Following the press conference of Vicky Donor at Eros Entertainment in London, Bollyspice managed to grab ten minutes with John Abraham. After having spoken at length about his new production company, his role as a producer and his first presentation Vicky Donor to a captive audience, it was time to kick back and have a chilled out chat with John. We wanted to find out for his fans and followers a little bit more about what he has been up to and what he in store for us all. We were greeted by a laid back John who casually kick started with: “Let’s just have a conversation, I’ve spoken so much about the film already…” And with that laid back spirit we got to speak to John the film buff and sports enthusiast, rather than simply John the actor or producer.
What was really interesting about the press conference is typically the press will ask about the production and making of a film, but in this instance they were all asking you about the issues around sperm donation. So it is almost like you have done the job before your film comes out?
Exactly! I am so happy that you have identified that because when I decided to do this project it was always about the issue and people identifying with it and talking about it. I felt that once the debates start then my job of marketing this film has been taken care of.
Could you tell us a bit more about the films you like to make…do you see perhaps a Goal 2 or something similar?
I would have loved to have done a Goal 2 two or three years ago, but now I think we have passed that stage now. Unless I get a great script on football, I do not think I will attempt it, because football is sacred to me and really do not want to mess with that.
I am very proud of Goal because what I wanted at the end of the day, and this is with a lot of films that I have done, is for those films to be on the DVD shelves of kids way after the film has been released. For example, with Dhoom I knew motorcycling was something which kids would like, so whether there is a Dhoom one, two, three or four, the film that is always going to be on that kid’s shelf is the original one because that was about motorcycling. If we talk about football it is always going to be Goal. Kids still come and show me scenes where I have done stunts with the ball or the games which we have played in Goaland that makes me feel good.
Films like No Smoking are for the ‘passion for cinema’ kind of audience, they take that film for a Bible and say “Wow! What a film this is” and similarly Water, which is went to the Academy Awards. I try and make a statement with those films but at the end of the day a lot of them go unnoticed. So when you become a producer you hope you can give these sorts of films a platform, not necessarily by acting in them but at least by producing them.
I remember this scene in your film New York where you played American football and obviously sport is massive in America, as are Bollywood films, so any plans for an American sports based movie?
I would love to! But in America you play baseball, but call it the ‘World Series’ when it is only played there! Or you play American football – but it doesn’t go beyond America and as much as I loved Brad Pitt’s Moneyball, it would not really work for us. If I could do a film that had the essence of sport, but talks about say the relationship between a father and his child, or a man and his woman, then I would get into that space.
But I must tell you this, that yes I want to do a sports based film and may do a film hopefully on boxing. That is something that I want to attempt. You know that boxer from here (Bolton, England) whose name is Aamir Khan, I would love to meet him.
A film like The Warrior was beautiful and if you see it, in every essence it was like a Hindi film! I would never borrow a film, but I would love to do a film on boxing and I think there is a space for a Rocky in India. I want my audience to cheer and stand up when they see that fight, so as a boxer you have to look at boxing. Where physicality is concerned I think I am ready to get into that space, but of course it is going to take time to identify a great script.
You sound like you watch quite a few films, Moneyball and The Warrior are both very recent, when do you get the chance?
Honestly, I get a chance on flights. For Moneyball and The Warrior I was in Los Angeles at the end of January and I saw a lot of films then, including War Horse, which I was a little disappointed with, but I enjoyed watching a lot of other films there. The one actor that blew my mind was Meryl Streep in the Iron Lady, I think she is the best actor in the world by light years. Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep! She’s just outstanding.
What is the one film that you have seen which you wish you had made?
Very good question. I need some help here because I’ve seen so many films.
Okay then what kinds of films did you see and wish could make them?
Films like George Clooney’s Syrianaor Oliver Stone’s JFK. That is the space I would like to attempt and I am doing a film which I mentioned earlier called Jaffna, which is a political thriller and again that is a statement I want to make, it is something I want to talk about. I want to do it in the capacity of an actor and a producer.
So will we be seeing more of John the producer, or John the actor in the future?
A great question. I think this year it is a fifty-fifty ratio and next year it will be a seventy-five and twenty-five ratio, where I am going to be producing more and acting less.
So what about John Abraham the director, any plans to direct?
At this point of time direction is probably about three or four years away, maybe more, I don’t know. What kind of film I don’t know right now either. Today I would say probably a film on boxing, but tomorrow maybe I would direct a rom com! All I can say is I am not ready to direct right now, but yes I want to soon.
Any plans to make a film in England?
I would love to! I would love to set base in London and operate out of London, because firstly financially you get the grants here! Plus beside that London has been very conducive to filmmaking and has a great culture. But I honestly believe that if a place is not a character in a film then do not use it and right now the films that I am doing like Shootout at Wadala is based on a true gangster who was from Bombay, so equally some great films based in Bombay too.
With our time up, we felt that we could have easily spent the entire day talking cinema and sport with John, both interesting and inspiring. Like many of his contemporaries and peers John Abraham too has taken up production, but with John it is clear that his focus is on producing good content and scripts. John wants to make films which are commercial but based around issues rather than films based around star power. He hopes to give us some good and entertaining cinema and we wish him all the best with Vicky Donor and in his future endeavours.
Finally in his classic laid back and approachable manner, as I left the room he parted with: “Make sure you say ‘hi’ to Jahan for me” (Towsif Jahan, a semi-professional football player in the U.K, played one of the Southall Football Club team members alongside John in Goal and a young guy from London I happen to know) That sums up John in a nutshell: down-to-earth and ever-so-friendly…
Vicky Donor releases worldwide on Friday 20th April.