Friday, February 27, 2009

‘I don’t care what the world thinks of Aashayein’

John Abraham speaks to Sandhya Iyer about his image post Dostana, his new film NewYork and why he still stands by the much-delayed Aashayein

John Abraham has two things at the moment that is keeping him busy and excited.
The first one is his participation with UTV’s latest youth movement called Ungli Utao Bindaas, that aims to encourage youth to vote in the forthcoming elections. The UTV Bindass movement also plans to take issues like global warming and corruption to the youth and initiate a change.
So what prompted him to take up the above cause? “Two reasons,” he shoots. “One is because of my long association with UTV. I was very honoured when Ronnie Screwvala approached me for this drive. Also, I believe I have a strong connect with the youth. I come from a middle-class family and somewhere they see a connection,” he says.

But while it is important to vote, does he believe we have the kind of political candidates whom we’d like to see leading out country? “That’s an important question. What is interesting is that through their website, UTV is recommending some names of candidates after checking on their credentials. So you at least won’t have people with criminal background and so on,” he says. On whether the drive will also encourage youngsters to be part of the change by joining politics, he says, “Er…we’d like to take one step at a time. So the initiative this time around is to get as many youngsters to vote.”

Somewhere John’s eagerness to attach himself to a worthy cause is reflected in his choice of films and filmmakers as well, where in spite of his career never really being exactly secure, he has supported directors like Anurag Kashyap and Nagesh Kukunoor. He didn’t resent the backlash that came to him after No Smoking and instead backed Kashyap. Today, the director has vindicated himself with Dev D, how does that feel, “I have always taken chances, even when the need to take them was not perceived at all. After Dev D, I’m in a ‘I told you so…’ phase. Now I have people who tell me that they saw No Smoking and it wasn’t bad at all. There’s renewed interest for the film and all I tell them is “I told you so’,” he says.
There was recently talk about Anurag and him coming together for another film called Bombay Velvet. “Anurag and I will work with each till the last day of our lives. Bombay Velvet is a very exciting film…it’s still in the planning stages though,” he informs us.

His last film, Dostana where he flaunted his oh-so-sexy body had the nation swooning over his looks. While the film reiterated the fact that John is indeed one of the country’s hottest man, it did nothing for him as the actor. In fact, his pin-up boy image seems to be working against him in some ways. Ask him this and he accedes, “You know, when Karan offered me Dostana, I asked him precisely this. I said, ‘People already think of me in a certain way and this is only going to reinforce that perception’ That’s when Karan said, ‘But cinema is all about body and face. Acting is a visual medium. Looks are always going to come in your way, so use it to your advantage and gradually you can take on stronger roles and make a mark as an actor’ So I’m not going to fight my pin-up boy image and honestly, I don’t have a problem with it,” he says.

He takes the opportunity to emphasis another point about male looks. “I think it’s great that women are noticing how good or bad men are looking. For ages now, we’ve had the men who make statements like ‘Oh, she doesn’t look perfect.’ These standards of looks are forever applied to the women. What about the men? It’s time the women expected more from them too,” he says.
Men are not going to like him too much for saying this… “The advantage I think I have is that I connect with the men as much as I do with the women. Unlike regular male models who bring in a
certain arrogance to the screen with a ‘you can’t look like me, so just watch’ attitude, I have always appeared like a normal guy. So I think most men, let’s say 99 per cent of the men relate to me,” he says. We agree!
Turning to his films, what are his hopes from his next, Aashayein? “I can tell you about my next release, New York, which is a very strong film. It’s a film I believe in, just like I did with Taxi No 9211, No Smoking, Water and Kabul Express. This is arguably my best performance and it has me, Neil (Nitin Mukesh) Katrina (Kaif) and Irrfan –the ultimate star,” he tells us.

But what’s happening to Nagesh Kukunoor’s Aashayein? The film landed in court, when Anil Ambani’s Reliance Big Pictures --- who had paid producers Precept an advance for the film’s rights --- alleged that the story-line was changed mid-way. But recently, there was news of the film being cleared by the court but John’s response hardly sounds positive. “You know, about Aashayein, Nagesh just yesterday smsed me as said, ‘I’m going all over the film again and it is beautiful’ No matter what the world thinks about Aashayein, I stand by Nagesh,” he says, clearly hinting that things are not looking too good for the film even now.
This seems to be one of John’s qualities, that of standing by his friends in their hour of need. “I believe it’s easy to stand by successful people, it’s more difficult to stand by those who are talented and not that successful. By principle, I always stand by people once I put my faith in them,” he says.