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You have acted in so many comedy films. Is Bank Chor going to be a different experience? How we look at comedy needs to be readdressed. We look at it as one genre, but there are so many sub-genres of comedy, like, for instance, stand-up comedy and dark comedy. There are so many sub-genres that people have access to today because of digital medium. Still, there a lot of viewers are not watching these web shows. Some people enjoy the Housefull and Dhamaal franchise, many don’t. As an actor, I am aware of it. I get to know about it from reviews and reactions on social media. My upcoming film Bank Chor (releasing on June 16) is a comedy based on a situation when things go out of control for three robbers planning a bank heist. The script is well-written and has various layers to it.
When you say we need to take fresh look at comedy, who are you hinting at — the audience or filmmakers? It is a cycle. We mix up different genres of comedy; make pav-bhaji of comedy. In a movie, there would be a few scenes that are slapstick, some poker-face or naughty comedy. Our humour is not genre-specific. There comes a time when you need to segregate and stick to a genre while making a movie. A decade ago, I had done Bluffmaster! (2005), which was urban while Malamaal Weekly (2006) was completely rural humour. However, most of the times, I am told by people that I do comedy movies though I try different genres. Somewhere we are to be blamed since a film like Dhamaal (2007) is concoction of different genres of comedy.
Though a number of your comedy films have found mass appeal, they have failed to please critics. There could be films that would appeal to the masses as well as the critics. While making a Housefull, we know we are catering to the masses. In Housefull 2, there is scene where a crocodile bites off the derrière my character. I still get messages saying that kids loved that scene though it was panned by critics. However, while doing such a scene, I am aware that critics won’t be pleased by this. It is like I’m selling wada-pav or pav-bhaji. I am not a Michelin-starred restaurant today, but there are people who want to eat pav-bhaji.
Were your movies Lai Bhaari (2014) and Ek Villian (2014) attempts at selling something else? Yes. But then certain attempts at selling something else, say pasta, have gone wrong too. Ek Villain is a thriller. Critics take thrillers and dramas more seriously. Comedy movies are mostly designed for the masses. You want to make as many people laugh as possible. A movie like Grand Masti (2013), which has earned Rs 100 crore, is slammed by critics even though it was loved by a section of the audience. But then, Great Grand Masti bombed. Times have changed even though the film’s business was also hit by piracy.
Do you think as an actor you have been typecast in Hindi movies? When I entered the industry in 2003, everyone wanted to work with established actors. We had to find our foothold. When a comedy film worked, I got more such movies. In between, I did some serious movies such as Naach (2004) which did not work. Now, production houses have better opportunities and content for newcomers. Your father, Vilasrao Deshmukh, was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Did it help you find your feet in the industry?
My father had nothing to with the film industry. No one in the industry will ever tell you that my father made calls to further my acting career though people think otherwise. I had to go through my own struggle and failures. As a producer, you have put your money in content-driven Marathi cinema.
As a producer, I keep wondering how can I bring something new to the table. I have never produced a film thinking if there is a role for me. There was no role for me in Balak Palak (2012), which is about four boys wanting to watch an adult film, or in Yellow (2014), which is about a special child becoming a swimming champion. I did play the lead role in Lai Bhaari, which is a commercial venture. Next, I have produced a Marathi film called Faster Fene, which is almost a Sherlock-ish character based on a Marathi comic book hero. By the year-end, I would shoot the biopic of Chhatrapati Shivaji where I am essaying the title role as well as producing it.