Neil Nitin Mukesh on his musical legacy, movie magic and the mysterious miss in his life.. Nikhil Taneja listens.
A day before the release of your second movie, what’s the song playing on your mind?
(Smiles) I’m singing the Hanuman Chalisa.. praying to God that all goes well on Friday!
I thought it would be the title track of Aa Dekhen Zaara.. the first song you’ve sung for a film. It must have been a proud moment for the family when you recorded it.
(Laughs) It was terrifying! Here I was, Mukeshji’s grandson and Nitin Mukesh’s son, singing a song composed by the legendary R D Burman who had also sung the song with Kishore Kumar. Even dad was nervous till he heard the final cut. Much as I may try, I can’t get away from my legacy. Music is in my blood.
Last year, there was no Neil.. this year there will be lots of Neil.
Last year, Neil disappeared because he was busy shooting for what you will see on screen this year. I have four movies coming up: Aa Dekhen Zara, New York, Tera Kya Hoga Johnny and Jail.
Aa Dekhen Zara is your first ‘hero’ film.
(Grins) Yeah, Johnny Gaddaar was a negative character but it was positive for me.
Were you attracted to dark, edgy cinema while growing up?
(Chuckles) I grew up on Raj Kapoor’s films. I’ve seen them at least a 100 times. I’d pester my grandmother to let me watch one of Raj uncle’s films before I would go to sleep because my grandfather had sung for them. I loved those love stories.
So why didn’t you start with one?
I didn’t want to get too comfortable. I wanted to work my way up.. spring a few surprises.
But it couldn’t have been easy as a debutant to connect with a darker side?
I try to connect with the audience. There’s this beautiful saying that my diction teacher had put up on his wall: Let me hear you, and not your voice.
Your next four films are thrillers too. You seem fascinated with the genre?
Hey, it’s not as if I don’t like prem kahanis. (Smiles) I’m a 27-year-old guy and my heart skips a beat when I’m in love. And I’m doing one now. It’s a simple story directed by Ken Ghosh. Love stories shouldn’t be complicated.
You smile a lot.
I completely identify with the line.. A smile’s a curved line that makes everything straight. I love to see a smile on everyone’s face. So many problems can be solved with that smile.
How’s Neil when he’s in love?
(Chuckles) I love pampering those I love.. be it my girlfriend, mom, dad, my sister or her two kids. I give a lot in a relationship, not
materialistically, but emotionally.
On screen, I may be running around killing five people and jumping off nine floors, but off screen, I’m a baby at heart. I play the piano and compose songs. I’m a painter and I create my own art. I’m a photographer and love taking pictures. (Smiles) Every artiste has a heart that calls for love.
I’m told you were always clicking pictures on the sets of New York?
The camera is the only medium which captures time. I jumped from nine floors in Aa Dekhen Zara.
It was the scariest experience of my life! I don’t think I can do it again. After every floor, I would see the face of a loved one.
Twenty years down, when I boast about it to my kids, they’d dismiss it as “all lies.” But I have proof! I think it’s the camera which attracted me to films.. and then ADZ.
Didn’t your love for photography blossom after ADZ?
I’ve always been camera savvy but after doing the film, photography has become a passion. Now I’m never without my camera. I was clicking a flower once, and I had to zoom in and capture every little detail. The pollen dust.. the little bug feasting on it. It was magical!
The camera has captured your chemistry with Bipasha Basu.. the promos are sizzling.
(Smiles) We are good friends away from the studios, I guess, that’s why were so comfortable with each other on camera.
It’s said that you are quite a ladies man.. yet you’ve stayed away from the gossip columns.
After pack-up, I like to go back home and spend time with the family. I maintain dignity in my professional relationships. This is my bread and butter and I’m not going to play around with it.
There’s a special someone in your life, right? Yet, not too much is known about this girl who’s not from the industry.
Yes, there’s someone I like. I’m waiting for her to reciprocate. When that happens, I can talk about it. For me love is a
And I’m hoping for something more substantial.. more concrete. Let’s hope there will be something which is forever. But till then, I don’t want to put anybody in an embarrassing situation.
You come across as a polite professional. Yet there’ve been reports of you acting pricey? You apparently even refused a Nagesh Kukunoor film?
(Laughs) Where did that come from? I am a one-man army. I don’t have an office and a 100 people working for me. I handle all my work myself. So, let me put this on record, I haven’t been offered a film by Nagesh Kukunoor. I would be really excited if he had come to me because I’m a huge fan of his work.
And I’m not arrogant. I’m much too grounded for that. I respect my father a great deal. He once told me, “Go out there and work hard. But don’t go out there and work hard for money.”
I may not be rich but it’s a high when a kid comes running up to me on the road and asks for an autograph. It’s so sweet!
Let’s end this interview on a musical note. If you could sing one of your grandfather’s songs, which one would you single out?
Definitely Ek din bik jayega maati ke mol, jag mein reh jayenge pyare tere bol. It was the first song I sang on stage with my dad when I was just a kid. Another favourite is the Mere Naam Joker chartbuster, Jeena yahan, marna yahan iske siva jaana kahan.