His sudden rise to the Bollywood prominence seemed oddly spectacular. Add more, his debut film wasn't even released in the overseas but those few who witnessed his extraordinary work knew he had arrived. The rest would remain in the dark till he emerged as the new thriller boy in his next film Aa Dekhen Zara, yet another thriller, this time around with the sexy Bipasha Basu as his co-star. In months to come, Neil's journey now seems worth examining with back to back releases in the form of Yash Raj's Ney York followed by Madhur Bhandarkar's Jail. Well, for a change, Neil is looking for a mighty mainstream career ahead of him.
One film old and he is notoriously hard to pin down but we managed to nail him just in time while he was busy 'rock n rolling' along with his new band for the film, ADZ- The Rising, promoting his film by touring different cities across India. Our correspondent caught hold of the actor who has stepped aside from his peers and shown himself to be one of the country's most unusual and potentially important stars. Of course, he too makes a singing debut, but it's in his blood for god sake! Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the ever so suave and the smooth operator Neil Nitin Mukesh in an exclusive chat on his next big thriller, marketing strategies, his wish to sing with Bips, his wish to sing with his dad, his excitement on his first overseas theatrical release, followed by some scary moments, some behind the scenes photography skills and a sneak peek inside his future from his magical camera.
What's keeping you so busy not to reply back to our calls?
I'm so sorry yaar! It's this road trip I'm doing along with our band ADZ- The Rising which is keeping me busy 24/7. I'm talking to you from our road trip which is touring different cities to promote Aa Dekhen Zara.
All this marketing strategies have taken over the film world by storm. Do you think a good story needs to be marketed well? I mean, if the story is good, it'll work anyway.
You're right, if the story is good, it'll work anyway. But any good product needs to be marketed well to create an awareness of it that it exists, right? Any product for that matter needs to come in the eye of the consumer or the audience. If we sit at home and do not go out there to let the people know of our acting skills, how's anyone going to know who Neil Nitin Mukesh is?
So is Johnny going to be a gaddar again?
(Laughs) No, not really. Johnny is not a gaddar for a change in Aa Dekhe Zara. Johnny is a plain and a simple guy in this film who is known as Ray Acharya.
Did you desperately want Bipasha Basu to sing the title track along with you?
Yes, I wanted her to be a part of the song which was so important. So I pitched the idea to her and was hoping that she would agree to lend her voice to the title track, Aa Dekhen Zara. It would've been great if Bipasha could sing the song in the film because I am emotionally attached to the song.
Singers galore in your family. To sing must've been an easy task isn't it?
No it wasn't an easy task. 'Aa Dekhen Zara' is a legendary song and it's not an easy song to sing. It's a song sung by one of the world's best singer, Kishore Kumar, it is composed by one of the world's finest music director, R.D Burman. So to re-create something which was already created was difficult and when I sung the title track, it was a tribute to the legendary Kishoreda, R.D Burman saab and my grandfather.
Your first two films are thrillers. You fit the genre pretty well or is it the other way round?
(Laughs) In this film, I play a guy with so many layers to him. I always like doing character oriented films. I don't think my fair skin and chocolate boy looks really matter then. It really depends on how well sketched the character is and how well the director can handle the actor in that surrounding. Ray Acharya will show you all the shades in Aa Dekhen Zara as a boy next door who gets special powers and thinks that his problems will get solved without realizing that he is creating bigger problems for himself. Gone are the days of super heroes who prove that they can save the world. Here come the days that you really attack on the fact that there is selfishness in everybody. That's where Ray Acharya gets sucked into.
This is going to be your first release in the U.K. You looking forward for the fan following after the film?
(Laughs) Yes, this is my first film in the U.K. I am really excited. Johnny Gaddaar wasn't released theatrically but the film did well amongst the selected few in the DVD market by a strong word of mouth. But I was hoping for Johnny Gaddaar to release in the overseas. But with God's grace and the love and affection of my audiences, Aa Dekhen Zara is going to release in the U.K and I am thrilled.
What's with these debutant directors huh? What really doesn't make them - The first timers?
Jehangir is young, enthusiast and has a great vision of cinema. That's what these debutant directors possess. What really attracted me to do this film was, even though the concept was larger than life and it's a fictitious film in every sense, it's about a guy who gets the camera which shows the future. But the way Surti has handled the future element is so neat that you can relate to it. He wanted the surroundings to be real more than his characters. These few and many more qualities didn't make Jehangir a 'first timer'.
First Johnny Gaddaar, then Aa Dekhen Zara, your next release will be Yash Raj's New York followed by Madhur's Jail. The challenges keep on growing as an actor for you. But how do you surpass them?
When I had worked on Johnny Gaddaar, I thought I had done one of my best films and the most challenging role of my career. It was very difficult to portray a character like Vikram in Johnny Gaddaar who was vulnerable and meticulous. I was hoping that another script like this should come my way and it came in the form of Aa Dekhen Zara which had a different portrayal of my character and emotions, and then of course, Omar, the role I play in New York was far more challenging than in Johnny Gaddaar too.
If you had a camera which showed you the future, what would you like your future to look like?
(Laughs) I'd like my future to be bright. But I don't want to be looking at my future. But if I had a camera like the one I have in the film, you'd find me at the race course or may be at the Dalal Street dealing in shares (laughs).
Did you play around with the camera by taking some stills on and off the sets for any of your films?
Today I can say that I am a professional photographer. I was in New York for hundred days when I learnt photography for my film New York. The film medium we work in is the only moment where we can capture every moment on the camera. Today when I sit back, I sometimes go back to my school and college days but I really can't bring those moments back on the lens. Filmmaking allows us to do that. Yes, I did capture some moments from Aa Dekhen Zara.
Any scary moment?
Yes, there was. I jumped nine floors down which was really scary. I don't think I'll ever do that again.
The film looks very pacey, isn't it?
Aa Dekhen Zara is a musical thriller. The songs are very situational. We have some great music by Gaurav Das Gupta and Pritamda. I think the music is helping the narrative of the story very much. At the same time, there is action which is limited but is more thrilling. And considering it to be a thriller, Aa Dekhen Zara is an under two hour film.
Now that you've made your singing debut, are we ever going to hear you sing 'So Gaya Yeh Jahan' from Tezaab, the cult classic your father had sung?
I'd love to sing 'So Gaya Yeh Jahan' from Tezaab along with my dad (laughs). I kind of need some support from him in that song because it's difficult to sing that number. I've actually been forcing him to re-create that song in his voice and mine. If given a chance or an opportunity, we'd love to do that.
Any message for your U.K audiences?
Go and watch one of the best thrillers you'll ever see, Aa Dekhen Zara. Thank you for the love and support shown towards Johnny Gaddar by seeing it on the DVD and I'd love to visit the U.K after the release of ADZ.
The world is full of what ifs and what might have been. When, in 2007, Neil Nitin Mukesh received a raft of glowing reviews for his shape-shifting efforts in Johnny Gaddaar and then was announced as the next best thing, many of his compatriots wondered where this new Indian phenomenon had sprung from. Unlike most of his Hindi filmstar peers, he had not served an apprenticeship in TV or on the stage; he was not a household name or face.