Having spent a year quietly grieving the loss of his father (former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh) and drawing sustenance from solitude Riteish Deshmukh is gradually bouncing back. While he understands that life is not the same for him anymore, the actor cannot treat it any differently as far as work is concerned. He has to wear make-up, laugh, cry and just go about entertaining people. “I feel that grief doesn’t change you, it is simply revealing,” says the actor as he sets to step out of hibernation to entertain the audience.
His next film, Grand Masti, an adult comedy, is in the theatres next week. But what is more exciting for the actor, who has immensely popularised this genre of comedy, is his next Marathi production Lai Bhaari. Salman Khan makes his Marathi film debut in a special appearance in this film and it comes after the widely appreciated Marathi film, Balak Palak.
Even as Riteish jets in and out of the city for promotional tours, he makes time to talk about the larger issues in his life right now.
You’ve just stepped out of hibernation. Any lessons that you learnt from this period of reflection?
Do good deeds — they last longer than a lifetime.
Did your father’s sudden death prepare you for the bigger picture, the big plunge into politics?
When it comes to politics, there’s never a certain yes or no to any situation. I have often been asked about joining politics by many people. As of now, I just want to carry on the work that my father believed in, in whatever small capacity that I can.
Do you feel that you have been typecast in adult comedy roles and therefore only such offers come your way? We haven’t really seen you aggressively exploring other kind of roles, such as in romantic or action films.
Comedy as a genre is the one that has given me maximum success and I do broadly get associated with this genre. I thoroughly enjoy comedy, especially because it is inherent to my personality. Having said that, I’ve had Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya (2012) with Genelia recently, which was a romantic film. I’ve worked with different genres and essayed different roles. Right from Naach (2004), Bluffmaster (2005), Rann (2010), Darna Zaroori Hai (2006) to Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya — I’ve pretty much worked in almost every major genre. I am doing a film that’s more serious this year. Thankfully I’m getting offers that continue to let me explore genres other than comedy.
It is the rule of life that it always tilts towards power. With your father not around anymore, do you feel a difference in people’s attitudes towards you?
I’m sure you are right when you say that everything tilts towards power, but that also depends on how one looks at power. The more obsessed you are, the more drawn you get to it. I’m glad that I have no such attraction to it. When it comes to me, thanks to the goodwill that my father, my family and I have had, I’ve always been at the receiving end of a lot of unconditional love. That is why even today I see no difference in people’s attitudes towards me, be it from the film industry or in politics. If you are sincere and true to your work you will be respected. And for me respect is power.
How well has Genelia D’Souza (who is Christian) adjusted to Maharastrian culture? Has she visited your extended family’s homes in Latur and Mumbai? What is their take on Genelia?
I must say that I am really proud of my wife. It’s not just her, but both of us have blended very well with each other’s families and extended families. We love spending time in my hometown and often keep going there. We feel blessed to be showered with love and respect every time we visit.
What’s the most important thing in your life today?
Nothing is more important to me than my family — my mother, wife, brothers and sisters-in-law, and my little nephew.
What is the usual cuisine at the Deshmukh residence? What’s your favorite food?
We make authentic Maharashtrian food at home. My mother supervises the preparation and the menu every day. She has been doing this since before I was born. I absolutely love the mutton sukka that she makes.
How is the relationship between Genelia and your mother?
Their relationship is more like that of a mother and daughter. My mother has three sons, but now she has three daughters as well.
You’ve dabbled in production and have already released a film under your banner Mumbai Film Company (MFC). What are your future plans?
For me, MFC is the realisation of a dream that I have cherished for a long time. The dream was of presenting, supporting and promoting certain kind of cinema that I believe in, regardless of what its language of communication would be. I embarked on this journey and really enjoyed it by putting my faith in a fantastic Marathi film called Balak Palak, which threw light on the importance of sex education.
Currently, I’m producing and acting in a Marathi action drama, Lai Bhaari, which is directed by Nishikant Kamat.
By next year, I am looking at producing Hindi films too. The choices of films that I make as a producer and take up as an actor are completely different. I’m truly enjoying this new phase of life.
Ever since I started working in films, I’ve always wished to do something for Marathi cinema. The great thing about this industry is that the stories are really progressive and ahead of their time. Also, their success makes you realise that our audiences are ready for a new age and interesting content. It’s quite strange that Hindi, even after being a bigger film industry, doesn’t give enough confidence to filmmakers to take such chances. But, things are changing now and for the better. For now, I’m focusing mainly on production, but I will act in films that I’m excited about. Let’s see what the future has in store.
What is the immediate requirement for the Marathi film industry?
The fact that today Marathi films have a formidable market has been proved recently by two films — Balak Palak, which did great business at the box office and Duniyadari, which has collected more than Rs 22 crore and is still running well. The industry needs four films a year with such collections to consolidate its foothold in theaters and to generate loyalty among the Marathi film-viewing audience, who prefer watching a Hindi film over a Marathi one. The Marathi industry has some of the most incredible visionaries, who are attached to various projects. Hence, the audience can be assured of great content.
Where do you see yourself ten years down the line?
Honestly, a decade is too long to plan. I look forward to the coming year in terms of acting and production. I am part of several interesting ventures. I’m putting my best foot forward to ensure that we’re able to achieve everything that we’ve planned. Eventually, only two things matter on the personal and professional front — satisfaction and happiness. And, thankfully I’ve been blessed with both. I hope I feel the same even ten years from now.
Who are your five best friends?
Genelia: She is my closest friend and strongest support system. I discuss everything with her. I really value her opinion. I would certainly be lost without her.
Karan Johar: A cup of coffee with him can go on for hours. We talk about everything under the sun.
Sajid Khan: He has an incredible capacity to make you laugh, irrespective of the mood you are in.
Ashish Choudhary: He is all heart. He will be there for you unconditionally.
Abhishek Bachchan: I feel a brotherly bond with him. I think we are similar in many ways.