March 19, 2010

Going Solo - Interview with Riteish Deshmukh

Actor Riteish Deshmukh, 31, gives out a slew of interviews at director Nikhil Advani’s Bandra office terrace. Sitting hunched at a table, he answers queries on his first solo film in seven years, Jaane Kahaan Se Aayi Hai, which releases on April 9. Riteish studied architecture in Mumbai to practice it in New York. He is still a partner in a Mumbai architecture firm called Evolutions. He also belongs to what can politically be called one of Maharashtra’s first families. His father, Vilasrao Deshmukh, former chief minister of Maharashtra, is now a central minister. Elder brother Amit is an MLA. After his interviews, Riteish lets us into an office. He sits back and talks passionately for one hour with RISHI MAJUMDER — about politics and architecture. And why he chooses cinema over these. 


Are you connected to your lineage? What does Latur mean to you?
Latur means everything to me. I keep going back to Latur and the Maharashtrian traditions I have been brought up with. My family culture is very much like the Congress culture. There is no exclusivity. We go to the temples as well as the mosques in and near my village. I was born in Latur and came to Mumbai when I was five. From then, till I was about 23, every vacation was spent in Latur. I’ve played in mud, climbed trees, milked cows, run around in puddles and put firecrackers in cow dung to watch it explode. I’ve done everything a village boy could do, even though I grew up in Mumbai. There were always both worlds.

Do you worry your image — doing sex comedies — may affect your family’s image?
As long as my family knows what I’m doing, they’re not going to ask questions later. Kyaa Kool Hai Hum was a sex comedy. Apna Sapna, Money Money and Masti also had a lot of sexual innuendo. I enjoyed doing them. People loved them, though some might not have appreciated that sense of humour. Today, I will not do a sex comedy. At the start of my career, not many people knew who I was. But today, lots of people, especially kids, have enjoyed my films like Heyy Babyy and Dhamaal. This makes me feel responsible towards them.

What have you inherited from your parents?
Patience. The waiting game. We’re never in a hurry.

How do you manage your relationship with your father under the public eye? Would you like to react to what happened post 26/11?
Yes. I have to watch how I project my relationship with my father. The reaction post 26/11 was maybe because of the glamorous profession I come from. But also because it was a sensitive time. TV channels are a one-way platform. If two people think something is wrong, they broadcast that opinion on to a thousand people. It was the television channels who actually said ridiculous things like I went for a film recce. But I don’t want to defend this. The media reacted the way they had to. If my presence [at the Taj with Ram Gopal Varma] after the attacks hurt anyone, I am sorry.
‘My family culture is very much like the Congress culture. There is no exclusivity. We go to temples as well as mosques’

Your firm has sizeable work. As a movie star, where do your priorities lie?
Films have been my priority. I started my firm with a few friends who look after it. Whenever I get a chance, I go and update myself. It’s a way to be in touch with architecture. I get into designing more on the ideation level than the detailing. I have designed a multiplex in Aurangabad, which I’m proud of. It’s an entire cube, which is slightly tilted. It’s modernistic, and to do that kind of building in Aurangabad was a big deal.

Does your political background affect life in films?
No. Of course people were conscious of who I was when I started out, but they had to deal with it, not me. See, if you think whatever roles or friends I’ve got, I’ve got because… [pauses] When I came in, they were going to judge this ‘chief minister’s son’ who’s come to act. So that baggage was there. All I could do was work. With time, if I was good, I would be good. If I was bad, I would be bad. And if I was ugly, I would be ugly.

You’re the only Maharashtrian who is a Bollywood icon. Yet you refrain from reacting to divisive statements like those made by the MNS or Shiv Sena.
I’m proud to be a Maharashtrian because I’m born in a Marathi family. I’m proud of my language and my literature — just as a Gujarati would be. I’m even prouder to be an Indian. You have to see where I come from. I am not just an actor, but also the member of a political house. I often refrain from making political statements because what I say will stand for my family’s ideology. But I made an exception for the controversy around My Name Is Khan because it’d make a difference. I said, “My name is Deshmukh. And I stand by My Name Is Khan.”

Do you have a problem with dynasty politics?
No. Because it’s not something that can be ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. There are new people who are entering politics, and there are people from the dynasties. Why can’t we let people choose? We’re a democracy. We have seen great leaders fall. My father has won and lost elections. Today my brother has won. Tomorrow, if people don’t like him, he’ll lose. And in a democracy, if people are happy voting for a dynasty, who are we to decide?

And when those not part of a dynasty are deprived of a ticket?
[Raises his voice] Let me ask you this. If a candidate is deserving, then why should he not be given a ticket because he is someone’s brother? Because of cases where non-deserving candidates have been given tickets, why should a deserving candidate be denied one just because he or she belongs to a dynasty?

Why shy from politics?
I’m in a different profession. I love politics. I enjoy it. But it has to be full-time. It has to be the only thing you do, to be successful at what you’re doing. You have to grow in politics. Please don’t be mistaken that if tomorrow I come into politics it’ll be an easy thing. Who am I? You have to work hard, and figure out things right from the grassroots.



Pardesi said...

I really like this young man, he is educated and intelligent. AND I really liked him in Aladin, he had the role of a college youth and he did an admirable job. Fine actor and getting better, hope he gets roles that match his talent.

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