“I saw Neil Nitin Mukesh! And I’m in love!” The exact words of a friend who attended the recent IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) Awards recently held in Macau. The young star has very quickly gained himself a fan club amongst young girls who love his shy-guy personality and adorable smile. Additionally, to his benefit, he has also been accredited with the competent actor tag too. After watching him play the greedy lad in Johnny Gaddar and then the materialistic photographer in Aa Dekhen Zara, Neil takes on another avatar Kabir Khan’s next Gen-X offering, New York. The actor is back after being bitten by the travel bug and after New York has Madhur Bandarkar’s Jail in the basket. Check out our exclusive interview with Neil as he spills the beans on New York, Katrina Kaif, John Abraham and his Dus Ka Dum extravaganza.
First and foremost, how was the IIFA experience?
IIFA was awesome! We had a really good time. It’s a great platform and it was an honor to have showcased Jail for the first time out there. So it was great.
I had a lot of family and friends who went, and needless to say, they were raving about you.
How sweet! Yeah it was a great time. I had a blast.
But you’ve been awfully busy lately, shooting nonstop. How has the busy life been?
It’s nice but overwhelming too. I’m finally now going to take some time off to figure out what to do next. But it will only be after New York and Jail release since I am going to be a little tied up with their releases. But yeah, it’s been good. New York is complete and so is Jail. Both are nice films to be associated with. So it’s a proud moment. And my family is proud right now.
So we’re talking about New York. Tell us about the story and your character.
In New York I play a character called Omar. Omar is a boy from Delhi who comes to New York to study and makes these two new friends, Sameer and Maya, played by John [Abraham] and Katrina [Kaif] respectively. And how life is just perfect for them and an incident happens which changes their lives completely and changes them as people completely. So that is what New York is all about and by now, most people have figured out the film is based on the background of 9-11. It’s an intense film but it’s also shot really well. It’s got its moments; it’s got life and I don’t know why but I have a feeling that if this film is understood by the youth, it might just become a cult film. Kabir is a superb director! I was skeptical of working with him.
That was my next question. What was your experience with Kabir Khan?
Great director! Superb. I don’t think anyone else deserves credit for New York besides Kabir Khan. Like I was saying, I was a little skeptical about doing the film because of the subject initially and because it’s on 9-11 and I was wondering how he would handle it. But after seeing Kabul Express, I knew that this man would not only do justice to it, but take it to another level; which he has. I’m extremely proud to be a part of this film thanks to Kabir.
And you’ve hit the right note because 9-11 is an extremely delicate subject matter. So how hard or easy was it to get into the right mode for the setting and also for the characters?
Luckily, Kabir had set it in a way that it was very interesting to portray a character. Up until now, I’ve only worked in films that are hero-centric. I like them to have a certain amount of levels and shades to them. I think Omar has been the most beautiful journey until now after Johnny and Aa Dekhen Zara and now New York. What a character! By the grace of God, I’m blessed to have gotten such a role at such an early stage of my career. It’s a difficult character to play onscreen because somehow you don’t want to identify but you have to put yourself in that position. Similarly in Jail, you don’t want to see yourself going through that ever in your life unfortunately. You don’t want to do something that puts you behind that situation but I had to play a character who has committed an offense and has been put behind bars. In the same context it’s the same, they are all character based films which I like doing. They are slightly larger than life and they connect with the people. New York will definitely connect with people.
How true to real life do you feel are the characters and the story of the film?
You will not believe this but when I first read the subject was when I went mad over it. It had so much of a connect as a reader. I read a lot so as a reader, I was completely sucked into it and I didn’t want to stop reading. And I read it one night almost four times back to back. And I had decided there and then that I couldn’t miss out on doing a film like this. It is going to connect with one and all in more than one way. Some may connect to its love story, some might connect to its turmoil, some may connect to its youthfulness; there are many things that they will connect to but they will connect to it.
How was it working with Katrina, John and Irrfan?
Brilliant people! John and Katrina are my dearest friends in the industry. Bipasha, John and Katrina are beautiful people. They are really great human beings to begin with; self made people, very hard-working. Katrina is a great friend of mine. John is like an elder brother. It was a brilliant experience. We had a blast shooting this film. And I don’t know how three and a half months just passed by. Towards the end of a schedule I always get a little anxious thinking what’s going to happen next, when, how and this needs to be getting done with, fast, fast, fast! But this is one film where I wanted it to go damn slow (laughs). I didn’t want it to come to an end. I was enjoying a lot on the sets.
John is definitely a competitive contemporary. Was there any competitiveness on the sets or was it really chilled out?
No!!! Like I mentioned, John is like an elder brother and he treats me in the same way. So there wasn’t even one bit of competition at all. We both were there to compliment each other and I think we’ve that in a really nice way in the film. You’ll come to know when you watch it. The chemistry is very strong in the film and that’s because off screen we are such good friends.
The promos definitely show it. But coming back to the film, it has many prejudice ideas and stereotypes based on the topic. Do you think that is a hard issue to deal with or maybe too serious for the Indian public?
No, I don’t think so. It’s drama and we are used to drama. It’s not like we haven’t shown drama before. The film is definitely full of drama and we definitely love drama. And drama in a reality space is wow! Just perfect.
What are your thoughts on the music of the film?
I think the music is extraordinary. I think Pritam’s song ‘Hai Junoon’ is one of his best songs that I have ever heard. And there is one song ‘Tune Jo Na Kaha’. It’s a slow track but when it comes in the film, it’s bound to make people cry. What a song!
I agree, it’s very youthful. A lot of insiders who have seen New York are praising it nonstop and are claiming that it is going to be the Rock On!! of the year.
I hope it is! It’s a great film.
The ‘Hai Junoon Remix’ shows all of you having a ball! Was it really that much fun on the sets as well?
(Laughs) It was even better on the sets! What has been shot is when we were in a controlled atmosphere. But when we weren’t controlled, we were just going mad.
How was your experience on Dus Ka Dum with Salman Khan?
Rocking experience. I can’t tell you I’ve always been such a fan of his. And I think I’ve become a bigger fan now ever since I was on the show. He’s such a darling. He’s a great man. We had a blast on the sets! We enjoyed so much.
So what’s coming up for you in the next few months then?
Well there is Jail now after New York. And then I’ll be doing a film with Abbas-Mastan and Ken Ghosh and hoping that people like my work and I’m waiting to sign some nice films.
Back in the recording studio sometime soon?
I have actually sung, or rather hummed, a couple of lines of my grandfather’s song in New York. It’s a great moment in the film and there’s a song of my grandfathers, ‘Zindagi Khwab Hain’. So I’ve just hummed a couple of lines of his song in this film as well.
Lastly, message for your fans.
Please pray for me and I hope I do good work to keep you all happy and keep a smile on your face.
And there you have it folks; it is evident why the young girls flock to him as do the directors. New York, according to Neil looks like it’s headed towards Blockbuster Ville and you’d be silly to miss it. In the meantime, BollySpice wishes Neil the best in his upcoming ventures.
New York releases on June 26th, catch it at a cinema near you!