Interview Hindi

Don’t have further ambitions, want to keep doing action films: Vidyut Jammwal 

The Baadshaho actor spoke to about staying sane in the crazy world of entertainment and patting himself on the back for fulfilling his dream of being an action star in Hindi cinema.

Suparna Thombare

Vidyut Jammwal is hugely influenced by the women in his life. A self-confessed mama's boy, Jammwal kick starts the conversation by talking about women's safety and tips on self-defence. "Girls ask me what is self-defence. Self-defence is nothing to do with strength because you cannot beat up a man, sometimes even if you are a trained martial artist. What a man has is strength. But what women have is instinct," says Jammwal, who has conducted self-defence sessions before.

Despite his sensitivity, the air of confidence this Commando (2013) star has could easily be misconstrued as cockiness. Guess that comes with the territory of being someone who does not like to mince words and has an inherent sense of self-belief.

In a chat with too, Jammwal bluntly offered an insight into how he remains sane in the crazy world of entertainment, gave himself a pat on the back for making it, and confessed of having no real vision, but just an urge to be the quintessential action star of Hindi cinema. 

Action has been working for you so far, but do you have an urge to go beyond action? 

If Michael Jackson was asked, ‘Do you mind being the 'King of Pop'? Do you want to be something else?’ What would he say? I love being the action hero of the country. I was telling my mother that I am so proud that I had come to Mumbai to be an action hero and have become it. I don’t have further ambitions but I want to keep doing this. 

Since you have only focused on action films, how difficult is it for you to make action in one film look different from the other?

It is not difficult. If you have done something in the past, don’t do it again. Keep reinventing yourself. For example, there was a time when I used to love looking big. I thought girls will like me because I am big. Then I realised girls don’t like bodybuilders. You keep evolving. When you keep evolving, you aren't that same person that you were, you don’t think like that same person, you don’t walk like that person or talk like that person.  

How do you stand opposite an action star like Ajay Devgn?

You just stand. You don’t think. He is a big star of the country. But you don’t think and then your body and your mind will do its thing. 

How do you reinvent yourself within the action space? There some sequences in your last film, Commando 2 (2017), that were quite well done. 

They give us the script and then I think what can we do with it. With Baadshaho, I didn’t have to think too much though. I am an army officer and I have to fight Ajay Devgn. So the action director comes and tells you, 'This is what you do'.

Is the role in Baadshaho an extension of your role in Bullett Raja (2013), in which a lot of viewers felt like you were underutilised?

Somehow whatever I have done, people have liked me. I was recently telling a journalist who I know for a while, that I have come to conclusion that people can like you and people can hate you, and it will have nothing to do with what you do. So just be yourself. And I genuinely mean it. You can be very nice to everybody and they will see the sly in you. 

If you get offered a comedy or a romantic film, will you take it up, since you look very keen on sticking to your action star image?

100%, I’ll do it yes, but it depends on who is making it. I need to like a lot of other things. It’s not like I have never done a comedy, so let me do one. If you cast Michael Jordan and don’t make him play basketball, it would be ridiculous. I did a movie recently thinking it is a drama film, which it is, and the director said, when you enter, break the door and make an entry. I don’t mind doing that!

When Milan (Luthria) met me, he didn’t tell me it's an action movie. It's not an action movie, it's a heist movie. But then Ajay Devgn also said that if Vidyut is there, let’s do some action. I want to do everything, but they will use me that way. (Luthria said), ‘Vidyut shirt bhi utarle ab tu [Vidyut remove your shirt also], and I said ‘Sir, you had not told me all this’.

Would you like to be presented as this larger-than-life action star?

Did you see my recent video where I did push-ups on glass bottles? So, there cannot be anything more than that. Things have changed. What I believe in is realism, real action. So I am not waiting for somebody to do that, [present me as the huge action star].

Since you want to stay in the action space in the long term, how do you continue to update your skills?

[Through] YouTube. I see somebody, I get turned on and I’m like, I am going to do this and then I do it. Like with the glass bottle push-ups. I was announcing a film called Junglee and worldwide people have loved it. I am one of four people in the world who has officially done it. Two other guys are Shaolin monks and one is this 8-year-old boy, who is the son of a Shaolin monk. He is like 20 kilos, I am 86 kilos. So the reviews for it were phenomenal and I loved it. 

Do you have a vision for what action in Hindi cinema should be like say, five years down the line?

No. I am just enhancing what I do. I am just working on myself. And I hope that someone will come along.... like this director Chuck Russell [director of Junglee], who has come down, is the one who launched Dwayne Johnson (in films). He is the guy who made a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger called Eraser (1996). He has made The Mask (1994). So if people like him can see some potential in me, I don’t need to have a vision. They need to have a vision. 

It’s a major film for your career...

So the thing is that you just have to do your s**t; they come to you. And I am not talking about Hollywood. There are 10,000 people in Mumbai who don’t believe in me. But I don’t care about them. If there is even one person believing in me, it makes a difference. 

When you first entered Hindi films, there was only you in the action space. Now there is Tiger Shroff as well in the similar genre. How do you look at that? Do you feel like you need to keep upgrading yourself to keep up?

I would upgrade myself. Period. I am the only Indian guy who knows about 76 weapons. Like I said, I am one of the few people in the world who do that bottle thing. I have just broken an iron rod with my neck, and I am only the second person in the world who does it. How will I compete with somebody else? Should I? People are making it to be a competition.

People will limit you, but you should never be limited. Somebody asked me if the film industry is limiting and negative. No, everyone’s negative so don’t hang around with them. Don’t listen to them. So people limit you and say that your competition is with so-and-so. They are the ones comparing, not me. I just train every day... very hard. 

How do you motivate yourself? 

I am not from a film background, so I very often get asked what I have experienced here (in the film industry). How do I motivate myself? If I like something in someone, I will imbibe it but I will not copy it. People just end up copying. I have many actor friends. And they behave like actors and I am not joking. They will talk like a hero, walk like a hero because they have seen Salman Khan and they think that’s how they should behave. I am not saying it's not a good thing to idolize someone. But I have seen guys sit in a car in a very heroic way. Yaar, aise kaun baith tha hai yaar [who sits like that]

But in the industry where there is such a huge pressure of making it big, how do you manage to stay true to who you are?

People around you don’t let you be yourself at times. Recently, I was in Meerut [Uttar Pradesh] for the opening of a gym. The cab driver and I were chatting about Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. He had really loved it and I haven’t seen the film. So we had a long conversation. Then he asked me, how do the heroes talk like the way they do? So they (public) have a perception.

I was on the phone. I was doing gaalis (curses) with my friends. So he (driver) thought this guy abuses too! Then I thought, maybe I will be the only hero he will meet in life. Let me just give him the best memory of his life. Then I started behaving like a hero. I was pretending like I was talking to Shah Rukh Khan or something. It's just for the fun of it, but you can't become that human being. 

Would you like to be an actor or a star?

First of all, what I wanted to become I have become it. I was telling that to my mom the other day. I speak to her the most. If I had to tattoo something it would be her name. My mom runs an ashram in Kerala, where we work very closely with these 800 women (and their children), who have been abandoned by their children or husbands.

Anyway, when I moved out of Kerala, I wanted to do only action. I did small roles in south Indian films and then I became the action hero. So I am happy, yaar. Is Shah Rukh Khan an actor or a star? You can be everything! Limitations start when you start thinking that you want to be this [one particular thing].

Do you have a process before you start working on a film? Did you do any prep say for Baadshaho?

No. Milan Luthria did all the prep. He told me I have to cut my hair. He told me I will have to put a moustache. He knows what he wants from an actor. I like the fact that everyone likes the look. The worst are the mothers. My mother says you are the most handsome army officer I have ever seen.