‘Formula films don’t work for me’

Says John Abraham as he talks about his character in ‘Shootout At Wadala’ and choice of films

When John Abraham burst into the small screen with ripped body and dimpled cheeks in ‘Jism’, the critics were quick to put him under ‘models can’t act’ slot. The film grabbed a lot of eyeballs for its erotic content and audience approved of his chocolaty looks. After a string of flops, his role in Yash Raj’s Dhoom set him in the league of A-list actors and proved that he was here to stay. After 11 years in the industry, he is gearing up for a life-changing performance as Manya Surve in Sanjay Gupta’s ‘Shootout At Wadala’. In a candid chat, John talks about his character and why formula love stories don’t work for him.

Excerpts from the interview:

What were challenges involved in playing a real life character? Did you battle self doubt?
It was a challenge but I took it up. What helped me is the research for the character. Where he came from, his background. We spoke to the police officers, relatives and to Isaque Bagwaan, who was responsible for his encounter. Moreover, I relied on my director’s instructions completely.

In terms of fleshing out Manya’s character -- his nuances, his eccentricities -- how much of it is actually down to the script and how much was your improvisation?
I am a director’s actor and I am as good or as bad as my director is. This is a career defining role for me. We’d done a lot of research on Manya Surve from a photograph we were given by the cops. Manya Surve was a Mumbai Shri - a professional body builder, so I had to match up to his body type.

Pics: Drab to Dashing: John's makeover

Whenever we take up incidents from real life and make a film, we end up to some extent, glorifying the person and painting a larger than life image. Is Shootout At Wadala any different?
We haven’t resorted to glorifying him because at the end of the day, he was a dreaded gangster. There is no heroism in crime and we have been honest and stuck to the facts. It was a challenge to show 1970s Bombay, so we shot in areas in South Bombay where time has just stopped.

Have you ever been unsure when you're on the set? What's your level of confidence versus insecurity and doubt?
Everyday. When I came into the industry, I was not sure if I will make it. Even after all these years, I am unsure on the first day of the shoot. You can be never sure about what will work with the audience.But I have learnt and grown as an actor with every film and I am happy and grateful that my audience has stood by me through these years.

What are your learnings as an actor?
I have experimented a lot with the kind of films I do. If you look back at the kind of filmography I have, you will see that I have experimented with my characters and my looks. But entertainment media needs to appreciate this though I feel actors should start reading reviews to understand where he needs to improve.

So do you read reviews?
If you are a public figure, there is bound to be criticism but I use the negatives positively to make myself more superior, better and stronger. I basically read their point of view. Have you heard about bravery on net? There are no faces which is why they deem it right to write anything. I find this extremely laughable. I think barring a few journalists, the entertainment media is in crisis today. Earlier journalists reported stories, now they create stories. It is in bad taste.

When you look back at your past films, do you ever think of changing something?
I think maximum growth has been as an individual. I have matured, settled down mentally. As an actor the growth has been tremendous too. Though I am happy with the films I have done, I have realized that I should stay away from formula films. Those have never worked for me and I am not made for them. I should stick to films like Force or Dostana or characters which have some amount of grey in it.