SERIOUS FUN: (From left) John Abraham, Arshad Warsi and Pulkit Samrat in Pagalpanti
by ASJAD NAZIR
ACTION HERO JOHN ABRAHAM REVEALS HOW HE FOUND THE FUNNY AGAIN WITH HIS FILM PAGALPANTI
ACTION man John Abraham is trading in beating up bad guys for a laughter attack in this week’s Bollywood release Pagalpanti.
He heads an impressive star cast in the high-profile comedy about three unlucky men who get into trouble after a get-rich-quick scheme tangles them up with gangsters.
This is the second time the actor has teamed up with director Anees Bazmee after their 2015 film Welcome Back with another slapstick entertainer, which has been predominantly shot in the UK.
The star cast also includes Anil Kapoor, Ileana D’Cruz, Arshad Warsi, Pulkit Samrat and Kriti Kharbanda.
Eastern Eye caught up with John Abraham to talk about Pagalpanti, comedy and his future plans.
You have immersed yourself in action in recent years, what made you reconnect with comedy again? Well, on a personal front, I just needed a break from all the intense films I was doing like Madras Café, Parmanu, Batla House, Romeo Akbar Walter. I needed to let my hair down and just be easy, laugh and feel good. I have been a big fan of Anees Bazmee and worked with him before in Welcome Back, so when he offered me a film, I said yes. When he was narrating the film to me, I was laughing and thought if I am laughing my audience will too. That is the reason I did Pagalpanti.
What is more difficult? Doing the big stunts and beating up a load of bad guys or making people laugh? Making people laugh, Asjad. There is a lot of method in the madness that goes into making a comedy. It is all about the timing, writing and how you project the lines. You can cheat with action, but someone like me doesn’t cheat with action. Comedy is an art. It is the toughest genre to direct and perform, but the easiest for people to lap up. Like action, it is the most difficult genre to critique. Many may not take comedy seriously, but for me, as an actor, I take it seriously. Comedy is serious business.
Tell us about your character in Pagalpanti? My name in the film is Raj Kishore. I don’t have a surname. I have two names, Raj and Kishore. My character has got seven years of bad luck. It’s about how everything goes wrong when anyone associates with him. That includes my two friends, gang members and how things go totally wrong. They spiral down and that’s what this madcap ride is about.
How much does it help when good actors surround you like they have in Pagalpanti? That is fantastic. Anil Kapoor said something so rightly – that in his career, when he was coming up, he always made sure he surrounded himself with really strong actors to buffer him. He said it is important the cast around you is strong. In my case, I have Anil Kapoor, Arshad Warsi, Pulkit Samrat, Ileana D’Cruz, Saurabh Shukla and so many more. I have fantastic people around me and think that only helps you as an actor.
When you are feeding off such good actors, it does make all the difference. What is your favourite moment in the film? There are so many great moments, but you will really laugh in the scene where we enter the hospital. That hospital moment is really funny. There is a scene in a truck that is really funny. There are so many cute, nice fun moments in the film.
Anees Bazmee is a specialist when it comes to comedy, but what is he like to work with as a director? I have been a fan of Anees Bazmee for the longest time and always wanted to work with him, and did that with Welcome Back. I needed an opportunity to work with him again. I think as far as comedy goes, it is all about the writing, and Anees is the best writer we have in this genre in the industry by light years. There is no one who can come close to him. He is outstanding.
What do you most like about him? The beauty about Anees Bazmee is that he makes family entertainers. This is a film you can take your six-year-old niece or 96-year-old grandmother to and not be embarrassed about sitting with them. There is no double meaning or bad language in this film and no bloodshed. Even the villain is cute. So everything is fun and easy, I think rarely do we make a film, including myself, for children. I think Pagalpanti is a film that will reach out to family audiences.
You have shot loads of films in UK, but how do you handle the unpredictable weather? We shot most of the film in Leeds and some of it in London. The rest of the film was shot in Mumbai. There were certain scenes where it was minus four degrees, and we nearly died because it was so biting cold. I always enjoy shooting in the UK.
What do you do in the UK when you are not shooting for a film? The UK is a great place because I get to ride my motorcycle. The last time I was there, I went to Brands Hatch and rode on the track there. I love my riding time on the track. It is really enjoyable and the only time I can go at 300 plus kilometres an hour, feel good about life and myself. And be at one with my motorcycle.
What kind of comedies do you like watching? If you honestly give me an option, then my own films. I would take my family to watch a comedy film and, definitely, an Anees Bazmee film because I know my entire family can watch it. Anees Bazmee films are really funny.
Is there a comedy actor you admire? I think in today’s day and age, Akshay (Kumar). I love Akshay. His comic timing is absolutely fantastic. He is lovely. I’m talking about a hero who does comic scenes really well.
Who is the funniest person you know? The funniest person I know in real life is my mother. She changes everyone’s names, forgets things and not to forget she is a Parsi.
You have been unpredictable, what can we expect next from you? People say that we see you in a cop uniform all the time, so in my next film, I play a gangster. The film after that will be about motorcycle racing. I am also doing Satyamev Jayate part 2. So there are some fun films coming up.
I keep asking you this, but when will you go to Hollywood? I have been offered stuff in the past, but have never really spoken about it. I would rather do a film that centres on me or a role that is substantially good that it convinces me to do it. But I have not tried too hard to get into the mainstream of Hollywood. I am content with acting in films here and producing films here. I would love to do a film that crosses all boundaries and borders; that everyone can see!
Today what inspires you, is it the desire to do good work? Actually, that is bang on! You have answered the question. It is just the desire to do good work. It is not about the money or the fame. It is a different John Abraham today. I am like a beggar, I beg for appreciation and the minute I get it, I hold that appreciation in my palm, I close my fist and put it in my pocket. With each film I am trying to improve my craft. With Batla House, I tried to do exactly that, and it was so heartening to see the response of the audience.
So is that the plan? I think with each film it is important that you keep improving yourself. As a producer, I want to set a benchmark, making different films. Vicky Donor, my first production was a clutter breaker. Madras Café was also a clutter breaker at that point of time. I want my next five productions to be clutter breakers.