Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

He can be called a ‘master of comedies’ – now that he’s back with yet another comic caper, which also has elements of thrill. Riteish Deshmukh’s ‘Bank Chor’ has just released and we catch up with the actor to speak about the film, comedy as a genre and his production venture…

“That mentality of comedy being a supportive system to a romantic, revenge or drama track, is not there anymore”

How was the whole ‘Bank Chor’ experience for you and what was the director’s brief to you?
Bumpy (the director) is a crazy guy. I got a call from Adi saying, there’s this film, would you like to hear the script. And obviously YRF is one studio I haven’t worked with, so was looking forward to. When Bumpy entered to narrate the film, he had these dreadlocks and all, he came across as quirky. But he narrated it to me and I instantly liked it. I thought it was funny, had the thrill – comic thriller is a genre we rarely do. But here’s a film which was quirky, fun, at times stupid but ahead of times. When Amjad Khan comes it, it keeps you guessing about what’s going to happen. I liked the entire theme. He started narrating the film which was great. Once on the set, he was explaining a scene, where we try to open a locker, we don’t know how to do it so we try and then finally, we see money for the first time! Bumpy tells us, imagine you’ve seen money for the first time. Imagine a hot pan, and butter melting in, that you add spaghetti, meatballs, salmon, imagine the first taste. He’s also a chef right. So, every scene, we had a new recipe, that’s Bumpy for you (laughs)

Comedy has itself evolved as a full-fledged genre. How do you look at it as an actor – now that somewhere the lead actor himself pulls off a comedy film?
Mid-80s is when I started watching a lot of movies and every film had a format. There used to be a hero, a heroine, a villain, and there used to be another track which was dedicated to comedy. Actors like Kader Khan, Asrani, Shakti Kapoor were playing those parts. Later, they decided to make that track into a full-fledged genre. Of course, there were films like ‘Golmaal’ and ‘Chupke Chupke’ which were the typical Hrishikesh Mukherji films. These were out and out comedy films. Then you had actors like Govinda making comedy popular. That mentality of comedy being a supportive system to a romantic, revenge or drama track, is not there anymore. We have come out of it. It’s just there in award functions now where, you have best actor, but also, best actor in negative role, or comic role. If someone has to be fair enough then they should do best romance, best drama, all such categories or just do one best actor – male or female.

How has your relationship with cinema changed over the years? Also in terms of your approach.
My relationship with cinema started with a wow moment. I didn’t even know when it started. Probably, it was when I saw Amitabh Bachchan on-screen for the first time. I was very happy with that, because that’s one relationship which will surprise you, disappoint you even as a viewer. As an audience, all of us have this relationship with cinema and then when you get a chance to be a part of creating it, that’s exciting. Even when you guys write a review, you’re contributing to it and being a part of it some way. We as actors are a part of creating it, so, that relationship with cinema is ever-evolving. Secondly, how does one approach it? As an actor you need to be aware about how irrelevant your approach is, only then you can be relevant to your work. Be it humour, be it drama, be it lines, be it anything. Time is changing, people are constantly changing. Suddenly there’s a video on Youtube which has gone viral with 12 million views, and what you’re shooting may not be funny. So, how do you bring relevance to that? Sometimes you’re not even targeting those 12 million views or that audience, maybe you’re targeting the mass audience. Or probably a film like ‘Bank chor’ might target the college kids. So, it just changes from film to film.

What’s the status on ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji’? Does a film like ‘Bahubali’ further raise a benchmark for films in the ‘larger-than-life’ genre?
We have just locked in the screenplay of ‘Shivaji’ and now we are moving towards the other aspects like costumes, VFX. There’s a lot which is going to go in. It’s extremely pre-mature to figure out. I am not approaching ‘Chhatrapati shivaji’ keeping Bahubali in mind. As a film, ‘Bahubali’ can have freedom to do many things since it is fictitious. On the other hand, I have to look at instances which are real. There can be many stories floating around which are not true. But I have to figure out that and stick to what’s true. A lot needs to be studied. We have to go ahead with this film with utmost respect, sensitivity. People should see the glory of the man, and why he is worshipped, not just in Maharashtra but all over the world.

Would you ever like to produce a Hindi film?
Hopefully! If I get a script which I want to produce in Hindi and if I feel some other actor can do justice to this kind of cinema.

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