I remember meeting you many years ago. You became this hotshot model, and suddenly wanted to switch to acting. I had asked if you were sure it’s a good idea. Now 15 years later, with Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, how has it been like and what has worked for you?
I think what has worked for me is two things. One is self-conviction and the other is choices. I’ve always convinced myself that I am worth it and that I can do it. Secondly, I’ve always made choices and not been afraid of failure, so I think both have worked in my favour.
Where did that sort of conviction come from? Was it from the fact that you were a sportsman, or wanted to become one?
I think life teaches you a lot. And it taught me that I need to fight and survive and it’s human instinct to survive. Coming from a very modest background, I had no other means to an end but to survive, and thankfully, I had education behind me. So the combination of being educated and being confident about myself helped me a lot.
You’re also an actor-producer now, and not just merely an actor. What are the challenges on that front?
It’s better to be an actor-producer because as an actor, I didn’t get to see or do the kind of films I wanted to do, which is why I became a producer. And being a producer, I was very clear that I didn’t want to power my production house with my presence, unlike what most actors do. For me, having a production house wasn’t vanity. So I was very clear that if I started a production house, I will tell good stories. If I fit into them then good, if I don’t, then I shouldn’t be there, and have no business being there. As an actor, I feel safe now that there is JA Ent because I know scripts in JA Ent are curated. They go through immense research and innumerable drafts before something comes out. So anything here is in between special and very special.
Is that true that you don’t like looking in the mirror? How do you manage being a model with that?
I don’t like it. So I look in the mirror just once a day when I am shooting, or maybe not even once a day when I’m not shooting. But I don’t like looking into the mirror because there is not much to see first of all. I am not fishing for compliments. I believe that you get stuck in your image. We’re anyway actors, stuck in a space where vanity could consume us over and above if you’re looking in the mirror. And it is shocking but I don’t look in the mirror even before a shot. You’ll see a lot of imperfection but I like that because I think imperfection is cool. When you’re clean, something is not right.
You have always maintained that you have admired George Clooney and Johnny Depp.
George Clooney, because he’s an intelligent actor and his choices are intelligent. What I like about him is that he has aged gracefully and I think men should age gracefully. We try and turn back the time in our industry, and our lifestyle doesn’t support that. So when you age, you have greys and lines. Let them be. I still remember, I have lines and I still get pimples unfortunately.
I went to a doctor and asked him what should I do for the pimple I’ve got. She said, ‘But you have got these lines, do you want to…?’ I said don’t even say the ‘B’ word because these lines are experience. This is what John Abraham is about and these lines are important. So I don’t want to mess with what has happened with me. I don’t want any invasion and I like the way I am. The only place I work really hard is in the gym and whatever happens after that happens.