John Abraham says he’s developing female-driven films, but ‘it’s difficult to sell them’
John Abraham is of the belief that actors should be socially responsible and should not go about ‘belting out crap’.
For many, John Abraham is a name that defines an action hero in Bollywood. Though he has worked in movies across genres, it is safe to say that John has always found it a tad bit more comfortable working in action movies. With films such as Force (2011), Rocky Handsome (2016), Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran (2018), Satyameva Jayate (2018), Romeo Akbar Walter (2019) and Batla House (2019), to his credit, John has carved a niche for himself in the industry. The model turned actor, who ended 2019 with Anees Bazmee’s Pagalpanti, talks about how actors need to be socially responsible, why he believes it is fair to judge a movie by its collection at the box office, and more. Excerpts:
You have done movies across genres, but when you have to switch from a serious character to a much lighter role, how do you manage to do that?
It is quite tough. I had to do Pagalpanti after doing Batla House. I remember in the first few days of Pagalpanti, I went to Anees, and I told him that I need time. It took me two to three days to find my space. It was not easy. Whatever people say, the toughest genre is comedy. It is easy to impress people with great body and action sequences. That is something I can do in my sleep. For me, it is easy to do an intense role. But to make someone laugh, it is all about the comic timing of an actor. Fortunately, I learnt it very early on in my career.
As an actor, do you like to live with the character?
I do take the character home if I am doing an intense film. Like ACP Sanjeev Kumar, in Batla House, I lived with that character for a very long time. Before I started shooting, I went and I studied the man. I spent a lot of time with him. It gets really difficult to draw that line. There is a fear of losing your identity at times; it’s scary (laughs).
It has been 18 years since your debut, how has journey been so far?
It’s been an interesting journey. The best part is that I am a very secure person. I don’t really let everything affect me. I have always been criticised from the start. The language and audience of films has changed, and today’s audiences accept the films I do. I think it is a great time for me. When I found the going tough initially, because of the factors even within the industry, though I must say they have all retired now, I have got a new set of audiences and they love the content I give them.
Does the actor in you still get nervous before the release date?
Not at all. When I give the first shot or the second shot of a film or even when I sign up for a movie, I know what kind of business it will do. And sometimes I know it would be a sub Rs 50 crore movie, but I will still do it. I don’t have a gun pointed at my head and I will do the kind of films that I want to do.
Will we see you in the digital space any time soon?
As an actor, I see myself as a big screen hero. I would find it, at least at this point of time, a little difficult to move into the digital space. I have made it very clear to the people. John Abraham means large screen.
Have you ever felt like an outsider in the industry?
It is always difficult for someone like me to sustain. You come with a baggage of being a model then you become an actor and today I am a producer. I never felt nervous. I was always convinced about what I was doing. The reason where I have reached wherever I am today is because of self-conviction. I was always convinced that I was doing the right thing at the right time. How can you scare a guy who has faced failures so often? (laughs).
As an actor, do you think it is fair to judge a movie by its collection at the box office?
Yes, I do think it is fair. The film has to be commercially viable and that’s how the trade gauges you. But more than the money it makes, let me use the right term — return on investment (ROI). If I make my film for Rs 30 crore and it makes Rs 100 crore, it’s fantastic. But if I make my film for Rs 200 crore and it makes Rs 200 crore, it’s not really fantastic. So, I think ROI is a better way to judge a movie.
As an actor, how important is it to be socially responsible?
It is extremely important. We are a country where 60 to 65% of our population is below the age of 40. We have a very impressionable young population. You are not just a model you are a role model here. Even if it takes effort, try and say the right things and shut up if you don’t know what to say. Don’t go about belting crap out there.
As an actor, do you feel the way women are portrayed in Bollywood has changed over the years?
To be honest, Satyameva Jayate had an item song. Sometimes you have to do things according to what the film demands. We are developing female-oriented scripts in-house and we are finding it very difficult to sell them. I am someone, who will be pushing for women to be as dominant as the men in this industry. I want to make films which are socially relevant and powerful for women, but we are still to come to a time when studios will not come and say, ‘The numbers on this film are going to be this much if it’s going to be woman.’
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