Riteish Deshmukh learns the meaning of misogyny and talks about playing a negative role in Ek Villain
You received possibly the best reviews of your life for Ek Villain while Humshakals was mauled. How do you navigate this contrast?
I got good reviews for Humshakals but the film didn’t. As an actor, I’m proud of every film that I do but the unanimous positive reaction for Ek Villain makes me relieved that people have noticed me as an actor. Humshakals opened well and enjoyed a good week at the box office, but maybe reviewers were expecting something else from a comedy. Even Housefull 1, Housefull 2 and Grand Masti were not received well by critics.
Tell me about how you prepared for Ek Villain. Your character is a new face of conflict: the angst-ridden aam aadmi.
When Mohit (Suri, director) came to me with the role, he spoke about the angst of the common man. There is so much pressure on a common man, with ads that say, “Jo biwi se karen pyaar woh pressure cooker se kaise karen inkaar?” What if this guy can’t afford a pressure cooker for his wife? I performed the role as if I were the hero of my story. Once I got into his head, I started seeing the story from his point of view. I told Mohit that I wanted him to talk to the dead bodies of the women he kills. Mohit asked me how I wanted to do it. I thought of having him lie next to the dead bodies. He doesn’t look at them but talks to them as if he’s telling them his story.
Do you think the character has a social context, especially when violence against women is on the rise?
As a cinema-loving society, we like to tell tales of larger-than-life bad guys we know about, but the biggest threat is from the unknown person. This unhappy common man could be next to you, sitting on a bus, or in the coffee shop and you are totally unaware of him, which is more fearsome.
Do you agree that Ek Villain had a streak of misogyny?
What does this word mean?
A misogynist is someone who exhibits deep hatred, dislike and mistrust of women.
Thanks. I had heard this word but didn’t know what it meant. See, a disturbed mind can be anything. I think the beauty of my character is that you don’t know why he became like that. His wife is just the trigger. I don’t think my character’s wife was wrong — she had her aspirations and wanted her husband to provide for her. That was her personality trait. Actually, my character loves his wife a lot. It’s just that any person who belittles him reminds him of his wife and since he can’t give it to his wife, he takes it out on others.
Humshakals and Ek Villain are very different films. Could you describe your mental process while shooting these films?
It’s more difficult to act in a comedy especially since I do a lot of physical and facial comedy. Mentally, Ek Villain was tougher. My mind had to be blank. It was like shifting from a tornado to a still sea. I remember the camera operator telling me, “Sir, kal aap kya kar rahe thay aur aaj aap kya kya kar rahe hain!” I felt like a schizophrenic handling both these films together.
How have sex comedies helped you in your audience reach?
Grand Masti did Rs 100 crore (business). Housefull 2 was Rs 115 crore. The numbers suggest the reach. I’m here because of these films and let me assure you that the audience greatly enjoys these films.
But are you proud of them?
Yes. I’m proud of all my films. Maybe, we were off the mark in some of them, maybe we went a little too far in some of them but we will correct it in the next one.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done on a set?
That would be becoming a dog and getting on to Suresh Menon’s leg in Humshakals. When I heard about it, I said yaar.. yeh nahin! But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to believe in it, get convinced and go and perform. And let me tell you, this is what usually got the maximum laughter from the audience.
What will your next phase as an actor be like?
It depends on what I’m offered next. I’m not a content creator. I hope post Ek Villain people think of me in roles they hadn’t before.
How passionate are you about championing Marathi cinema?
I feel strongly about it. I’ve been lucky to produce Balak Palak and Yellow. Now I’m ready with Lai Bhaari, a mainstream commercial film. There are so many stories in Marathi cinema, I hope I get to tell some of them.
You are regarded as Mr Congeniality in Bollywood. How do you maintain relationships across camps?
People in the industry are friendly. If you want respect, you need to give respect. There shouldn’t be any agenda. They are my friends because of work but we are not friends because we seek work with each other.
You are going to be a father soon. I think your baby has brought you luck.
(Smiles) I think Genelia (D’Souza, wife) has brought me a lot of luck.