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Neil: Journey from Johnny to Player

bollywood Updated: Dec 07, 2010 16:26 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya
Roshmila Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

He made a sparkling debut in

Johnny Gaddaar

and admits with a laugh that at one point he wondered if his name was Neil Nitin Mukesh or Johnny Mukesh. This Friday, he returns to the theatres with

Tera Kya Hoga Johny

, and though this Johny is 15-year-old Sikander, he points out that there’s a Johny in all of us, struggling to find his own identity.



“He’s a man without a name. Everyone of us is a Johnny for someone who’s a stranger to us,” he points out. Not him, you argue, even strangers know Neil today. And right now they are speculating about the fact that having become a star, he is unwilling to promote this long-delayed film?



“Hey, I was in Dubai earlier for a show after which, I took a couple of days off to make it a family vacation. After returning to India, I took off to Goa for 10 days to shoot for Players. The film’s been delayed, the release date came up suddenly, I’ve been busy with prior commitments, but I promised to promote it between schedules and I am doing so,” he protests.



Apparently, one of the reasons for the film’s delay was because

Tera Kya Hoga Johny

was being re-cut and re-edited to make it more commercial after a run on the festival circuit? “For me, any film that makes money is commercial and I hope this one will too,” he says. “It’s been made on a small, controlled budget and our hopes are high.”



Did his last release, Yashraj’s much-hyped

Lafangey Parinday

fell a little short of expectations? “For commercial audiences maybe, but I’m happy and proud to have been part of

Lafangey Parinday

. It earned me lot of recognition worldwide,” he asserts.



But there’s a a section that believes that the ‘chikna’ Neil was miscast in the film, even though director Pradeep Sarkar argued that looks are deceptive and Neil is really a

Lafanga

No 1. “I am,” he guffaws. “From an early age, I have been roaming around, trying to find my way through life. I was an independent little boy who could take care of himself and had big dreams. I wanted to fly, but if I suddenly sprouted wings I wonder what they would call me.

Chikna

Neil could become

Udta

Neil.”



The playful mood is probably a spillover from the

Players

sets. Though Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor and Neil were put through the grind by the director duo of Abbas and Mustan, the latter confesses that they still had a blast.



“I’m happy to be part of such a huge project.

Players

is the official remake of

The Italian Job

. The 1969 film with Michael Caine and Noel Coward is a masterpiece, but even the 2003 one with Donald Sutherland is a thriller. I hope our ‘desi’ version too makes a killing at the box-office,” he smiles.



Yes, he could do with a hit. Talk is that after a not-so-happening run at the BO, some of his deals with corporate companies have fallen through. True? “These rumours keep cropping up,” he sighs. “Earlier, it was being said that New York was not happening. It did happen. Then,

Players

was not rolling, it is. Guess, this is the price you pay for no longer being a Johnny.”

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