How would you describe your latest film Madras Café ?

Madras Café is a very sensible film. I would say that it is a political espionage thriller. Jaffna was the earlier title of the film but we decided to change it to Madras Café, because Madras Café is the actual place where the plot was hatched and hence it is an important character in the film.

What is your role in Madras Café ?

I play the role of a military officer called Major Vikram Singh, who is sent to Jaffna for a secret operation as a covert officer.

How inclined are you politically ?

I am politically well read and aware of what is happening in our country. Though I am aware of the political scenario, I have a distaste for politics and hence I feel that I am not at all cut out for politics.

Is it just a coincidence that you opted for title like Madras Café even when Shah Rukh Khan’s Chennai Express was chugging along ?

It is just a coincidence that our film has a title like Madras Café. Ours is an intense but entertaining film while Chennai Express is a very commercial film.

What is the reason you decided to make an issue based film like Madras Café ?

The main reason is that we were keen on showing to the youth the events that changed the history of our country after 1947. It is not a documentary. The problem is that text books on history stop after 1947. I also feel that it is very important to tell a good story. Madras Café is a different film. It is short like a Hollywood film. It is an exciting film. It is very important not only to entertain but also educate when you set out to make a film.

Can you elucidate?

In USA, each and every American knows about John F Kennedy as well as 9/11, when there was an attack on the twin towers. Why is 26/11 not there in all our text books ?

Why become a producer when you are a successful star on your own right ?

I became a producer to produce films that I have always wanted to see. The tragedy with me is that my physicality precedes my acting and I felt that it is important to deconstruct and show my range as an actor, though it is true that an actor in general does not like to take any risk because he wants to maintain his safe image as a star.

How did you prepare for your part ? And do you expect to win awards for your performance in Madras Café ?

Shoojit Sarkar specifically told me not to look like John Abraham at all and asked me to lose a lot of weight and look normal, because he was particular that I should pass off as a normal aam aadmi. In fact, Shoojit told me not to do my work outs and try to project just my normal physicality. On the topic of awards, when I set out to make Vicky Donor, my aim was not to win any award for the film but I was happy when the film fetched a lot of awards. We have made Madras Café not to win awards but because the story needed to be told.

Is Madras Café an anti Tamil film?

Madras Café is neither an anti-Tamil film nor an anti-Sri Lanka film. We have been very honest with the fictionalized story. Shoojit did extensive research on the subject for seven years before he set out to make the film. To simplify the story was very difficult. It is a very small film. Though I would not like to divulge the details of the budget of my film, I would not hesitate to say that it was made at a fraction of the cost of any big budget film. I am not the hero but just a character in Madras Café. It is a realistic action film. I am not the John Abraham of Force or Shootout At Wadala.

How much is success important for you as an actor ?

I have been a part of films like No Smoking, Kabul Express and Water, and I have also been a part of Dostana. I would say that I am okay as much with my failures as I am with my success. What I feel is important is to try. People want to see good content. I have heard that a film like The Ship of Theseus is good. If the film does not run at the box office, it doesn’t mean that it is a bad film. Though Water did not run at the box office, I treasure the compliment that Steven Spielberg gave me for my performance in Water.

How tough is it for you to be a producer ?

I am a director’s producer as well as a producer’s actor. As a producer, what was tough is the fact I had to cut down my fees for acting in Madras Café.

What is next on your kitty after Madras Café ?

I am doing Aneez Bazmee’s Welcome Back which is a sequel to his film Welcome. I am also in Dostana 2 as well as Nishikant Kamat’s next film, which will be my home production, after my film Banana is released.

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