If there’s one thing John Abraham doesn’t believe in, it’s the concept of taking life each day as it comes. “I believe that lifeis a game of chess, so I just plan the next move. In fact, I plan five moves ahead,” says the actor, when we meet him on aMonday afternoon. Seated at his plush office in Bandra, the actor’s busy giving interviews for his upcoming film Madras Cafe, which, according to him, is part of the plan too. “I’ve been told that my name is synonymous with ‘The Body’,” he laughs, “But unlike earlier, when the physicality used to precede my work, today it’s all about the performance. Madras Cafe is a move in that direction. People will speak about the content. The audience has already started taking me seriously and I like that.”
Tell him that the film’s director Shoojit Sircar has been quoted as saying that the audience will get to see a ‘new John’ in the film and the actor immediately nods his head in agreement. “He’s absolutely right. He’s deconstructed me and reconstructed me in this film,” he says of his role. John, who plays an intelligence officer in the film and goes to Jaffna for an undercover operation, had to not only look leaner physically for his role, but also get under the skin of the character.
“Shoojit said, ‘you can’t look like John Abraham. You have to look like a regular guy because that’s how you infiltrate into areas, by looking as regular as possible’,” he says. The director’s other dictat to his lead actor was to be as subtle as possible, when it comes to playing the role. “His take was that in an industry like ours where overacting is considered great acting, he wanted me to be subtle. That pretty much suits my style anyway,” he chuckles.
Madras Cafe will be John’s second home-production after Vicky Donor and is a film that the actor-turned-producer associates with credible content. “Credible is anything that is entertaining, and at the same time has a strong story to it. Madras Cafe falls into that category and so did Vicky Donor. I think it’s important to cater to even a small audience, but in a different space and in a different way.” Turning producer, too, was a pre-planned decision for the dimpled-actor, and one that seems to have paid off really well.
“I always wanted to be a producer because I wanted to make a certain kind of cinema. Now I’m doing just that. Maybe one day I’ll direct, maybe there’s a plan in my head that I’m not sharing with you right now!” he laughs. Another plan included building a football academy in Sikkim with Bhaichung Bhutia, but they had to put those plans on hold because of the earthquake. “Bhaichung and I need to sit together and rework that. It’s something that is still on my agenda very strongly,” says the football enthusiast.
Films-wise, the last one and a half years have been great for John, both as an actor with Force, Desi Boyz, Race 2, Housefull 2 and Shootout at Wadala doing well at the box office, and as a producer with the critically-acclaimed Vicky Donor. But he also has gone through years of criticism, with people saying models can’t act. How does he look at all that now? “It’s fine.
I’ll face criticism even in the future. But Shootout at Wadala actually put a few things to rest, with people saying it’s a great performance and that John has finally come into his own, etc. I just feel that you have some good days, some bad days, some good films and some bad films.
I was a model and people will always associate me with a great body and face. For me to shrug that off, even if that’s taken a long time, it’s fine. I’m absolutely gracious about any criticism. I will put my head down and do my work,” he replies. Remind him that he’s completed a decade in Bollywood (he made his debut in 2003 with Jism), and he laughs, “I must have done something right!”