He can bring traffic to a halt on a Tuesday afternoon, send young and old faces scurrying for a quick click and whispering his power-packed dialogues to grab his attention but even after 40-odd films, Jeet admits to the nailbiting tension before every release as he hands out a little Balaji as a good-luck charm he has just brought back from Tirupati. His Deewana hits halls today.
Are you superstitious?
Not really, but on certain days I am. Before I start shooting for a film and before its release I try and visit Tirupati and end up wearing white! (Smiles)
Your last release was Awara and now Deewana. How different are the two?
It’s a completely different story, character, treatment, production house and heroine. Jeet the awara was a fun-loving, bindaas character and Jeet the deewana has a serious side to him also. He’s called Deewana because of the deewangi with which he handles the crises he is faced with.... But what is common is both the films entertain.
Given that most of these films are formulaic, what is it that hooks you?
Yes, ghurey phirey most of the stories turn out to be the same but the unique elements that will connect with the audience are what I look for. While a good production house, a good director, use of new technology is important, you need to see other aspects. For example, if it’s a comedy, I will run through the screenplay to see if the dialogues make me laugh. If it works with me, chances are the audience might react too.... Remakes have the advantage of being tried and tested so I make sure that I watch the original first and then check if the adaptation has elements that would connect with the Bengali sensibility. Things don’t always have to be drastically different. And like they say, winners don’t do different things, they just do it differently. (Smiles)
This is your fifth film with Srabanti. What do you think is the click factor?
Coincidentally, all our five films have been with Ravi Kinnagi. Audiences have liked Srabanti and me together, or maybe the trio, and when that happens it motivates you and also creates a space where you start feeling very comfortable with the co-actor. You develop a very reciprocal way of working with each other. That is what has happened with Srabanti, who I think is a very talented actor.
And you’ve always been open to pairing up with new faces. Isn’t there an added pressure every time you do so?
Why just a new actress? It could be a new cinematographer, choreographer, fight master, anybody. Everything has a positive and negative side. Yes, there is a bit of pressure but one has to remember that it’s not just the stars who pull people to the box office. The content is eventually the biggest star. Had it not been that, a Saathi would not have worked nor a Chirodini... Tumi Je Amar. On the positive side, you come up with something fresh.
So, what have you been deewana about in life?
Different stages, different people, different things. I’m deewana about my work, my family, my friends, when I was in love, which I still am! During Saathi I had jumped off a 30-storied building. During Champion, I had a car roll over my hands, four times. It comes from a certain passion and I am a crazy, passionate guy.
You’ve just become a father. How has your baby girl’s presence altered you and your life?
We’ve named her Navanya, which means ‘ethereal’. She is just 32 days old, in her own world now and I’m waiting for her to start reacting to things. She is going to be the world for us. Mohna (wife) keeps asking me, ‘Yeh kaun hai jo humarey zindagi mein aayi hai?’ The feeling and our new situation is still sinking in. I spend more time at home now. Something pulls me back home.
Are you a hands-on dad?
Ghum parano theke shuru korey nappies change kora, potty porishkar kora, what else? You name it! (Laughs) I try to do whatever I can whenever I get a chance. With my nephews and nieces I’ve been part-father before and they’d call me ‘Bade Papa’. Mohna had picked up a few parenting books but I haven’t read any. I’m letting life teach me. And like most babies, shara din ghumoy aar shara raat jege thakey so yes I’ve been staying awake longer and waking up late but I’m enjoying that too. Thankfully, I don’t have any shooting right now! Sometimes she falls asleep on my chest and words fall short in expressing how wonderful the feeling is. I’m enjoying every moment... nothing seems tough.
Will turning father affect your career as a hero?
Being a hero is profession for me and those who love you will continue to love you. It’s unconditional love, which comes from what we do on screen. Being a father is the real and human side to me. I’ve believed in the institution of marriage, I believe in fatherhood and this is another phase of my life. I just wish I am a good father to my daughter. Life has to come full circle and these things will not affect your film career because it’s your state of mind that matters. Look at Rajinikanth and the way he’s gone about life. He is still the biggest star and people down south treat him like god. Look at Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumarů the list is endless.