Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

Since the last few years, John Abraham has seamlessly slipped into being an actor who owns the space of ‘national interest’ based cinema along with Akshay Kumar. But while he’s been get getting accolades for all of that, it’s refreshing to see him get back to something like a ‘Pagalpanti’ as well. Ileana D’cruz on the other hand, continues to remain a delight on-screen- and seamlessly fits into every genre. Just as both these actors collaborate with Anees Bazmee again, they speak all about their film and more…

How’s it doing something like ‘Pagalpanti’ after the kind of movies you’ve been doing?
JA:
Right from ‘Madras Café’, ‘Parmaanu’, ‘Batla House’, ‘Satyamev Jayate’ – all have been very serious kind of films so even I needed a break. Which is why, I wanted to do a film which can make me happy and which can make the audience also happy. And I say this on record. ‘Pagalpanti’ is a film which cannot be critiqued. This is the kind of film which is just to spread happiness. It has no double meaning, no blood-shed, even the villain is very cute. We wanted to make a film which will reach the audience from the age of 6 to 96. I’m a big Anees Bazmee fan so if you like his films, you know what to expect.

Perhaps, now is it challenging for you to do comedy and make that convincing?
JA: I got into ‘Pagalpanti’ after ‘Batla House’ so for me it was very difficult but as a genre I enjoy comedy. I’ve done it in ‘Garam Masala’, ‘Housefull’, ‘Desi Boyz’ and ‘Dostana’ to an extent. So, I enjoy the genre and it has always worked for me. Having said that, it’s the toughest genre! It is difficult to make people laugh. But I enjoy watching such films so much that I want to do them also and hope that people enjoy them. First, when I saw ‘Housefull 2’, I am like, what did I do? But now when I watch it on TV, it’s so much fun. I leave it to Anees bhai. And I have to tell you, he is one of the best writers, the industry has. The way he writes is so good and his comic timing is so good.

How do you get into the mould of these different directors who have different styles of comedy- right from Priyadarshan to Anees Bazmee, Sajid Khan?
JA: So, she’s worked with David in the past. I’ve worked with David in the past in a film which didn’t release. I’ve worked with Rohit Dhavan, Varun. All of them are different. Priyadarshan is more situational comedy, Sajid Khan is more slapstick. Anees Bazmee is more about the way he writes his lines and the comic timing. Each one has a different style of comedy but at the end of the day, it’s also what the actors bring to the table. I think where comedy is concerned, you leave it on the director. It’s about the actor and then it is about how well he is honed to pull off that. Either you have it or you don’t and if you don’t have it, people won’t laugh.

Ileana, how’s it getting into Anees Bazmee’s world again, with this huge cast?
ID: It was a lot more crazy I think. It was a different kind of crazy. ‘Mubarakan’ was crazy too, because there was Arjun and Anil ji and they are family. So, that was a different kind of equation. But I feel like, when you have so many actors, everyone comes in with different quirks and style of acting. It was a different experience, it felt like a new film all together but then, working with Anees ji is so easy. He makes it so easy for you, he’s a great actor himself. Half the times you just watch him do something and it gets easy.

Is it difficult to feel convinced and have enough amount of conviction even while doing a comedy like this?
ID: I think it’s important to have conviction in everything that you do, irrespective of whether you do comedy, or drama or whatever. But I think, comic timing does help. I do know some people who are not funny at all but they have such a good comic timing. So, they are such good actors and it turns out to be a great role. We’ve been lucky, to have gotten such films. I think I’m weirdly funny. I’m goofy with my face. I make some stupidly funny faces many times but I think it was easier for us with Anees ji’s writing. Especially, the way he plans out his films. They are not slapstick funny, they are situational funny.

You’ve been able to strike this good balance between various genres – for instance, a ‘Rustom’, ‘Badshaho’, ‘Main Tera Hero’ or ‘Pagalpanti’. What’s more fun?
ID:
A lot of people have asked me which one is difficult as well. But the difficulty factor comes in with every role I’ve played. They’re all equally challenging in their own way so I don’t really have a preference. I think it’s the entire experience. Certain experiences I just enjoy a lot more because of the people I’m working with. As far as roles are concerned, I just get a lot of thrill out of just playing any character well. If the director says that he is super happy with the way I portrayed a role; that for me is like a win. I think in this, I’m the most normal ones but I end up getting stuck into problems because of him.

From actually getting criticism for your performances to now, where there’s hardly any negative comment about you – there’s been such a change!
JA: Yes, now people aren’t really writing negative stuff about me. I feel that today the audience watching movies has completely changed. It’s a new set of audience. The new generation of the audience is preferring the subtleties and performance which we are belting out. 15 years ago probably, what was considered good acting was the ‘extra’ performance or movement. That’s considered over-the-top today. So, this is a purple patch for me right now for being accepted at the right time, the kind of content which I’m concentrating on as an actor and as an actor-producer is great for me. The content which I create as a part of JA entertainment – I research over it for 3-4 years. So, it’s always importance to improve with my films and performances and that can only happen with time, research, workshops.

What else has lead to this change – does it have to also do with your choices?
JA: I didn’t conform to the dictates of commercialism and I did what I wanted to. Aditya Chopra once told me and I must give him credit – ‘John the smartest move you’ve made is to be different and your best choices are the ones which have failed.’ When I was doing ‘Parmaanu’, the first person who heard the narration told me, ‘Sir yeh sabse ghatiya film hai. It’s the most horrible script we’ve heard.’ He was a seasoned producer of 25 years who told me that. Any other person in my place would have shelved the project but I gave it a chance and thought that maybe I was right and he could be wrong. My next project with Abhishek Sharma is twice as good as ‘Parmanu’ is what I confidently feel. It’s about conviction. Don’t worry about success or failure but just worry about the story. But this is our industry and I’m proud to be a part of it. We are all doing well in our spaces.

Do you see yourself also producing a comedy?
JA: As easy as it looks to the audience, it’s the toughest genre to write, direct, and act in. I could produce a comedy but this is too big scale for me and this is not my space. Maybe in my head, more of a ‘Dostana’ is my space. But for now, a comedy is too big for me. I’m not equipped with it.

What’s next for you?
ID: I’m doing ‘The Big Bull’ next which is a great story. I don’t have plans like John. He’s got these plans which are unbelievable. But I’ve been more like go-with-the-flow kind of a person. I want to do a historical, biopic, something completely hard-hitting and then something masala. So, I want to do everything but I just don’t want to slow down.

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