John Abraham is seen as one of the most enigmatic movie stars in the industry. One barely hears of the man unless he chooses to make himself heard. The past few years, especially after he turned producer, he has successfully managed to stay miles away from the arc lights and from the rumour mills as well. Time and again there are speculations about his personal life, something John never pays heed to. He has his priorities straightened out. John has made quite a mark as a producer daring to address subjects that most would brush under the carpet. And as an actor, he still feels at home in the action genre. In a heart-to-heart with us, he speaks about being a recluse, how being selective has paid off, being pumped by criticism and more. Excerpts:
How did Rocky Handsome happen?
I wanted to do an action film that had emotional content too and I was on the lookout for a script like that. Then from nowhere, a producer friend of mine suggested I have a look at a film, which is one of the highest grossers of all time in South Korea. I saw it and was blown away. I told my co-producer that we must do the film. He asked me who would I want as director and I said no one but Nishikant Kamat.
Nishi is my friend and more importantly I loved both his films Dombivali Fast and Mumbai Meri Jaan. We did Force together and that bettered our equation. That man is all about quality. I mean look at Drishyam. And Rocky Handsome merits a director like him who has a strong hold on emotions well. You may have the best action in the world but if it has no emotions, it holds no value and it won’t work. Period.
The original film has a lot of action. Were you ready to do the same?
I told Nishi that there’s no way I could pull it off without practice and training. I took off to Thailand where along with my action master I would practice for 14-17 hours a day and I am not exaggerating. This went on for a month. I remember every morning I would take the tuk tuk to reach the place — there I wasn’t John Abraham. I was a guy who had come from India to learn martial arts.
How gruelling was the experience?
They break you down. Every evening when I would come home and take a shower, the pain would make me scream. There was no normal skin — it was all black and blue. I often asked myself why was I doing this. But then I also knew that if I could get it right, this action would be unlike anything Indian cinema has seen before.
Did the entire experience change you as a person?
Yes. I am used to training in Taekwondo. Training can make you either extremely arrogant or it can make you extremely humble. I think my biggest quality is humility, thanks to my middle class upbringing. The training only amplified that quality, so I was blessed. I am not an expert, I am a student. Tomorrow if someone criticises me, I won’t say I will teach you a lesson. It’s not my job to teach anyone a lesson. I would think that maybe there’s some honesty in the feedback and would improve myself.
So, you remain unfazed by negative feedback?
See, I can be a star, wear dark glasses, wave out to fans, giving them flying kisses, or I can just hug my fans. I choose the latter. We have been taught to keep our feet on the ground, and I know that is the most cliché thing I am telling you. But when you take your feet off the ground, you fall harder. I have always believed that I am a struggler. When one film of mine becomes a hit, people call it a fluke and say let’s see what he does next. So if no one questions me I would feel something is wrong. I like to be brought up for inspection.
Do you think sometimes people fail see you as an actor who is more than just good looks and a great body?
Yes. But some opinions I hold dear. I remember when Aditya Chopra saw the rushes of a torture scene in New York, he told me it was an award winning performance. Every director in this country told me they loved my performance in Madras Café. But they said, ‘you have a problem, you are a recluse, you will not attend award functions, you refuse to socialise, you need to be seen but you will not scream. So the only people who will stand by you are your audience.