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Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

He’s more than being a funny man – but well – he indeed is exceptional at being funny, isn’t he? So, here’s Riteish Deshmukh back in his element with ‘Total Dhamaal’. We catch up with him to talk about the film, breaking the mould he created with comedies and more…

What was one of the highlights for you to do ‘Total Dhamaal’?
I’ve been such a big fan of Madhuri Dixit. I remember, we had done the ‘Unforgettables’ tour with Amitjee, Abhishek, Aishwarya, Preity Zinta, myself. And Madhuri Dixit was a part of the U.S leg since she was staying there. It was such a high to see her perform live. So, to have her in a film with Anil Kapoor, which is directed by Indra Kumar – how can one not be a part of it!

And how has your relationship with Indra Kumar been with time, ever since ‘Masti’?
My relationship with him, goes from a newcomer who met a hugely successful iconic director who gave iconic hits like ‘Dil’, ‘Beta’, ‘Raja’, ‘Ishq’. I’ve always been a fan of his films and music. The fact that I was a newcomer, he was a big director, we worked and ‘Masti’ was my first commercial big hit. So, if people think I do comedy okay today and cast me in other comedies – it’s thanks to him. Of course his contribution to wherever I am today is immense. He gave me those legs where I could probably explore more in the comic space. But this is my sixth film with him and from being an actor-director relationship, today we are the closest friends. Apart from doing a film, we talk once a week, we laugh, we talk like how I would talk to my classmates. Also, it’s the healthiest relationship an actor-director have – where we can argue, tell each other how we can be better and works towards the film. But eventually, the director’s call is the last call, the actor can only suggest and that’s what an actor also needs to understand. So, that’s the relationship I share with him now.

Because of your expertise and a niche you’ve created for yourself within the genre, people generally expect entertainment when your name is attached to a film. Is that satisfying?
In Marathi, there’s a saying called, ‘kamachi pahuti’ – which means it’s a receipt of your work you’ve done. All these lovely aunties come and tell me, ‘beta, every time you’re on-screen, you always make us laugh, without even saying anything.’ First few years, I thought something is funny with my face. Then I took it as a compliment. But then I took that as an example with reference to my film, ‘Ek Villain’. During ‘Ek Villain’, I had that baggage that if the same aunty comes to watch my film and I’m going to play this serial killer and if she laughs seeing me then that’s a big problem. It’s a big problem with the producer also. So, I remember sharing this with Ekta and Mohit. I told them, this is how it is, and so we have to be careful in portraying this character, so you also be conscious of this fact that if you’re casting me in this film, we have to work around it accordingly. So, it’s great but when you do a film like ‘Ek Villain’ or a film like ‘Marjaawan’ which I’m currently working on, then it becomes tricky to play it. But I guess, there are directors and writers who help you achieve it.

What is the kind of comedy which you enjoy watching personally?
I don’t really switch on to comedy films to watch especially but if it’s just coming across then I’m okay with situational comedy. I enjoy romcoms and poker face comedy.

Like ‘Bluffmaster’?
Yes, I really enjoyed that film and that kind of humour. Both, Abhishek and me tried to convince Rohan so many times to make it again.

So, in a way, it’s great to be known for a certain genre. But do you also see that as a flip side to make people see you in other genres, like ‘Ek Villain’?
The generation that I was a part of – in 2003, big production houses were interested in only in stars, not newcomers. And then few years later, bigger production houses started concentrating on newcomers than established which was fantastic. So, I came into a zone where I did ‘Masti’, then I did two more films. I was doing ‘Masti’ and ‘Kyaa Kool Hai Hum’ after ‘Tujhe Meri Kasam’. Those worked. Then I was doing ‘Malamal Weekly’ and Bluffmaster’ which worked. I did ‘Fight Club’ which didn’t work. All the comedy films started working so then people started casting me in those films only. I did ‘Naach’ at the same time, but that didn’t work. Then I didn’t ‘Rann’, it didn’t work. ‘Alaahdin’ and ‘Jaane Kahaan Se Aayi’ didn’t work as well. So, I’ve worked as hard in every film – some films work and some don’t. I’ve been acting for almost 15 years now and mostly only comedy films have worked. Then ‘Ek Villain’ comes which did well. ‘Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya’ came which did decently well. Post ‘Ek Villain’, I tried to again do ‘Bank Chor’, ‘Banjo’, ‘Bangistan’. Eventually, it’s all about which films work. After all this, I’m glad I still get a chance to do a film like ‘Marjaawan’ where I’m exploring something new.

Having said that, one really has to be damn good at something and a master at it, to be able to create a mould which is difficult to break….
It’s extremely challenging for actors to break the mould, atleast it used to be. It’s not as much now, because now, the onus to break the actor’s mould is taken by the producers and directors than the actor himself. When I was given ‘Ek Villain’, the credit goes to Mohit and Ekta for thinking interesting and giving me that part.

Talking about regional cinema, do you think, it’s gone a level higher ever since mainstream actors have started producing regional cinema including you?
Be it Priyanka, Akshay, Amitjee was one of the first people who started that trend or me – when credible names come into the picture, obviously a film has a reach which is great. But names will only help it to a particular point, what matters is the content you’re producing. For instance, Priyanka’s ‘Ventillator’ was phenomenal. It’s not only her name which made the film successful, but the content was great. I’m just doing my bit. Marathi films lack studios which we have in Hindi but they’re slowly coming in, so hopefully we will make bigger films. Right now, we are too restricted. For example, if you have this green tea in Hindi, it’s Rs. 150, and if you have it in Marathi, it’s still the same price. So, many factors come into picture while deciding a film’s reach and success. But it’s great how people have opened up to different regional films.

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