John Abraham on releasing Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran — I had the guts to fight the court battle alone
John Abraham says the people involved in other KriArj Entertainment films — Batti Gul Meter Chalu, Fanney Khan and Kedarnath — didn't come forward to support him.
The white décor of John Abraham’s Bandra office says it all. Film posters plastered at every corner is a common feature that one often encounters while meeting Bollywood celebs in their den but John’s workplace remains an exception. It would be an arduous task for anyone to find posters of his productions. Instead, minimalism represented by white walls, plain wooden furniture and transparent glasses will greet visitors.
Closeted in one corner is his meeting room, one side of which is completely transparent. It is this place he has opted for to talk about his upcoming film Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran. Judging by the films he has been making, it only seems a fair conclusion that he has a weak spot for thrillers. “I think JA entertainment as a production house is always on lookout for good stories and it’s not about a film being a spy thriller or a thriller. If I were to tell you today that I was making a film on sperm donor, chances are that for a moment, you will think that this guy is crazy. Similarly, everyone expected me to do a Vicky Donor part two but I opted to do a film on the assassination of my ex-PM because it had deeply impacted me. Similarly, when people were expecting me to do a host of action films after Force 2, I said that I will wait for a good script and then I green-lit Parmanu,” explains John.
Parmanu was a 10-page idea that was handed over to John by Abhishek Sharma, the director. The idea stunned him and made him think that why no one came up with this idea in the past 20 years. But the initial thought was difficult to translate on to celluloid as it dealt with terms like fusion, fission, H bomb, kilotons and underground blasts among others. “What is important to me is that I pick up a subject that is non-formula. If I were to tell you that the villain in Parmanu is a satellite, you might just get surprised. Now when you think about it, it automatically becomes a tough subject to make. How do you cater to an audience that’s used to thali and normal food and then serve them sushi. How do you make sushi tasty so that they enjoy it. That’s why Parmanu happened and that’s why we developed it in-house,” reveals John.
Talking about satellite, it will surely remind people of Eye In The Sky, so does his film has any resemblance with the Helen Mirren-starrer? John is elated that this question was posed to him. “Before the film started, I made my team watch two films – Argo and Eye In The Sky. After I showed them the film, I only asked them what could they make out from both the films. Most found them as edge-of-the-seat thrillers. I then told them that this is what Parmanu should be like. Audiences should be engaged as to what will happen next. If you don’t get this and the intention is only to make a deshbhakti (patriotism) film then mark my words, the film will never run.” John believes that today’s audience does not even know what Parmanu means and thus, it was essential for him to simplify the film.
John recalls the exact moment when he took the decision to produce Parmanu. After the initial discussion with Abhishek Sharma, John took a solo trip of Pokhran for research purposes. At a village called Khatauli, which is not far from where the actual tests happened, he met a senior person and struck a general conversation with him. “I only asked him about the events that happened there in 1998. I basically wanted to know if the vibrations from the tests or radiations in any way affected the village. His general reply was that nothing happened except the four walls of his house that crumbled down. I felt bad for him and said my apology but in the end he also said lekin Hindustan toh ban gaya. That really gave me goosebumps. That day I told myself that this film has to be made.” So convinced is John about the film’s acceptance that he believes that irrespective of its box office collection, five years down the line, someone will definitely say that Parmanu was a good film.
But Parmanu had its fair share of controversies too. Though John believes that it is all past but he does react when informed that he was not pleased with the support he garnered when the court case was on. “After the verdict, I had only said that people who are involved in cases similar to mine should have come forward but they never came forward. For them, it was a wait-and-watch situation but the moment the verdict went in our favour, some 15 people swooped in. People related to Batti Gul Meter Chalu, Kedarnath, Fanney Khan came in succession. They all waited for my film’s verdict. I had the guts to go out there and call a spade a spade,” roars John.
In the same breath, it also becomes imperative to ask John if the industry a divided place? “Yes, it surely is a divided place but it’s all part of human nature. The world is a divided place and the industry is only a part of the ecosystem. On one hand, we say ban Pakistani artists and on the other, we say don’t. At least have a unified stand on what you are saying. Do you think we can ever make an Ocean’s 11 in this country? Is it possible for 11 actors to stand in the same frame for a film? I think our capability stops at Ocean’s 2.” Now that’s surely something to mull about.
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