So the best thing to do is keep the budgets tight to recover costs while making a film, suggests Neil Nitin Mukesh who plays the lead in the Hindi version of David

Neil Nitin Mukesh has had a quiet last year. Besides Players, which didn’t fare well at the box office, the actor had no other releases. But he is more than making up for it this year. Beginning with Bejoy Nambiar’s David, Neil has Sheershak Anand and Shantanu Chibber’s 3G coming on March 15 and Susi Ganesan’s Shortcut Romeo on April 5. He is also working on three other films — Prema Wadhwan’s Ishqeria, Sam Khan’s Rum Pum Posssh and Manish Vatsalya’s Dussehra. “I think my strategy should pay off,” he says. Asked what that is, he replies, “I have been working all through last year, aiming at not just huge budget films because they can’t promise a hit. I have seen small budget films tasting success and big-budget ones sinking. (His debut Johny Gaddar was a sleeper hit, while Players, a high-glitz extravaganza, failed). I have just one business request for all my filmmakers — whether big or small, keep the budgets tight enough to recover costs. We are ultimately working here to make money for everyone, right from the grassroots.”

He is a focussed actor, no doubt, and his first release this year, David, has him play one of the three Davids in the film. “For me, this is a solo film. I had no hang-ups about signing this part. In fact, much before Bejoy spoke to me about doing the film, I kept reading in the papers that I was doing it. Then I even read that the shoot had already commenced and while the reports still kept flowing in, Bejoy didn’t contact me! So finally I did and he asked me time for narration. I didn’t even read the script, he gave me a five-minute narration and I was in it. He showed me clips of what he had shot and my first reaction was ‘What colours!’ Then he told me that my entire part would be shot in black and white! That got me more excited. How many actors of this day get to act in a B/W movie,” he exclaims. It was Neil’s refusal to do Shaitan (Bejoy’s previous film) that had kept the filmmaker from approaching him again, says Neil, adding, “After I saw Shaitan, I had almost kicked myself for not having made the time to do it.” Ask him about other actors having refused his part earlier, and he says, “I never asked Bejoy about this. I believe that every film has its own destiny and finds its own actors. It came to me.”

Neil plays an underworld gangster from 1975 in London. He is the adopted son of Ghani, the kingpin of the underworld. “Besides being a gangster story, it is a beautiful romantic drama too. The most challenging bit about playing David was that at one moment he is an intense and cold-blooded man, the very next he is bowing down in his lady love’s presence.”

The actor is all praise for his director. “He is sort of in the league of Sriram Raghavan (director of Johny Gaddar), especially if we speak about the storytelling. He is very intelligent, stylish and his execution has that certain edginess to it. But it’s the storytelling that scores above all. What distinguishes Bejoy from the others is he tends to get out of his comfort zone and tries out something different every single time. That goes for his actors too then. We gelled especially well as I understand the technicalities of filmmaking having been an assistant director, an editor, a writer and a photographer too.” Neil reiterates that he enjoyed working on David, notwithstanding working almost 24x7 for 30 days with a few hours of sleep-wash-eat time in Ooty and Belfast!