?
I met and spent time with him, Sanjeev Kumar Yadav, who was then an ACP and now DCP. My concern was to understand not only his body language but mentally too. After the Batla House incident, the trauma he went through, the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the fact that he wanted to commit.suicide, his relationship with his lovely wife, I met her too. It was nice to meet a man who is such a dichotomy in his real life.. he is shy, soft spoken and at the same time, has knocked out so many people! He is the most.awarded police officer in the country with nine gallantary awards!
You’ve been in the showbiz industry for over 16 years now. How much have your priorities changed — what goes on in John Abraham’s mind today?
I want to make films that make effective change within the industry, and films that make people think and at the same time, entertain them. Vicky Donor was first of its kind, so was Madras Cafe… it’s very important to make change. I am very happy I am not one of those actors who are still trying to breach certain numerical figures… yes, commerce is important. I don’t think I have lost anything for my producer’s or exhibitors. Just to be in the rat race to push big numbers has never been my intention. I am in a happy space.
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