There is more to John Abraham than just a rippling body, says Anuj Kumar
If performance were counted as the sum of body parts, John Abraham would have snared many acting awards but one can’t deny the fact that over the years the actor has managed to create a space for himself in the industry. Critics might want him to put his facial muscles in operation but often they fail to appreciate that his visual appeal has spurred a craze for fitness in aging actors. In Delhi to promote the sequel of Race (Race 2), he takes credit for putting an end to the longstanding debate that models can’t act. “Nobody talks about it anymore. The topic has become outdated in the media. Now my director Shoojit Sircar says every young man carries a bit of John Abraham in him.”
However, he is quick to clarify that though cinema is a visual medium, it is driven by mind. “One should know how to put the body in use. You see John Abraham is saying this,” he chuckles. “Paan Singh Tomar was about an athlete but the director didn’t highlight the actor’s body. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is again going to be about an athlete and the promos suggest that the body will play a role here. Both approaches are right as long as you can convince the audience.”
Coming from a marketing background, John says he learnt early that good marketing can make only a good product look better. “You can’t sell a bad product beyond a couple of days.” Last year, he turned producer with Vicky Donor and earned praise for backing a film which many refused to support. “Even the studio didn’t back it till the end but I was sure that the story has got everything to engage the audience. Now they want a sequel. In a press conference, I even gave the break-up of how the film is going to perform at the box office in the first few weeks and I was proved right.”
After Jism, John admits he tried to break free from the image of a hunk but it didn’t work for him. So he turned a new leaf with Force, where his body does all the talking. “It is a conscious effort. There is space for a young action hero in the industry and I believe I can fill it. I am a fan of Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger…raw, hard but believable action like Rambo.” For Race 2 he took basic training in Mixed Martial Arts from Vietnamese experts. “With my kind of body it is difficult to find body doubles. So I have to do most of my stunts myself,” he expects a nod from his secretary sitting at a distance.
John is now working with Shoojit on Madras Café which was earlier titled ‘Jaffna’ and was delayed because John felt Vicky Donor should be made first. “Madras Cafe is set around the civil war in Sri Lanka but is much more than just the issue. We didn’t have the rights for Jaffna as title. We believe the title Madras Café will work better with youngsters.”
2013 is going to be a big year for John for he will be seen in Sanjay Gupta’s Shootout At Wadala, which is based on the encounter of gangster Manya Surve. The role looks promising but once again the focus seems to be on his body. For a period film, is it not out of place? “I agree and the film has just one sequence without the shirt but it is so powerful that any marketing guy would like to use it to promote the film. Imagine the cut-out hanging from the bus…it is going to make a huge impact. But we are not glorifying the gangster. He is going to bite the bullet,” says John, adding that he doesn’t want to overdo the revealing act and that’s why he refused to take off his shirt during the press conference of the film. The promos show Manya making a Hindu gang in the Mumbai underworld and taking on Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar and his elder brother. Isn’t it a recipe for controversy? “The film is based on a chapter of S. Hussain Zaidi’s book Dongri To Dubai and it shows that Manya’s right hand man was a Muslim. There is no communal angle to it,” John clarifies.
At a time when Bollywood actors used to parry questions on married life, John Abraham openly talked about his love life. But these days he has stitched his lips. Maturity? “Men can never mature.” Finding in the reporter a quizzical look, he quickly adds, “Ask any of your family members. In fact my next film I Me Aur Main deals with it.”
Was it a marketing strategy for now he has lot more to talk about his career? John denies the charge. “It is just a different phase of my life where I am fervently guarding my privacy.”
For an actor who is under constant gaze for his looks it must have been difficult to retain equanimity. “Very early in the career I realised I have to work for John Abraham, the brand. Once you are able to separate the two you can lead a normal life,” says he while feeding a big chunk of protein bar to John Abraham, the brand.