The National talks to the stars of Shootout in Wadala, in Dubai to promote their new action crime drama that is based on a true story.
John Abraham, Sophie Chaudhry and Sunny Leone on Shootout at Wadala
If John Abraham, the Bollywood actor and producer who next plays the real-life Mumbai gangster Manya Surve, chooses his roles carefully, it's because he doesn't want his fans getting too familiar with him playing a particular type of role.
At a press conference gathering the stars of Shootout at Wadala, which opens across the UAE on Thursday, Abraham explains he balances out thrillers involving lots of action and stunts with lighter-hearted films.
As for the role of Surve, who in the film is a layered character with a softer side, he wanted to give audiences something they had never seen him do before. "When you see the film, you will realise how well we have managed to round out the character of Manya Surve," he explains. "We have not tried to glorify a gangster at all, and neither have we shown him to be totally ruthless and heartless. In the film, you will also learn about his heartbreaking love story. There are so many dimensions to this character."
The mafia has long been a popular theme for Bollywood, going back to the 1978 Amitabh Bachahn starrer Don.
Shootout at Wadala, a prequel to the 1997 film Shootout at Lokhandwala, is based on a book by a Mumbai-based journalist specialising in crime and investigative reporting. S Hussain Zaidi's Dongri To Dubai: Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia, was published last year.
Director Sanjay Gupta, who gathered Abraham, Kangna Ranaut, Anil Kapoor, Tusshar Kapoor and Sonu Sood in lead roles, offers a dramatic retelling of an actual encounter that took place in Mumbai in 1982 between Surve and Mumbai police. Kangana Ranaut plays Vidya, Abraham's love interest in the film.
Both actors looked so good together on screen that the director added a rare intimate scene in the film, but Abraham defends the controversial move as being necessary for the story.
It was important to both actors, who had done such scenes before, that its inclusion be based on more than just an attempt to draw more people to the theatre.
"The scene was shot on a closed set and was executed very professionally," says Abraham.
Abraham has nothing but praise for his female co-stars Sophie Chaudhry and Sunny Leone.
"Sophie and Sunny have both performed extremely well and there will be no shortage or work for them after this film," he says, smiling at Leone.
"It has been unbelievable working with John and everyone else for this film," says Leone. "These are people that I used to see on the screen, and now here I am right beside them. It's like a dream come true. However, I do realise that this is just the beginning and there is a long way for me to go."
The Indian-Canadian Leone is a recent import to Bollywood. Since making her Bollywood debut last year in Jism 2, she moved her base from Canada to India, setting up home in Mumbai.
It has not been easy, she explains.
"I am not just learning the ropes of and making a place for myself in a new industry," she says, "but I am also coming to terms with a whole new country, its people and their lifestyles."
Leone, however, has been slowly but surely growing more comfortable speaking exclusively in Hindi, helped along through chatting with her domestic staff, who don't speak any English.
"It is going to take a lot of hard work. It's not that easy to make a name for yourself in Bollywood. But when you work with people like these, everything becomes so much easier. Everyone has been so patient with me and I have learnt so much on the sets of Shootout at Wadala."
Shootout in Wadala will be released in theatres across the UAE on Thursday
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