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Politics can wait, says Riteish

Two of his movies, Cash and Heyy Babyy, are on the way. Riteish Deshmukh speaks to Deepa Gahlot about his forthcoming films, politics and comedy.
None | By Deepa Gahlot, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 24, 2007 07:32 PM IST

Politics can wait. He specialises in deadpan humour. The 28-year-old son of Maharashtra's chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is a graduate in architecture.. but currently he's sticking to building movie castles in the air.

Whenever there's a threesome comedy, chances are that Riteish Deshmukh will be one of gag boys. In a deserted-at-daytime Bandra pub, he's into a photo-shoot.

An underling deposits two tiny cups of tea, he doesn't touch his cup.. tea is not his poison. He moves the heavy photography paraphernalia to sit and gab:

How come you look like a skinny teenager off screen?
I've had a break for the last few days, so I haven't been working out.

You mean you've lost weight without working out?
I think myself thin. I sleep and think I will wake up two kilos lighter and it happens. You could make a fortune teaching people how to do that! Ah no, it works only for me.

Do you think you have been getting better as an actor?
You can only get better.. or more complacent. When you start with a blank slate, like I did, you try to do better every time you do a scene. Later, I might say, "Oh god, why did I do that?" but that happens to all of us.

So which films made you go "Oh god"?
(Thinks) Maybe Masti, Kya Kool Hain Hum.. I was aware of the double meaning lines, but you know..

Your friends made fun of those films?
No no, my friends had seen films like American Pie, they were okay with it. You know how popular naughty jokes are, they are always forwarded on sms. My friends didn't have a problem with that, my parents did. I'm not saying I won't do it again.. if I like the story and it feels right, I might.

You seem to be specialising in the funny stuff.. what's your take on today's comedies?
Very few have a great story.. they are just gags put together to make people laugh, they just don't have the framework to hold the humour. But I loved both the Munnabhais and Hera Pheri.. and I think Maalamaal Weekly was great.. it had a context.

It was set in a village, so there were no plasmas and iPods, you know what I mean? No unnecessary gloss. Unfortunately everyone equates comedies with fun.. period. But there are so many aspects to comedy.. slapstick, physical comedy, farce, black or dark humour, a sex comedy.. we don't make a distinction between the various sub-genres.

I think Dil Chahta Hai was very funny, smartly done, it had a cool urban humour, it had the kind of language we use in our drawing rooms. See, comedies have to work on their own terms, you can't compare them with Rang de Basanti. Still, quite a few of our comedies are nonsense.

But you must be blitzed with offers to do comedy.
Yeah, when producers want a young man with a funny bone, they say,"Get Ritiesh." At least they think of me, right? But Anubhav Sinha also thought of me for his action movie Cash and Sujoy Ghosh thought of me for Alladin which is not a comedy. I have even been offered a romantic film.. so I'm happy with what I get.

Haven't our romantic films run out of ideas?
They have SO run out of ideas! All the permutations and combinations have been exhausted after the last 50 years. But there's a gradual change come in, with more openness to western ideas and ideologies, the audience is now receptive to change. So in romantic films too, the situations have to be new, the conflicts have to be new.

No more rich dads throwing blank cheques at their daughters' poor lover boys. (Laughs) No way. Today's parents are cool. Plus they have to accept confront the fact that their daughter or son might answer back, "Dad just back off."

What's your relationship with your dad like?

I have immense respect for him, yet there is a sense of friendliness. Still, there are certain things you don't discuss with your dad, with my brothers I can talk of anything.

Is that because of who your dad is?

No, I don't think that's the key. Since I was a kid, I have seen people respect him. I've heard him making speeches and people giving him garlands. I always knew he was someone special. For me, he was a hero, because of him I also got respect.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be like him, to do what he did. It's only when you grow up that you realise what all goes into becoming what he is.

You've never wanted to get into politics?
I understand politics.. I enjoy it. But right now, I'm glad I am an actor.

Being an actor may make you a more popular politician in the future..right?
At least I know what goes into politics. There are very few actor-politicians who do. Some jump into it and think they will learn on the job, some make mistakes, some try.. well, at least they try. They say actors retire into's said that when they are at the age of 50-60 their stardom fades and they get into politics.. so I don't have to think about this now.

You trained as an architect.. what do you have to say about the visual mess Mumbai is now…
It's unfortunate, that we don't care about our heritage. South Bombay has some of the best buildings in the world.. the old brownstone British buildings, the art deco on Marine Drive.

After the 1950s, we started building wherever there was space. The administration is to be blamed, there should have been stricter rules.

Old buildings are being torn down, the skyline is going for a toss, the mall culture is taking over. The city is spreading like a virus.. but I guess that's the price to be paid for progress.

If you were to design a building now, what would it be like?
Definitely modern, because good architecture always reflects the times.. and yet it is timeless.

To come back to your films, what's next after these two releases?
There's Dhamaal. And there's no vulgarity in it. That's hard to believe. (Laughs) It's true, not a single vulgar line.

Do you mind not getting any solo films?
Today all the important films have two-three heroes. That's the way it works. There are no more character actors, stars play all the characters..whether comic or negative.

I won't do solo films just for the heck of it. I have to be prepared. Like Apna Sapna Money Money revolved around me, though there were other stars in it.

And you did a rather good drag act in it.. Most actors overdo the drag act, and caricature women.
I was careful to do the part so that I looked like a real woman, even it meant shaping my eyebrows and waxing my arms.. I kept my arms covered, because men have more muscular arms. We don't have the make-up talent that Eddie Murphy has, or it would have been even better.

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