In Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, John Abraham backs another story that treads off the beaten path
John Abraham focuses on his films first, and that bit has stood him in good stead for nearly three decades in a fluid industry.
There might be such a thing as the jinx of drop-dead good looks. John Abraham proves a suitable example of this. No one would call him an actor with excellent performance abilities. Onscreen though, he has tackled a complex collection of roles and given them his best; always keen to go beyond the good looking, action hero trap. Be it Dostana, Zinda, New York, Kabul Express, Wazir or Taxi Number 9211, he tried to adapt to different roles and yet, always has been marked out as an actor with a limited repertoire of emotions and expressions.
John hasn’t let that affect him much, if one were to assess his productions. For a man who has been part of mindless comedies that have minted money like the Housefull films, Abraham has doggedly backed scripts and stories that tread off the beaten path. His formula seems to be no formula; and the passion to make interesting, engaging cinema is fairly visible from the line of his home productions. Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran is the latest one where an important chapter of Indian history is being brought to the screen as a thriller, catering to appetites of the young and unacquainted 16 plus audience. A decently told story that keeps you hooked, this film about India’s nuclear test is part of an eclectic mix of scripts that he has produced so far.
John began producing films with the surprising Vicky Donor. A funny tale of a sperm donor and his fair weather friend, a fertility specialist, he displayed courage along with filmmaker Shoojit Sircar in producing this off beat comedy with a newcomer Ayushmann Khurrana and a veteran actor Annu Kapoor. The film was a roaring hit and a gem of a story that has tremendous repeat viewing value. John followed it up with Madras Café, a fictional espionage and insurgency-based thriller centered on the assassination of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. While suffering from over information and missing a true, tangible antagonist, the film was the first of its kind — to fictionalize an important chapter in India’s history.
Rocky Handsome, where he truly establishes that he is indeed quite handsome till date, was a misadventure in terms of story telling. But it featured brilliant action sequences, including hand-to-hand combat. In more ways than one, John has consistently attempted to go beyond the regular to make his mark as a go to producer for entertaining but non-typical cinema. Next up, is an untitled action thriller that he is producing soon, after completing two ongoing projects as actor.
It is his penchant for picking the unusual that has made him a go to producer for writers that want to go beyond the usual. He also displayed confidence when he chose to produce his first film (Vicky Donor) without starring in it. In Hindi cinema it has been a norm for stars to act in their home productions as a safety measure. Seeking the offbeat actually makes John a sought after producer as cinema goers’ appetites change swiftly here in India.
Abraham’s Bollywood journey, while not as enriching or prolific, is comparable to Brad Pitt’s career path in Hollywood. Pitt, the gorgeous young actor that first wowed people in Thelma and Louise, has been part of many great films; but he has never been quite applauded as an actor. He does his best and brings truck loads of hotness to any film that he acts in. But the performance chops always tend to elude him. Cognizant of better talent and merit around him, Pitt has turned producer with focus; also choosing to be executive producer on some projects while collaborating with like-minded artists. Be it the Oscar winning Moonlight, Selma, the highly educative and entertaining The Big Short or co producing another Oscar nominated film, 12 Years A Slave, Pitt has backed projects that hold promise of quality viewing.
His most recent production, Okja, is amongst Netflix’ best products ever. And he is currently also producing the TV show Thelma and Louise. Alternating between projects that he chooses to act in, and turning his production company into a powerhouse, Brad Pitt has stood out among his contemporaries. It’s also a path shown by Robert Redford — the still dishy veteran star has been part of some of Hollywood’s greatest films ever (All the Presidents’ Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Brubaker, Three Days of the Condor, and more recently, the delightful Our Souls At Night), he found his highest praise as director. He also set up a permanent creative hotshop with the Sundance Film Festival, bringing together interested people to make a film festival for experimental and upcoming new talent.
Abraham is quite a distance from these Hollywood stars. But as a producer, his heart seems to be in the right place. He also displays a subtle, elegant faith in his choices as a film personality. He is not on social media. He isn’t spotted at happening parties, award shows, red carpets and events frequently. He chooses his words carefully and is polite to a fault. Reportedly, keen on preserving a footprint of Bandra’s original Catholic population in the increasingly poshifying suburb, he has worked together with his brother and like minded, financially well off citizens to preserve and restore semblances of Christian culture and properties. John’s famed bachelor pad and his office reflect beauty in simplicity and embrace nature’s bounty. He keeps his personal life off-limits.
In the current uber-paced age of social media and digital lives, which often diminish the distinction of personal and professional for movie stars, there is something brave and dignified in staying off this regular display and ritual narcissism. John Abraham focuses on his films first, and that bit has stood him in good stead for nearly three decades in a fluid industry. With more productions planned, he might build a unique place for his body of cinematic work in Hindi cinema, where uniformity nearly makes your eyes blear with boredom.
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