His first film, Johnny Gaddaar (2007), won Neil Nitin Mukesh critical acclaim. As a result, he got to work with film-makers like Madhur Bhandarkar and Kabir Khan early in his career. However, despite being part of films like Lafangey Parindey (2010), Players (2012) and David (2013), the actor didn’t make as much news. Now, after making his south debut in an AR Murugadoss-directed Tamil film, Neil talks about increasing competition in Bollywood, joining Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cleanliness campaign and more.
We don’t see you in as many films these days. Why?
I’ve done almost 20 films in seven years. How much more can I do? I like to take things slow. Now, I’m working on Sooraj Barjatya’s film, which is time-consuming. I also did a south film in between.
What prompted you to sign a Tamil film?
I was getting a lot of offers from the south, but nothing was worth taking up. Then, Murugadoss sir offered me the negative lead. I was bowled over by the script.
Lately, there has been an influx of newcomers in Bollywood. Do you see them as competition?
There are several new actors, so everyone has to step up their game now. Initially, we just had a few big stars, but there are so many options now. I like Ranveer Singh from the younger lot. He’s an entertainer and has amazing energy. But I don’t think any of the newcomers’ debut films made me sit up and take notice. They were interesting projects, but they were safe movies. My debut was the most ‘hatke’ (different).
You were recently seen sweeping the streets in Karjat with Salman Khan.
Salman is supporting PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. It was sweet of him to ask me and the crew of their film to join him. We cleaned the lane from the main road to ND Studio. It took us about six hours, but it was time well-spent.