A ‘Super’ Comeback

A superhero film is every actor’s dream. Is that the reason you said ‘yes’ to the film?
Absolutely! For any actor, playing a superhero is the fulfillment of a childhood dream. Every actor, at some point in their childhood, has watched films like Superman and Spiderman and, after they have come back home, they have worn their underpants over their trousers and pretended to play superheroes with their brothers or cousins. (Laughs)

So when the director Nikhil (Mahajan) and the producer Shurud (Godbole) approached me with the script of Baji, I was pleasantly surprised that they saw me in the role of a superhero! I was especially happy that someone thought of making a superhero film in Marathi.

We have seen many superhero films in the Hindi space with films like Krrish and RA.One, but this superhero is more in the space of Phantom or Zoro. He appears out of nowhere, helps people and disappears into thin air and no one knows who he is.

Nikhil Mahajan has done just one film so far (Pune 52), which was not in the commercial space. Did you have any reservations about how he would direct a superhero film?
Making a superhero film is not everyone’s cup of tea. So I was not sure of how they would make it. I told Nikhil that I would watch his film Pune 52 before deciding on whether to do this one or not. I also knew Shurud because he was an actor himself and his father was a well-known Marathi producer who owns a reputed Marathi production house.

So I knew he was credible. As far as Nikhil was concerned, I watched Pune 52, which was more art-house cinema. So the first thing I asked him was, ‘Are you trying to make Baji in the art space?’ He said he was planning to make a hardcore commercial film with Baji. He had a lot of clarity about what he wanted and eventually I followed his vision because he was very sure of things. He also told me he would want me to come out of my comfort zone and try out certain things.

Like what?
Like, I have done a lot of action in the film. I used to work out a lot but as a general fitness regime. I have never undergone extensive training for body building. Unfortunately, after the first schedule, I broke my shoulder and was advised six to seven months’ rest. But by August, I knew I had to get back on track.

The action sequences have been designed by Stunt Silva from the South, so it’s raw action by these hardcore guys. It’s very important to get out of your comfort zone with every film because you know how to push your capabilities. I did this first with Iqbaal, where Nagesh (Kukunoor) made me live the rustic life and i had to do things like washing buffaloes, so that I was one with them, and the next film was Baji I had a great time and Baji was one of the best decisions of my life.

You were shooting for the film while you were also handling the production of your Marathi film Poshter Boyz. Was that tough?

I had devoted a lot of energy to Poshter Boyz and when I was shooting for Baji, all I had to do was follow Nikhil’s lead. He was such a good director. He was very sorted. Even though he is a newcomer, he managed to do a great job.

Has the Marathi audience accepted the new genre? What is the response to the film’s trailer?
Damn good! Whether Twitter or Facebook, the response has been phenomenal. We were not expecting a response like this to the trailer but people seemed pretty charged up about it. Now we want to make sure we give the audience a good, entertaining film. The industry has also shown huge support for the film. After the trailer released, Riteish (Deshmukh) tweeted that it looked superb but he told me later to make sure that the distribution was good and that I get the right number of shows for the film. Director Anthony D’Souza works out with me, and he too said the film looks great. In fact, even though it is a Marathi film, it has drawn a bigger response than my Hindi films have. (Laughs)

You are featuring in a Marathi film after seven to eight years. What was that like?

I never said I wouldn’t do any more Marathi films but if you come to me with a subject that I am anyway doing in Hindi films, what’s the point doing it in Marathi? So I was waiting for a script to make a comeback to Marathi cinema, and what better way to make an entry than like a superhero in Baji!

The film releases on February 6, the same day that Shamitabh releases. Are you ready to battle it out with Mr Bachchan?

(Laughs) I saw this article that had a headline that read ‘Shreyas To Clash with Amitabh Bachchan’, and I was, like, ‘Dude, don’t write that!’ He is God. I don’t want to clash with God! But there is always another film releasing alongside yours and since these films belong to different genres and languages, we felt, chalo theek hai.

I was also told that Rocky Handsome was releasing on that day. I called John (Abraham) immediately because that film is of a similar genre in the sense that they both have action. But John said he was not planning to release then.

 There is very little you can do about your release dates but with so many screens, Shamitabh may take two and we will take the other two. I think today there is space for everyone to co-exist.

What can the audience look forward to in this film?
Hardcore entertainment! A full-on masala film was our brief from the very beginning. We didn’t want to be preachy. We have six to seven songs, romantic songs, a mele ka song, an item song, the whole works. There’s hardcore dialogue baazi and action.More importantly, over the last few years, Marathi youth have started patronising Marathi films. They watch a Kick, Rowdy Rathore or a Dhoom in Hindi and want similar stuff in Marathi. Some films have fulfilled their expectations like Duniyadari, Lai Bhaari and Poshter Boyz, to some extent. Since this is what they expect, we should give them that. Baji is definitely one of those entertainers. It is a fictional story set in an idyllic village, a comic book character, and the most important thing is that it has a great story. The hype that the trailers have created has made exhibitors sit up and take notice. So we will try to get as many shows as possible, especially prime-time shows.

What other films do you plan to produce?
One is the sequel to Poshter Boyz, which will go on the floors after the release of Baji. Then, there’s one more script that Nikhil will be directing and I will be acting in that one too. It will release mid-2016. I am also very excited about producing Poshter Boyz in Hindi and the scripting is underway. We haven’t decided on a cast because it’s a work in progress. The film has done well in Marathi and I know the Hindi audience will love it too.

What about your Hindi projects?

There is Waah Taj. I am told it will release in March or April 2015. I will be acting in Poshter Boyz in Hindi and another project that I cannot discuss.

In the next few years, what do you want to focus on – production, acting in Marathi films or Hindi films?
Direction is something I really want to take up as it allows me to tell a story in my own way. Next year, I might be directing something that involves a lot of shooting overseas. The subject is also pretty international. There will be a little action in it and  has contemporary social situations. Box Office India
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