Bollywood star John Abraham talks about his new release, Madras Cafe, out in UK cinemas this Friday, 23rd August.
Madras Café is your second movie as a producer. What are your thoughts on it?
My first offbeat comedy Vicky Donor got a good national and international success. Post this, I decided to do something more serious and choose a subject which is inspired by real life. After a lot of brainstorming we came up with the idea of creating a political thriller and that’s what we have done. I am quite happy with our work. Now just eagerly waiting for its release and to see how the audience reacts to it.
Vicky Donor gave you real success after a long time. Does it make you more confident about Madras Cafe?
I was quite overwhelmed with the responses we got for this movie. It was a transforming experience producing this movie. We all have been like a close knit team and worked very hard for it. This success makes me more humble and grounded.
Tell us more about Madras Café?
Madras Café is close to my heart. It is a tense political thriller against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan civil war of the 1980’s. July 2013 marked the 30 year anniversary of the conflict, which finally ended in 2009 with the military defeat of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Madras Café provides a timely reminder of the gruesome conflict that claimed thousands of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim lives and left millions of people displaced and desolate. The war’s impact was felt across the world with both Eastern and Western nations involved in the negotiations for a resolution.
What is your role in the film besides being the producer?
I play the role of Captain Vikram Singh, a successful Para Military Officer recruited by the R&AW’s (India’s external security agency) Indian head Robin Dutt (RD) – with the mandate to execute certain covert intelligence operations in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, and conduct peaceful provincial council elections.
We also see Nargis Fakhri in the film. What is her role?
Nargis plays a bold role in this movie. She is a journalist named ‘Jaya’. Vikram and Jaya together go about finding the truth amongst a complex web of lies and deceit, and begin telling the world their incredible story.
It is said that your look in the movie is inspired by Tom Hank’s look in Cast Away. Please comment.
Deciding on my look for the movie was quite challenging. It took lot of brain storming and we finalised this messy look, which apparently you think is inspired by Tom, but actually it’s not.
John as an actor and John as a producer. What’s your calling?
I was interested in an advertising career before modeling. So now, as a producer, I am exploring that potential of mine and I love it, though it is a huge responsibility. As an actor, I am very much engaged in the acting part as well. The critical point is the belief in the script which, of course, I have. It is quite close to my heart.
The kind of role that you are playing in Madras Café is quite different than what you have played in your other movies. How do you think it’s different?
I have done a few commercial films before (Jism, Dhoom, Force etc.), showing off my body. That was fun. But this role demands a more serious side of me with a touch of realism to it. The role required me to have a normal and lean body rather than a muscular one.
We heard that you approached Freida Pinto for the role first, before taking Nargis onboard?
Yes, we did approach Pinto for the role. She loved the script but unfortunately she couldn’t accept the offer as she was doing another film at that juncture.
Do you think Madras Café could face controversy?
I don’t think so. This story is thoroughly researched from authentic sources. It cannot hurt the sentiments of Sri Lanka or Tamil Nadu, or in fact of anyone who sees the film. It is surely inspired by true events but it doesn’t mean it should be banned or face controversies.
Did the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa secretly finance Madras Café?
This is a false statement. Viacom 18 is the official producer of Madras Café.
Will Madras Café be released internationally?
We do plan to release the movie internationally, especially in Sri Lanka , to let the locals know that the movie is not anti Sri Lanka or anti Tamil.