Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

'Saaho' star Neil Nitin Mukesh on why Prabhas is 'like family now'

Neil shares intimate photos from behind the scenes of the film's shoot, saying he 'felt like a miniature on a set where everything was larger than life'

Saaho releases this Friday: the blockbuster with superstar Prabhas has to be one of the most anticipated Indian films of the year.

Bollywood actor Neil Nitin Mukesh plays one of the many villains in the ensemble cast, and yet he exudes a zen calm when talking to The National on the eve of the film's release.

The scale of the shoot was massive – taking place in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Australia, Romania, Austria and Croatia – and Neil says Prabhas and the rest of the crew were so supportive, and are "all family now".

How was it working in Abu Dhabi?

It was so, so beautiful. Abu Dhabi was one of the finest places [I've spent time in] during my career. I fell in love with the place, and not just me but the entire team did.

It was home for us for 45 days and the hospitality was awesome. Wherever I set my camera, it was picturesque. We all had a great time.

Are you nervous about Saaho's release, considering the large scale film took four years from conception to execution?

No. I actually use the time before every film comes out to reminisce about the memories of shooting the film.

Every one of them is an experience that I am lucky to be a part of. It is nice to rewind those friendships with the cast and crew, like in this case Prabhas, Sujeeth [director], Kenny Bates [action director] ... so many associations made, and now they are like part of my family.

I have a habit of storing memories of my shoots on my camera and then relive them when the film releases.

Surely the high stakes with this film, and the sense of anticipation, means there are some nerves?

Frankly no. To be honest, whenever any film of mine releases, I never get into that zone. My first break was Johnny Gaddar [2007] and it got stuck and didn't release for two years after being shot. I remember how anxious I was then, and all sorts of people gave me negative vibes. I would not want to wish that upon anyone.

So every release for me since then has been a blessing. There are many people whose bread and butter is at stake. Good or bad, each film requires a lot of effort, and no artist should suffer such a fate. A film should always see the light of day.

There is no bigger high than the Friday of release. The rest is up to God and the audience. I never bother about the social media experts.

How is Nurvi [Neil's daughter, who will turn one in September]?

The other day, we put up a projector screen to play one of my promotional appearances on Kapil Sharma's TV show. So she saw me there, and was wondering how I am sitting next to her, and how there was two of me.

My father [noted singer Mukesh] becomes like a 10 year old when she is around.

Your wife was with you in Abu Dhabi while carrying Nurvi. How was it?

When we were in Abu Dhabi, Rukmini was five months pregnant. I was nervous about how she would cope. I also had too many things going on. Saaho was important. I was writing for my film Bypass Road [which he has produced and acted in as well], I was doing another film Fikrey in London and I flew out from Abu Dhabi to a different climate three times in those 45 days. Keeping track of Rukmini's doctor appointments, it was crazy. But it was Rukmini who took care of me. Hats off to her.

What was your biggest challenge on the Saaho shoot?

The whole shoot was very fulfilling. The climatic conditions in Abu Dhabi [during the summer] were challenging with the dust storms, and considering I was wearing a leather jacket most of the time.

But taking care of Rukmini was the most important thing for me. And I got great support from the crew.

The executive producer Shyam PS was a great help. Prabhas got her a lot of gifts and took time to visit her. It was a wonderful team to have. They are all family now.

Tell us about the VFX, and a bit about what kind of scenes we can expect...

I have seen VFX before, but this is something different, totally out of the world. I felt like I was in Batman, and Christopher Nolan would come out of nowhere. I felt like a miniature on a set where everything was larger than life.

It takes a great visionary like Sujeeth to pull off what he did with great panache. I do not want to spoil anything of it by giving away details. You must go and watch it. What a team, what an effort!

Updated: August 29, 2019 12:08 PM

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