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Updated: June 5, 2013 16:18 IST

A road without short cuts

Sangeetha Devi Dundoo
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Neil Nitin Mukesh
AFP
Neil Nitin Mukesh

I want a hit that will quieten people who question my choices, says Neil Nitin Mukesh

Given his lineage, one would have expected Neil Nitin Mukesh to be a singer. He can sing and compose but chose to make a career out of acting. What takes people by surprise is his adeptness with painting. “I am a commercial arts graduate and like to do charcoal paintings,” says Neil. For each of his films, he sketches his looks. “I sketch different looks until I arrive at the right one,” says the actor. He sports long hair and goes from being rustic to suave in his forthcoming release, Shortcut Romeo.

He plays a Goan who moves to Mumbai, woos a married woman and looks for a quick route to the top. A remake of the 2006 Tamil sleeper hit Thiruttu Payale, the film also stars Ameesha Patel and Puja Gupta. Shortcut Romeo was promoted at the market section of Cannes film festival recently. Neil’s absence from Cannes set a few tongues wagging. He clarifies, “I was busy shooting for Dussehra, which had got delayed. Shortcut Romeo team travelled to London, Cannes and New York and it would have required me to abstain from shooting for eight days. So I stayed back.”

When Susi Ganesan approached Neil for the remake of Thiruttu Payale, Neil took his time to come on board. “I watched the film and enquired about the director. I like the way Susi kept the film real and didn’t gloss it over for the Hindi audience. It’s not a no-brainer masala flick. I’d say please exercise your grey cells,” says the actor.

The film required Neil to perform stunts without a safety harness, somewhere in the middle of Masai Mara. “We couldn’t get cranes in there. There was nothing to tie a harness to,” he narrates. The stunts took a toll, left Neil with a bad upper back and bruised shoulder blades. “It’s worth the effort. The stunts look breathtaking on screen,” he smiles. Dussehra, where he is an encounter specialist, will see Neil packing in more punch. “Action films appeal to the macho self in me,” he adds with a grin.

The going hasn’t been great for the actor. His last two releases — David and 3G — didn’t make it big at the box office. “I hope Shortcut Romeo clicks and quietens people who question my choices. No matter how well you perform, you don’t get talked about unless you deliver a hit. Critics have stood by me from Johnny Gaddaar to New York, Saat Khoon Maaf to David, and I don’t want to let them down,” he says.

After a lengthy pause, Neil says, “I belong to the bracket of Tigmanshu Dhulia and Anurag Kashyap. They did meritorious films since the beginning and have become brands unto themselves. That’s where I hope to reach.” Amen to that.

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