Just before we broach the interview with John Abraham, the cool dude chimes in to have a word about his official website. “My site has 2,50,000 page views! That’s pretty nice eh?” So you’re net savvy and all? “Oh ya, totally!”
And then we finally move on for the Q&A, the first query being his current short haircut (even M.S. Doni is aping John these days), which he has been sporting since he started shooting for Goal… but before we can complete our sentence, John shoots, “Does it work?”
Grrrr… makes me wonder… have we swapped our roles today? Well now it’s my time to strike a goal!
Excerpts from an interview with the actor:
Any apprehensions that Goal comes after a film like No Smoking?
No Smoking is a film I am very proud of. Unfortunately, Anurag Kashyap does not have clout in the media to support his film, unlike a lot of big film makers. Those who actually saw the film told me the last 15 minutes the film is very confusing. Agreed, but it’s intelligent cinema.
Unfortunately, the producer thought commercial, the director thought festival and I thought it bridged the gap between both. But I was wrong. People didn’t accept it. They should realize we released few prints and it was a niche film. The way Anurag was weighed down by criticism was very unfair. I personally think he is a genius and I will always stand by him.
Anyway, what are the kinds of films that are working? Are they brilliant? I believe they aren’t. No Smoking may not be brilliant too, but it is as good or as bad as those films.
I gained a lot of respectability after No Smoking. People came up and tell me that I had the guts and conviction to do a film like No Smoking. I may have not gained commercial success out of this film but I have definitely earned respect from my kith and my kin. My directors tell me that it takes a lot of courage to stand in every frame and carry a film on your shoulder. Tell me which commercial actor would do this?
But with so many bad reports about the film, the perception floating is that John’s films don’t do well. Does that influence you or your forthcoming films?
When I went to
The audience segregates in their mind what they want to see of John and what not. They liked Dhoom and Garam Masala more than Zinda. The audience is very forgiving; they like your good films and forget about your bad films. It is the media that has a strange power of retainership.
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Okay, so what happens when a film like Goal comes after a film like Chak De!
They are completely different films. They were conceptualized at about the same time, but Goal is releasing much later now. I always hoped and wished that Chak De would do well because it is a beautiful and honest film. I believe Goal has its own space, it is a completely different film, they had hockey there, we have football here, women’s national team there and here it is a bunch of over-the-hill-oldies trying to play the game. The only common point in both is sports.
In Goal, football is a backdrop. Goal is about victory, emotions, self respect about your colour (racism). Because the film is about football, I wish, I hope and I am kind of confident that a lot of youngsters are going to enjoy this film. It is a very unpretentious, nonlinear and simple film with no twist. Youngsters are going to watch it their parents and grand parents, I just want to give them an in-stadium experience.
So had there been any tie ups with any popular football clubs?
We were close to tying up with Manchester United but the deal fell through because of some brand clash. (Manchester United is sponsored by Nike and Goal is sponsored by Reebok). They did give us a lot of footage from their games. Manchester United has never allowed any shooting in their Old Trafford ground but we shot in their ground, locker room and museum which in sacred.
I must tell you this; in 1958 the Manchester United was flying and the plane crashed where eight of their players died. Sir Bobby Charlton was one of the players who survived, so the museum talks about each of these players and when you go in there you actually get goose bums.
In the film Tony (Boman Irani) has a dialogue which goes like ‘you players are talking about not having a ground, Manchester United did not have a team and they won the championship and came’.
As per you, does your pairing with Bipasha add to the commercial viability of the film?
Commercially it will make a difference. There is not only Bipasha, but also Arshad and Boman. But if people are expecting a romantic film between me and Bipasha, then Goal isn’t one. Thought there is a sweet romantic angle between us, Goal is a more fun film, it is more about celebration of football and the triumph of brown over white.
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Post Dhoom you haven’t delivered an impact-full commercial film. What went wrong? Don’t you think you should be experimenting much at this stage of your career?
In fact this is a question that has asked to me, ‘John you are at the prime of your commercial films and you are experimenting and doing cinema that puts you one step back?’ I believe that as an actor you have to be true to your profession and what you believe in.
After Dhoom, I had Garam Masala which was universally a bigger hit than Dhoom. Also, Taxi No 9211 was well respected and liked, Zinda was an average plus film. I do commercial films also, but I do films that I believe in. Like, I am doing a romantic comedy with Karan Johar because I believe in it and not because I want commercial success out of it. When I heard that script it was really very funny and I started laughing so I felt that if I laugh, even the audience will do so.
You also did films like Baabul, Kaabul Express, Salaam-Eâ€“Ishq, Water and No Smoking, off which some faired ok while others didn’tâ€¦.
(Interrupts) I did films like Baabul and Salaam E Ishq for their commercial appeal. Babul did brilliantly in the UK, Kaabul Express did well in Mumbai, No Smoking did well nowhere, Salaam E Ishq did well in US, so what I am trying to say is that, I do not do films for a certain market, I do them because I think the audience as a whole has a common thread of emotions and I am still looking for that. Why do you think Yash Raj’s films succeed? It’s because they have simple emotions in their films.
I am in the space where I am failing more than I a succeeding, but I am also being super ambitious where if it clicks it reeeally clicks and will change the genre of cinema. I thought that with No Smoking and it failed. I accepted it.
Does the potential box office success of a film make you give a nod or not?
Honestly, when you pick up a script you also think if a film will work or not. In Goal, I felt like clapping while reading the script so I thought the audience may also clap when they watch the film. I thought it will work, I could be wrong, but I really think it will work.
When I say it will work, I want it to work with the people because if it works with them, then it is a commercial success. A lot of actors have a certain amount of popularity which doesn’t commensurate with their success, like Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan. The audience loves them at a different level and I think that is popularity. I think I am liked by a small audience and I just wish that the small audience grows a little more and I really believe in it.
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Lately, many actors are merging with new brands for endorsements, why are you missing from the league?
I sing brands that are a perfect fit. I am the ambassador for ESPN for football till EURO 2008. I am wearing my J (John Abraham) stitched Wrangler jeans.
I was offered all the blessed underwear brands with crazy amount of money and I asked them ‘What do I look like, that all the underwear brands come to me?’ They said ‘You look like an underwear model’. Internationally this is a big compliment. It means wow. All the other big actors are signing underwear brands but I do not want to do it for any amount of money.
I will do brands that I can relate to, like a motorcycle brand, oil brand Castrol, Hungama Channel for Kids which has John Aur Kaun part two happening now, Fast Track Eyewear, Clinic All Clear is on. I am also the face for Mumbai Marathon.
Deals?I have been offered all of them, but I do not want to. Is it important to have a tag in the papers saying you have been signed for a multi crore deal? I don’t think so. It is important to deliver the goods. Right now I am still trying to do so. I don’t deserve anything right now. I am just trying to be honest with my work, take one film at a time. Why commit and get stuck? Suppose your price soars after that?