He has always been looked upon as one of Bollywood’s most well-mannered actors. But John Abraham, surprisingly, admits he hasn’t been “the greatest son” to his mother, Firoza Irani.
Answering a question (on whether he took inspiration from his mother for his upcoming film, I Me Aur Main), the actor said, “No, not my mom. I’ve not been the greatest son to my mom. We fight and argue all the time. But Zarinaji (Zarina Wahab, who plays his mother in the film) treated me like a son, so she was a superb mother.”
Ask John if he would call himself a good boy, and he says: “I would want to believe that I’m a good son, but I think I fall short. I feel because of this profession, you become a people pleaser. You’re always trying to create an impression everywhere you go. If I stop and be myself, I think that will make me a better person. When I start a family, I hope I have daughters because they are cute, sweet and sit so quietly. A boy would be running all over the place, banging the TV.... Girls are more shaant (quiet).”
Tell us something about your new film I, Me Aur Main.
It’s a must-watch for women. They will identify with the film because of the men in their life. It isn’t a rom-com; it’s a slice-of-life film. I wouldn’t be apologetic to say I made it for a niche audience. I was very clear about who the target audience is; if my studio or producers think otherwise, then they are sadly mistaken.
Is every man a bit like your character in the film?
I’m sure every man, including me, is probably vain and loves looking at the mirror. Men love talking about themselves and they measure their own worth by the amount of money they earn. In the process, they stop listening to their women. It’s always about their problems, like ‘You know what happened to me at work?’ And the women would say, ‘Even I exist. Why aren’t you listening to me?’ I’m not saying all men are bad, but men take more time in the bathroom these days — 90 per cent are like that.
How have women shaped your life?
You gather more experience with every relationship you have been in. Not necessarily with a girlfriend, but also the people you associate yourself with. In the film, there’s a scene where I try to kiss Prachi’s (Desai) character, and she says, just because I’m your friend doesn’t mean, I’m going to sleep with you... Most Indian men, culturally, cannot approach women because we are scared of rejection. So we sit in one corner and say, ‘Kya dikhti hai, yaar!'
Your new film is starkly different from your last two — Force (2011) and Race 2.
It’s tough. You have placed yourself into the minds of the audience in a certain way. I spoke to distributors and exhibitors, who said, ‘Aap comedy karo, accha lagta hai (Do comedy films, you do it well). Do a Housefull 2 (2012) or Desi Boyz (2011). We love your action films as well.’ So this now is a complete departure. If I, Me Aur Main is not accepted by a big audience, I’m okay with that. The idea is to make a smart film. Someone asked me what a R100 crore film (Housefull 2 and Race 2) means to me. I said it means a lot. But doing a good film means more.
As a producer, you seem to favour content over stars.
If you don’t have stars, you believe in content. Others will think, get this star, get this actor. You know that’s happening on one end. But I’m trying to stick to the way we launched Ayushmann (Khurrana) and Yami (Gautam). We’re launching three more newcomers in a film called Banana; we are launching two others after that and producing another film with Ayushmann. The idea is to get new people in and have fun.
Vicky Donor (2012) picked up quite a few awards, but you were not around to collect them.
I didn’t deserve anything. I think Ayushmann, Juhi (Chaturvedi, writer) and Shoojit (Sircar, director) deserved it. I’m happy taking a back seat. Vicky Donor was one film. We need to make three-four such films and be consistent for people to say I’m good enough. As a producer, I want to marry commerce with content. That brings respectability. I’m not saying it as a disrespect to fun films; people loved Housefull. Just draw a balance.
What is your personal life like?
The way I lead my life is pretty similar to how you guys lead yours. I used to board the 8.57 am fast train from Andheri to Churchgate. So I never dissociate myself from people. I am still a media planner in my head. I still believe that my salary will be cut if I’m late. My salary used to be Rs 13,800, and Rs 500 would be cut if I was 15 minutes late.
Given your love for bikes, why weren’t you at Goa’s biker fest?
I was supposed to be there, but I was not in town. Abroad, I go for the moto GPs, the bike races, because I get a chance to ride a motorcycle on the track and that’s the only place I can go at 305-310 kmph. Those babies go really fast!
Four-five years back, when people asked about your personal life, about Bipasha (Basu), you used to get guarded. Do you handle it better now?
Yes, I’m more settled now in my mind and in my life. I have also heard it so often that I have become desensitised to it. I am at a good space in my mind. I am happy.
Are you more open about your life now because Priya (Runchal) is not part of the industry?
I am slightly more open now. Time is the best healer and the past has gone by. I also think that, being a producer, now people take me more seriously. For example, till Housefull 2, I used to be standing in the mall throwing CDs to promote the film. Then I wondered why we are doing this. Have we gone mad? Standing in a mall and throwing CDs? With 15 people throwing CDs, it’s like a battle going on. With Vicky Donor, I said I don’t want to promote films like that. I will not follow the herd mentality.