John Abraham on Batla House, Mission Mangal clash: Two credible films are releasing this Independence Day
Batla House is an opportunity for us to show the true side of a policeman, to show the true side of his sacrifice and what he does or not, says John Abraham
After having played a scientist in Parmanu and an agent in RAW, John Abraham is all set to step into a real life character again. The Nikkhil Advani directed Batla House will see him in the role of ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav – the police officer who was part of the Batla House encounter in 2008. In a conversation with Firstpost, John reveals more about the film and his character.
This is probably the most exciting Independence Day for the audience in terms of two heavyweight patriotic films. Last year too, you and Akshay Kumar had clashed at the box office.
I can’t ensure about any other film except mine. I think the good thing is that there are two very credible films that are releasing this Independence Day. Talking about business, I am confident that there is enough business for two films on that day and both me and Akshay know this. I think it’s great for the audience and the winner ultimately is the audience as they get to choose between two very, hopefully, good films that day.
Is it difficult playing a real-life character on screen as opposed to a fictional character?
I think the pressure is actually more when one is playing a real-life character. Just to substantiate this further, I had played the character of Manya Surve in Shootout at Wadala and when I played that role, he had passed away by then. I am playing ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav in Batla House and the character is based on a real-life operating officer who is still working in a Delhi special cell. Nikkhil (Advani, director) and I, we both are eager that he see the film and probably put a tick in that box more than anybody else.
Earlier, you played a bad guy in few films and people loved you in those films. Now, it seems you have taken a U-turn, with mostly positive roles.
I am about to start Sanjay Gupta’s Mumbai Saga and I am playing a really bad guy once again. You must do what makes you happy. Talking about Batla House, when I read the script, it was an edge-of-the-seat thriller. So even if you don’t care about the incident, the film works for you irrespective. All credit to Nikkhil (Advani) and Ritesh (Shah) who have put in four years of research in the film. The final outcome is that we not only have a riveting thriller, but also when you walk out of the cinema hall you scratch your head saying wow this was true as well.
When the Batla House incident happened in 2008, many people had doubts on the veracity of the encounter. What was your take at that point of time?
When I had met Sanjeev Kumar Yadav, I had personally requested him to tell me what actually happened after the encounter. He informed me that after the incident he developed PTSD and wanted to commit suicide. The day he went for Batla House encounter, his wife had told him that she was contemplating leaving him. When you are going through so much stress in your personal life, I think the character becomes that much more interesting to play on screen. I always saw the Batla House encounter from an ‘encounter’ perspective but Nikhil had a different viewpoint about this. I remember Nikkhil telling me that this is just not an encounter but a love story. Mrunal has done a fabulous job in the film playing Nandita, wife of Sanjeev Yadav. She is a journalist in the film and in real life too.
You just mentioned PTSD. It is important to note that the police force do face such issues and many times they don't get the psychological attention needed. What’s your take on this?
All of us need counselling at some point, the police more so. In some cases, many don’t reveal out of shame and fear that they are undergoing counselling. In the case of cops, the trauma is even more because they go to work everyday, not knowing if they are going to come back. They hardly have holidays, they are overworked and to top it all they are just not respected. We are entertained by Singhams and Simmbas but will not respect a real cop. Batla House is an opportunity for us to show the true side of a policeman, to show the true side of his sacrifice and what he does or not.
Do you think that the film industry is a secular place?
It’s not secular. I am saying this on the basis of what people are reading every day. The industry is polarised and it’s not as if only one side is polarised – both sides are. It’s true and it’s a fact of life. The problem is, the world is polarised today and we have a similar dialogue in Batla House too which goes like, ‘Ek kaum nahi pis rahi hai, puri duniya pis rahi hai’. Look at Donald Trump, Boris Johnson or Brexit – the world is polarised. But having said this, I would also say that this is the best county and this is also the best film industry.
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