My foray into Bollywood was planned. I had finished a course in acting which was taught to me by the great Barry John himself, the teacher of Manoj Bajpai and the great Shah Rukh Khan. I was only later to realise that I would get a chance to share screen space with the Badshah one day. I had a two-year stint with a radio station and had gained vital experience in the creative content building space. Surely my Bollywood dreams were not far away from me.
I had only one friend in Bollywood – a gentleman as big as a nutcase like me by the name of Anurag Kashyap. Anurag had built quite a reputation and cult following in Bollywood over the years for his writing, direction and, of course, his dedication and focus towards Bollywood and world cinema at large. I had met Anurag through Ani Bahal who was my mate during my campus years. I had also invited Kashyap once for an interview on my radio station 93.5 Red FM. So it was only fit for me to meet him first when I landed up in Mumbai to start a career in acting at the age of 32. I was still a bit unsure and had doubts about my acting foray and my abilities.
I first lived for a few months with Suresh Bhaswana and his girlfriend who were kind enough to be my hosts in the city. But instead of going out looking for acting work in the studios of Andheri and Lokhandwala, I preferred to stay home and read philosophy books. Man, for one month, I just read books from OSHO and Deepak Chopra. I must have finished more than 100 books written by these authors. At times, Suresh would come into my room and say, “Abbey chuutti pe aya hei kya? tu tho muhjsey bhi zyaada sotta hei.”
Suresh just couldn’t believe it. He wanted me to go out and look for work or accompany him to film studios with my portfolio. But I just wouldn’t move out of my room for weeks. I was so immersed in those books. As Suresh was busy doing LSD with his girl, I would be reading my books. I was surely the odd one out in the house and soon got thrown out.
I spent the next few months living in a kholi in Khar at a fishing village called Chuim Village. Well, that was the welcome that Mumbai gave me. Yes, sir, I was well and truly in the city to live my acting dreams. I hung around with Anurag Kashyap and his gang and even managed to work for the famous ad director Prahlad Kakkad in his company Genisis for a few months. But, out of all this, my most memorable story is of my first scene in Bollywood with John Abraham. Yes, my ‘Chicken Scene’. Yes, sir, this was my big break. Anurag Kashyap gave me a scene to be the character who was John Abraham’s friend in his film No Smoking.
I was excited! This was my first scene in a Bollywood film as an actor. I had a few lines of dialogue, a conversation with John Abraham’s character in the film by the name of K. I was asked to wear a black suit with a white shirt and a colourful tie. The shoot was taking place in a high rise building in Worli. It was in one of these plush penthouses bang in the middle of Worli. Yes, it was a rich and successful man’s house. That was my set for the next few days. It is here that I met John Abraham for the first time.
John is a tall man with a brilliant body. When you meet him in person, you will know why women fall all over him. He also has Iranian roots. His mother was an Iranian and his dad an architect. John was, what you call, a hardcore Mumbai boy. These were the facts that I accumulated during my conversation with John who was very friendly and open about himself.
The set was a madhouse with technicians, set designers and cameramen all running around getting last-minute things done. It was a pandemonium as we actors could do nothing but watch this from afar. After all, our work only started after the sets and the cameramen were ready.
Yes, sir, it was evening and it was time for me to give my first shot with John Abraham. We would be seated on a sofa enjoying snacks and beer in the centre of the room. There was a large LED TV on the front wall of the dining hall. John would walk in with beer in his hand trying to serve us. He would sit down adjacently to me and say, “Yaar, I don’t know how to kick this smoking habit. Yaar bol, mean kya karun?” He would then take a sip of his beer at this point. I had to say, “Our phir John ne shaaadi kar le.” That is where I would come in and we would all get involved in a conversation. That was the basic scene.
We were all in our positions with sound mikes clubbed to everyone. The setting guys and the guys with the reflector and bounce were still taking their sweet time. Anurag was handing out instructions and then playing video games in his cell phone. John Abraham looked a bit out of place since it was his early days into the shoot. All of a sudden out of the blue, Kashyap asks his assistant, “Just go and get one big full roasted tandoori chicken.” He said sinking deep into thought. The chicken arrived on a platter with a huge carving knife. “Yeh is funny face wale admi ko roast chicken dho.” Anurag barked an order. Well, a plate of chicken was thrust in front of me. “No, you just eat it. Tear it and just eat it. Khaata ja khaata ja chicken ko.” Kashyap looked excited as he made gestures with his hands and face trying to tell me that I should eat the chicken like a hungry animal and keep at it. I was quick to grab at his instructions but at the same time added my two bit to the scene. That is what made the magic happen.
We were all ready when popped in Ani Bahal. He had also come to see me perform my first scene. Anurag shouted ACTION and I started eating the chicken. I tore into it. I shredded it with the large carving knife. First, I tore the thighs and then the breast pieces. I hogged on it like a wild boar. Anurag got excited seeing his fantasy come true. He yelled, “Arrey is ke face ko capture karoo! Camera right next to his face! Just focus on him eating the damn chicken!” BANG, the camera was right next to my face as I broke into a full tandoori chicken. I got even more excited and started eating the pieces with relish and at a very fast pace. Now, even the people around us got involved. It was as if I was in an eatathon. Then suddenly, I moved back and realised that I had finished the entire chicken. Not even a shred of it was left on the plate. A whole big tandoori chicken within seconds was gobbled up by me and all the while, the camera was on my face capturing my fun feast. Meanwhile, John stopped concentrating on his scene and started looking at me and smiled. He couldn’t believe his eyes that this man had polished off an entire roast chicken in front of his eyes within minutes. “Man, you have eaten the whole chicken ah! How can you do that?” He looked bemused and had a smile on his face.
“Cut, Cut. Brilliant! Meeein maaaan gaya tu actor heiii! You are brilliant…” Anurag jumped up as if to acknowledge and applaud my acting talent. I was so emotional and charged that I jumped from the sofa and flung myself on Anurag, grabbed him by the neck and said “Tu he janta hey.” There was passion and a sense of deep victory as I had given a perfectly unusual scene to my director. Who thought that I would eat the entire chicken? I then looked at John after soaking in the applause and appreciation and chided him, “Johny ne shhhhadi kaaar le le le.” This was a clear show of intent that I had gone one up on him in this scene. I was different and spontaneous with my dialogues and takes. John was taken aback as I got all the applause for a near perfect scene. Indeed, Kaun John? John walked towards the balcony with appreciation for my acting talent and said “I am also learning from these guys.” Yes, even he knew that I had blown him apart in this scene.
Next day, he waved to me and said a big hello to me. Then he said for the first time striking a conversation “Ah! You used to work for Citi Bank and you had five girlfriends? You ended up marrying one and then she dumped you. I guess you are a maverick.” I smiled and showed my appreciation for his kind words. Then, as I sat next to him, I tapped him on his thighs just to remind and tease him that I got the better of him in the chicken scene. John, the champion that he is, was itching to return the favour and so he did.
Over the days of the shoot, we got friendly. He asked me for some advice on a presentation that he was doing for a media buying firm. We talked about stock markets and movies. He was kind to invite me to his vanity van which had wooden blinds, black leather cushions and a TV set.
“You know Rajinikanth? He has his maximum following in Japan. Man, the Japanese love him. He is the Indian Jackie Chan for them.” Anurag interrupted us. He had just returned from giving an interview to the press. We were about to see the famous tub scene of John when he sinks into a hot tub of water in his boxers and rose petals fly all over his face. This is the scene before the dream sequence in the film starts. I got a glimpse of the famous hot body of John for the first time. I can say now what all the fuss is all about. John has a gorgeous body and his straight pointed black hair were making him look childish but it was suiting him.
“Aap khatein bahut hein. The whole chicken you ate up. Kuch exercises kijeye. You have to be fit as an actor.” John would tell me advising me like a big brother. We had shifted now to shooting in an old ruined factory complex in Colaba. This was where Paresh Rawal’s character Bade Baba Bengali would be introduced. This was also the ideal time for me to take a quick radio interview with John Abraham. I took the interview in his vanity van. He spoke about his old school in Bandra, his favourite eating joint Bagdadi especially the beef curry there. He also talked about the accolades that he got from his earlier film Jism and how Dhoom completely changed his career and put him in the big league. He was quick with his answers and then once or twice, he gave me some spontaneous retorts. I knew that he was trying to get back at me for my chicken scene and this was his ideal opportunity. “Tho aap Reliance radio ke liye kaam kartein hein. Hmmm, vo Reliance energy walun ka.” He said chiding me. I also closed the interview session with my final question, “So John, tell me a secret that you haven’t told Bipasha Basu?” Man, he was a bit taken aback and then realised the joke, “If I tell you all my secrets, all your radio station time will finish.” Saying that he burst out laughing. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door of the vanity van. It was the assistant, “John, man, come out. Your shot is ready, you are late.” John turned around to look at me and said, “I will tell Anurag that I am late because of you.” He laughed as he left the van. I thought to myself, “Yeah, the bastard got back at me” but what happened next exceeded even my expectations.
The shooting went on for a month and the locations kept changing. I had been begging Anurag Kashyap to give me a few more scenes and to increase my character role but did not get a definite answer. We all tend to lose ourselves and I did too. One day while going for a stroll, I was in one of those lost moods. I walked into a hair cutting saloon and got all my hair chopped off. Yes, I went totally bald.
Next, when I went back on the sets of No Smoking. I walked in to see Paresh shooting and Anurag spotted me. He was stunned. He had shock written all over his face. “What have you done? You have gone bold.” Then he looked at my face again and realised that I was not aware that he had written three more scenes for me. I was to shoot next week also and this time with Paresh Rawal himself. The entire crew went into a panic. Anurag’s assistant came up to me, “Sir is harrkat ke liyeee aap ko blacklist kara ja skataa hey.” Someone shouted out and said to me, “Arrey bhai kisi ka sharad tha kya.” From the left, John looked at me as I told him, “They are giving me three more scenes.” John was even more gobsmacked and bemused, “For that haircut.” Everyone was dazed. This was even better than the chicken scene. Anurag took a chair and sat down. He just started laughing and he went on laughing. Such was the situation. In my first movie, the director is ready to shoot with me for three more scenes and I landed up bald stark bald on the set. “Sir mean wig pehen lunge, sir kuuch kie jiyeee.” But I knew that I had f***** up. No wig would cover my baldness completely and anyway, I was not a bigshot actor. They could just replace me with another and that’s what exactly happened. But I had arrived with a bang and controversy followed me as it did throughout my Bollywood stint.
I will never forget my first scene in Bollywood, the scene in which meiney John Abraham ki gaand mari. My chicken scene was there in the film, only a portion had been cut off. But in the end, it was the movie No Smoking jissney saab ki gaand mari. The movie did not last one day at the movie hall and was removed from the theatre in a few days.
Check out my scene in the movie No Smoking right
All characters and events depicted in this story are entirely fictitious. Any similarity to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.