John Abraham is in an ugly, no holds barred fight. But this time, the brawny Bollywood hunk and action hero is not enacting a gripping stunt sequence for a forthcoming film. He’s fighting to save the film!
The film is Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran – his espionage thriller based on the nuclear bomb tests conducted by the Indian Army on May 11, 1998 at Pokhran in Rajasthan. And he’s fighting KriArj Entertainment, his co-producer, who John says has breached their contract on all counts and delayed Parmanu’s release to the extent where he was forced to serve a termination notice on them and announce its release date on his own.
The film that was initially slated to come out on December 8, and was postponed to accommodate Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s behemoth Padmaavat, is now hurriedly being prepared to hit the screens on May 4. That’s the plan.
JA Entertainment, John’s production company, announced the termination in a public notice on Sunday. KriArj retaliated by running to the press. Enraged by the letter and spirit of the stories against him, John decided to come out with his truth on Parmanu, and the actor and producer issued a scathing press release yesterday laying all KriArj’s skeletons bare.
Naturally, it was widely reported, and not just by the Bollywood press. The seesaw battle is being fought in the media in a They-said-this-He-said-that manner with a few interested parties in Bollywood watching like voyeurs from the sidelines. John is unbothered. He’s waiting for it to reach the court. “This mud-slinging on a public platform will only hurt their case,” John says. “I want them to go to court because I am fighting for my credibility.” This interview is not about his differences with KriArj Entertainment alone. It’s about Parmanu. Excerpts…
Why did you decide to make Parmanu?
Certain films define filmography for an actor, producer, director. For me, until now, those films were Vicky Donor and Madras Cafe. Now it’s Parmanu. It’s a life-defining, career defining film that also defined the future of India. Some films have to be made. Some stories have to be told.
Whose story is it?
Abhishek Sharma, the director, met me and gave me a 12-pager idea about the film in March 2017. I was excited and intrigued. We went on the floor in June. The script was developed by Sanyuktha Chawla Sheikh and Saiwyn Quadros of JA Entertainment with Abhishek. I felt it was very special and decided to make it the way I wanted to. It was a subject already close to my heart. Two events that had major impacts on me were Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and the Pokhran nuclear tests. I wanted to do Parmanu because I felt cool to be an Indian and proud of the fact that we were a nuclear superpower only because of what happened in Pokhran 20 years ago on May 11, 1998.
Why did you go with KriArj Entertainment?
Ethically, I decided to do Parmanu with KriArj because Prerna Arora and Arjun Kapoor were the first people to voice interest in partnering with me. Yes, there were other studios as well but I decided to go with KriArj.
The mud-slinging apart, what is it you wish to tell them?
They don’t know what the story’s all about. It’s unfortunate. Their marketing team has seen Parmanu and loved it and said it’s sad Prerna and Arjun don’t know what they are losing out on. But to be fair to them, they came in as funders with no creative or emotional attachment to the film. And that’s how they went about the whole process.
Before Parmanu, it was Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath…
And they are reported to have said, if they were asked to get out, they would take Kedarnath down with them. It seems they want to do the same with Parmanu. I have been honest and transparent in all my dealings with them. I have complied with all my contractual obligations. I am a debt-free, zero outstanding company. If they have a problem with me – they should go to court. Whatever the court says, I will listen to. But if push comes to shove, I will be forced to share all my facts in public, then they won’t have any standing left in the industry. I’m operating from a position of honesty. Nobody can take that away from me. I’ve not done anything wrong. I’m protecting my dignity and my film. Parmanu will speak for itself after all this noise in the media dies down.
Technically, you made Parmanu by yourself?
From start to end. I line produced the film. We finished Parmanu with two days to spare after shooting in the toughest conditions. It was a fantastic experience. I own the film and take pride in owning it. Nothing in Parmanu got delayed. Except the payments! I really don’t know if any third parties are involved with KriArj. I was shown no agreements with Zee Studios and KYTA Productions though JA Entertainment is a 50 per cent owner of the film. But I would be happy if Zee and KYTA came on board as long as they deal with me. I as John Abraham and JA Entertainment don’t want anybody to lose money over my film.
You are happy with the film?
Very happy. And relieved, more than confident, because I showed it to a number of people in the industry and outside and they all absolutely loved it and said it was the best I had done. It’s nail-biting and thrilling. After the first 15 minutes, people will stay put in their seats. It’s under two hours. And it’s entertaining and fun, not document-ish.
How authentic to the truth is Parmanu?
No film has been made on nuclear espionage in the country before. Abhishek had been doing research on the Pokhran tests for close to two years. But then we met all the real players who were involved in the tests. A number of them visited the sets, some had retired, not just from the Indian Army, but also Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). They were satisfied that what we were showing was factual. Everything is based on the true event. We only changed names. The only fictional character in this story is mine! Like in Madras Cafe. We met the man who made the bomb. I wanted to give them all the respect they deserve by mentioning them in the credits at the end of the film. But they said, “Don’t use our names. The mission happened covertly. What information we are giving you is sacrosanct.”
But you sought government permission?
Yes, we shot at the actual Pokhran nuclear test site. And I ran the script past political people involved in the test at the time. They loved it and vetoed the film. They made some changes and suggestions which we were happy to incorporate.
I want to show Parmanu to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and every student. I know Modiji will love it. Not because he’s the Prime Minister, but because he’s Indian.
The above article has been published with permission from www.peeping.moon.