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John Abraham
 
 
 

No actor can stomach flops and John Abraham is no exception. Especially not when that actor has had five in a row!
Kabul Express, Babul, Salam-e-Ishq, No Smoking and now the much hyped Goal none of them lit any bonfires with the paying public. When you meet him, you expect to see disappointment writ large on his face, but it isn’t. (Is he perhaps a better actor than you though he was?)

I think 2007 was great, John Cheerfully announces. I got to work in two very diverse films, No Smoking and Goal. Goal did quite well, so I am satisfied with the performance of the film at the box-office. Meanwhile, there is a whole lot in store in 2008.
He continues, I have been in the film industry for only four years and I think I have made a place for myself here. I admire and look up to actors who have sustained themselves for 10-15 years, successfully too. I am still new and I am at a stage in my professional life where I would rather experiment with my films than not have a shot at them.
Does he ever feel that since he has a hot and humungous fan following, he should stick to what he knows best instead of risking a flop?

He replies swiftly, unfortunately, it’s not the audience who remembers your flops but the media that never lets it go.

   
 

Now that he has tried his hand at experimentation, has he settled down into a comfort zone?
He is firm to the point of obduracy. I don’t want to discover my niche area. I want to continue doing everything available to me. What comes naturally to me is action, I admit. Unfortunately, apart from Dhoom no one has ever offered me an action film. Filmmakers tell me I have the body, but still all they make me do is cry!
The dude has a flair for the comic, a quality that can help tide over failure. And there is a sense of conviction too.
Much criticism may have been leveled at John and at No Smoking, but the star is proud of the film despite its abysmal show at the box-office and the thumbs down from film critics. It was a non conventional film, which is how I like my films to be. It was a bit unfair to the film. No Smoking’s collections at the box-office weren’t good because neither Anurag Kashyap nor I have the ability to promote and get those extra couple of stars in reviews. Unfortunately, Anurag does not have a big camp in the industry, which is why people reacted harshly to the film after reading the reviews. The producers thought the film would be a commercial film, whereas the director knew it was meant for festivals. No Smoking is an intelligent film and I am proud of it. The worst thing is that when a film fails, everybody gets alienated from the person associated with it. I don’t understand this, as I feel Anurag is a genius look at his body of work! I will always stand by him. The criticism for No Smoking was unwarranted. According to me it was a good project.

   
 

No Smoking was a mind game more than a film. It belongs to a completely different segment of filmmaking. Though the film didn’t work, I have earned respect from my peers of sure. Many directors told me it looks a lot of courage to do such a film at this juncture.
He has evidently dissected his flops and attempted to check out the cause for their non acceptance at the B-O. My last two films were unusual in their own way, feels John. But then I haven’t done safe films most of the time. I don’t mind romancing the girl and dancing around trees but I would rather root for the trees as I am doing in my role as an environmentalist in Deepa Mehta’s Luna. But my current favourite filmmaker is Anurag Kashyap who made No Smoking. I greatly admire Anurag’s filmmaking, which is why I want to work with directors like Anurag and Sriram Raghavan who don’t stick to the beaten path. They always try something different. If you claim I am not working with the so called famous names then I would say I am working with some of the most talented people in the entertainment industry that’s my thrill. I am an outsider and have learnt from my own choices.

John can even see the silver lining in his clouds of failure. One good thing that has come out of this is that in future, audiences will not be surprised if I do something different, in fact they will expect a certain kind of unpredictability in my roles.

To get to Goal, most people felt it was a poor photocopy of Shah Rukh Khan’s Chak De! India. The film got a flop tag and bad reviews. But John won’t accept that it bombed. I agree the film got mixed reviews, but it fared well at multiplexes. I saw the film in Delhi on the day of the release along with the audience in a 400 seat multiplex. They all enjoyed it. I have received praise for my performance. What else do I need? He asks.
He is unstoppable when he talks about his favourite sport football. This football enthusiast keeps track of all the big league games.
I still remember when I used to play football at the Mumbai district level, I would travel by train to get to my matches. After a point, I realized where was no money in the game. So I gave up. I sat for my CET exams and did a course in business management. But football has always been my passion. It is sad that today, except for Baichung Bhutia, people don’t know the name of any other football player in India, he laments.
It wasn’t all fun and games while shooting for Goal. John has his share of bruises and pain too. I think Goal was the most physically challenging film I have ever done. Apart from the cold and long, grueling hours of shooting football scenes, there were injuries to handle too. I suffered many aches and pains during the making of the film. The schedule of two and a half months was tough, so I had to wear shin splints as many footballers do, still I sustained a small tear in the shin muscles for which I tried acupuncture. Andy, the physiotherapist working with the Waterford football club in UK, helped me a lot. I lost track of the number of times I got hurt. Once while trying a scissors kick I fell on my back on the freezing cold ground.
Did he have to train a lot for the film, or, as he is physically fit, did he have enough stamina? I thought I was very fit and fine, and that running around for one-and-a-half hours wouldn’t be a big deal. But that was a big misconception! He smiles. Because when we started shooting I realized the game demanded high fitness levels and loads of stamina. An average footballer runs about 12 Kms a day, which is no mean feat, as he has to keep up his energy and stamina during the game.
John’s well-known love for sports, especially football, led to an offer for a tie-up with ESPN Star Sports to become the face of football in India till Euro Cup 2008. John says, I have always loved riding a bike and playing football. And if I can influence even one person to take up the sport I would be happy.
He and Bipasha were costarring on screen after years (Goal), but the film thudded to oblivion. After the setback, does he intend to do more films with Bipasha in the future?
Unlike Jism’s sexy romance, Goal has a sweet romance shown between us, which was nice. As for future films very rarely do we like the same script, so it has to be something special!
In the last few months he has been scrutinized from all corners his relationship with girlfriend Bipasha Basu, his linkups, his equation with other costars and even his performances how does he handle the negative comments? And what is Bipasha’s reaction to all the controversies surrounding them?
She handles it well but she is a little more blunt than me. I believe people will talk irrespective of the facts. And if I am being talked about, it means I must be doing something right and that I am happening he dimples. I don’t have any misconceptions about me being the biggest or the greatest star in the world. I know I still have a lot to learn and I have learnt to accept everything with grace. I believe in doing my job to the best of my ability and not bothering about anything being said or written, otherwise how do your go on? I don’t come in anyone’s way because there is space for more actors in our industry.
To get back to his career and the choices he makes, does he consciously choose socially relevant or intelligent films? I do films that the audiences will like, films that have interesting scripts. And more than being a socially relevant film, what I like doing is a complete, all out entertainer. Errr, if that’s at odds with choices like No Smoking, we’ll let that pass!
Up next is Nagesh Kukunoor’s Aashayein for which he lost 12 kilos and became a recluse like the character in the film. Elahe (the producer) and Nagesh (the director) were very worried about my condition. They told me to just act that I didn’t need to go through the process in reality. But I wanted it that way and it helped me emote. I channelized all my problems into the role. Personally and physically, those two months were really tough and I hope it reflects in the film too. That was the time his relationship with Bipasha had hit a nadir before they kissed and made up.
John will soon start his new batch of films. I will start shooting Sriram Raghavan’s intense love story soon and Karan Johar’s fun, naughty, romantic comedy with Abhishek Bachachan and Priyanka Chopra. Then there’s Deepa Mehta’s film Luna with Rachel Weisz and her Exclusion: Kamagata Maru in 2009.
John has also okayed a script with Anurag Kashyap despite the flopping of No Smoking. It’s a retro film set in the 70s but no about the film industry. It’s proper mainstream cinema. I don’t choose directors according to the results of their last film but for the script and the role they have for me. I worked with Milan Luthria in Taxi No.9211, Sanjay Gupta in Zinda and now Anurag too. I would have had no work if directors looked at me and thought of my last film before casting me, as my last few films have not worked, he mentions seriously.
John has also signed scriptwriter-turned-filmmaker Rumi Jaffery’s next, a romantic comedy with Kareena Kapoor. It marks the end of a long feud after John’s girlfriend Bipasha and Kareena’s catfight on the set of Ajnabee in 2001 which got compounded when john offended Kareena by choosing Rani Mukherjee over her in a pool on Koffee with Karan. It got nastier when Kareena called him expressionless on the same show. John retaliated with silence but outspoken Bipasha had a dig at Bebo by saying she had too many expressions. Now that the dust has settled, John has agreed to do the film in principle, but dates have to be worked out. I like the script, which is why I have okayed it. I don’t have any problems with anyone else.
Unlike many other stars, John isn’t inclined towards the trend of film package deals. I don’t want to be talked about in the media in terms of multi crores. I feel it is important to deliver, which is what I want to do. I am trying to be honest with my work, I am taking it slow and steady.
Which means, like the tortoise, he’ll swim ashore and ultimately win the race!


 
 
 
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