John Abraham: The release of Parmanu was like the Pokhran nuclear test
Bollywood actor-producer John Abraham is a happy man — his latest film, Parmanu, whose release was stuck for a long time, has finally opened to good collections and reviews. Read on to find out more about his current state of mind.Updated: May 28, 2018 15:50 IST
John Abraham’s vocabulary right now is full of positive words — “happy”, “fantastic”, “spectacular” pepper his conversation with us. No wonder, since the Bollywood actor has scored a hard-fought win: his latest film, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, which weathered a lot of difficulties on its way to the theatres, has opened to good reviews and good collections. Here’s John talking about his state of mind.
Parmanu has got a good opening at the box office. How happy are you with the figures?
Honestly, considering the fact that we were clashing with the IPL semi-final, and we had absolutely zero time to market this film, the response is fantastic. I had said this on the record, that if we come close to even a five-crore (rupees) opening on day one, as a commercial producer, that’s enough. What’s really encouraging is that the public response has been unanimously spectacular. People are clapping in the theatres, and yes, that for me is big. I made this film for India, for everybody, not a noir audience; therefore, I’m very happy that India has responded positively.
There was also the legal battle (with former backer KriArj Entertainment over payments) that you had to fight to get the film released. You must be a relaxed man now?
Yes, absolutely, we had so many instances... I’m not getting into the details, but I’m thankful to the hon’ble (Bombay) High Court for validating exactly what I’ve been going through. We had been having so many issues with the film that there was a time when people even thought ‘this film is damaged beyond repair’. The fact that it released at all is a miracle. Its release was like the (Pokhran) nuclear test.
A common point across reviews has been that you’ve made a heavy subject (from the audience’s point of view) like India’s nuclear tests into an interesting film. How tough was that?
When I started researching for Parmanu, I went to this small town called Khetolai, which is close to the Pokhran range. I asked a 65-year-old man ‘Chacha, yahaan pe nuclear bomb test huye the, aap kahaan pe the (Uncle, where were you when the nuclear test took place)?’ He said ‘Beta, main yahaan pe tha, mera deewaar phut gaya (Son, I was here, and my house wall almost exploded).’ Till today, his wall is completely cracked; he didn’t get it repaired, because he wanted to tell the story about his wall. Before I could say anything further, he said, ‘India toh ban gaya na! (But India got made!)’ And I realised that day that I don’t want to make a complex film that’ll only appeal to a few people. I wanted to tell a simple story to the whole of India, with my director Abhishek Sharma.
You donned the uniform for the first time on-screen in Paap (2003), and subsequently in Force (2011), Force 2 (2016) and Madras Café (2013). Has it become easier to slip into such intense roles? Also, does your real-life no-nonsense attitude come in handy while playing a uniformed man?
Yes, absolutely (smiles). Luckily for me, I am overly nationalistic, am an extremist. For me, India comes first, beyond anything else. I think that somewhere [that attitude] helps when I wear the uniform. Recently, a soldier told me, ‘I don’t see anybody in a uniform better than John Abraham’, and that’s a matter of pride, that you get endorsed by someone who wears it. For someone who only wears it on-screen, for him it’s wow! But whether you don a uniform or not, what has become more difficult is to create more credible content, because your audience is becoming more discerning. That’s the toughest part. But yes, the attitude does come in handy for some characters I play (smiles).
Parmanu isn’t overtly nationalistic and jingoistic in its approach. Raazi, which released recently, is also like that. Do you see a change coming in the way patriotism is portrayed in Bollywood films?
I think the fact of the matter is that I’d never make an overtly patriotic or jingoistic film. Parmanu, for me, was a thriller about Indians trying to do something in 30 days. Patriotism is a byproduct of what I do; the intent wasn’t to make a patriotic film. When you walk out of the theatre, you should say ‘Wow! This happened, I am proud to be an Indian.’ That’s what I’m aiming for.
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