Actor Neil Nitin Mukesh tells Harshikaa Udasi that his mantra in life is simple — Keep doing what you believe in and the money will follow

Doing something different is the need of the hour, says Neil Nitin Mukesh. The talented actor has been constantly making efforts to play one unique character after another in all his movies. Right from his first Sriram Raghavan’s Johny Gaddar to Madhur Bhandarkar’s Jail to Bejoy Nambiar’s David, Neil has won accolades for his acting skills. However, the box office bull’s eye has eluded him. “I am out there to do something different. If I keep doing mundane things, what do I get as an actor? When you do something different from the formulaic, success takes its time to come. My mantra is simple: Keep doing what you believe in and the money will follow. Having said that, I think a good commercial entertainer is the need of the hour in my life to silence some people,” he says with a straight face.

Neil’s upcoming film is Susi Ganesan’s Shortcut Romeo (June 21), a remake of the award-winning director’s 2006 hit, Thiruttu Payale. Neil plays Suraj aka Romeo who learns that taking the short route to big bucks doesn’t always end happily. “Initially, I was wary of doing a remake of a southern film and when Susi met me I thought we should give the original protagonist a different streak. Jeevan’s character in the original was all grey. I wanted Suraj to be fun and relaxed, yet strong and intelligent. He’s almost like a split personality in the film. He’ll laugh one moment, and bash up someone the next. He’s extremely unpredictable and hence cannot be rehearsed. The challenge for me was to come unrehearsed to the sets yet make every act look natural,” he says.

About director Susi, Neil says, “I admire how Susi envelops you in the journey of Romeo. Also it is commendable how his script is layered. He doesn’t lose focus. Romeo goes through various stages in life — he is poor, then aspires to be rich and then super-rich. Susi took care of every aspect of his character, the settings and the tone of the film during each of these phases.”

Money, not the deciding factor

Neil almost doesn’t belong to ‘Bollywood’. His films speak a different language, he says that it isn’t money but freshness of character that makes him work and, believe it or not, he apologises if he ever uses an expletive! “It might sound uncool to some people, but it’s a family thing. The way we have been brought up. I can’t use the F word unless pushed to the wall. If I get into a verbal fight with anyone, it has to be me who resolves the matter. It might sound unbelievable but even today if I am out partying I have to ask my parents’ permission. Also, money is a big factor but not the deciding one. My struggle is how to convince myself every morning when I wake up that I am treading the right path. There is no need to sign on a mindless flick that might get me in the Rs. 100-crore club but kill my essence as an actor,” he explains.

Shortcut Romeo is my answer to people who have scoffed at me and my choices. It’s a commercial entertainer but not a brainless one,” he smiles.