Even after 13 years in Bollywood, John Abraham says he likes making “everything a struggle” for himself. As his new film, Dishoom, becomes a hit, he talks about constructive criticism, and more.
You often say that hits and flops don’t bother you...
I have always been like this. My most nervous moment, or the time when I think the hardest is when I sign a film, not when it releases. I am quite nonchalant about success and failure. At the same time, I am grateful to the audience for accepting me in Dishoom. But the fact is that you have to move on. You can’t rest on your laurels. I have had enough hits and flops to know this.
What drives you professionally?
Bettering and pushing myself to the limit, looking for that special role and script, and trying to make a difference as an actor and as a producer. Also, what drives me is constructive criticism. But there is a difference between constructive criticism and hitting someone below the belt. I see a lot of dimwits — top film reviewers — who have come to me for work. But when they don’t get that opportunity, they trash you. So, I don’t bother about what they say, since the media otherwise has been supportive and appreciative.
You have done several two-hero movies. Are you more into films with ‘bromance’ than romance?
I just get along well with my male co-stars, which is a rarity in Bollywood. It is not that I don’t get along as well with female actors. I love them, and they are fantastic. Most of the female actors I have worked with have fantastic work ethics, and for me, that’s most important. It is just that I am comfortable around men. I am one of those guys who probably played football with boys, but also hung out with girls on the fence.
You have been part of B-Town for 13 years. Has it been a satisfying journey?
I am never satisfied. People ask me, “What are you crying about? You’re successful, you have a football team, a production house, own the best cars and bikes, and also have a great family.” But I make everything a struggle for myself, and also convince others that it is. I believe that the beauty of life is in its struggles. For me, the chase is better than the acquisition. Do I look back and see what I have done? I do, and I think I have delivered some fantastic performances that have been largely overlooked. Now when people look back, they say, “That was brilliant,” and I am like, “Why didn’t you say it then?” There is always a burden around my neck — my overpowering physicality. So, I have to keep proving myself. But I am not complaining. Life is going to be a struggle, but it is fun.
You’re slotted as an action star.
Honestly, action comes naturally to me. I have always said, ‘Action is all about your attitude.’ It’s not about how hard you hit, but how hard you get hit. But my favourite genre will always be comedy. I love to see people smile.
Is it frustrating when your action-hero image gets all the attention even after you have done so many strong roles?
I am beyond that now. After New York (2009) and Madras Cafe (2013), people looked up and said, “Wow, this guy has done something. He might have more to offer.” These are notable performances. But it is okay. If I am being called an action hero, then others are dance heroes. It’s as simple as that.
You said you will always be an outsider in Bollywood.
I am proud to be part of the film fraternity. But when I say outsider, I mean it in terms of my habits and behaviour. I am the most social person in the world, but I don’t socialise. I get along with everybody. My closest friends are people who are industry kids —Abhishek Bachchan, Rohit Dhawan, Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor. I love Tiger Shroff and Sooraj Pancholi; they are sweet kids. But does that mean I have to hang out with them 24X7? No. I do my own thing. Look at my Instagram pictures. Everybody follows film stars; I follow motorcycles. I don’t follow anything that is remotely normal. I am always going to be an outsider in my philosophy.
So, can you be called a ‘misfit’ in the typical B-Town scenario?
If being a misfit means not loving yourself, not having five bodyguards or a crew of 18 people travelling with you, or not making unnecessary demands, then I am a misfit. I drive my own car to the sets. I don’t waste time on my face or body when I am on the sets. In my 13 years, I have not been late on a single day because I respect a producer’s time and money. I don’t know if I am a misfit, but I do things differently.
Will Dostana get a sequel?
Karan Johar (film-maker) is the right person to answer this question, but I don’t think it will happen. I think homosexuality, as a subject, has been overdone. If I make that film today, no one’s going to laugh or find it funny. If you see Dostana today, you may find it dated. There are some films that should be left untouched. Making sequels is a good commercial decision, but we can’t make a sequel to everything.
How is married life treating you?
My married life has been great, but I am probably the most difficult person to deal with. Anybody who can deal with me is a superhero, and I think Priya is fantastic when it comes to dealing with me (laughs).
(Transcribed by Nikita Deb)