The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘People have changed like hell’

He’s confident. And cautious. Sections of the media have reported his abrasive and arrogant behaviour. Mohit Ahlawat whom Ram Gopal Varma describes as a “potential superstar on the lines of Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan”, doesn’t know what hit him. Sounding extremely guarded and polite he says, “A journalist called me when I was groggy. I hadn’t slept the whole night'I told him I was in no condition to talk. Later, when I was on the way to the gym, he called me again and asked me some very routine questions, which I’ve been asked repeatedly. I answered them as best as I could. The next thing I knew I was portrayed as an arrogant, conceited brat. Sir, I’m just a newcomer. What right do I have to act high and mighty'”

No one has the right to act high and mighty. “I agree. And even if Ramuji showers me with high praise. I’ve yet to prove myself to the audience. For myself, I must admit I am happy watching myself on screen. In fact, I got goose bumps when I saw the way I had been transformed on screen. For the last one year all I’ve done is work,-work,-work'nothing else. I’ve been getting offers from outside Ram Gopal Varma productions. But I just wanted to stay focused on James. Ramu has a lot of hopes pinned on me. I hope I don’t let him down.”

His mentor thinks Mohit is complete star-material. The debutant laughs nervously. “I wouldn’t know about that. I hope he’s right. It’s interesting how Ramuji discovered me, a boy from Panipat with no connections in the industry. I came to Mumbai six years ago to stay with my close friend Bhushan Kumar of T-Series ' he and his family are like family to me. I had no plans of being in the movies. I wanted to join my dad in his business. He’s into exports. But then I thought of a career in acting.”

Before Ram Gopal Varma, Mohit knocked on many doors in Bollywood. “And one person who was always encouraging was Suniel Shetty. He had plans for me. In the mean time I met my dream-filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma. Like other strugglers I went to his office with my photographs. Those were very small-sized pictures. He said he wanted larger pictures and that I seemed good for negative roles. I wasn’t really keen on doing negative roles. But then Ramuji called Bhushan Kumar asking about me. Then I got my photographs done. That was it. Ramuji told me I was doing no other film except his.”

Mohit was already fully trained when Ramu spotted him. “I was good in action. But I was trained by an assistant to Ramuji for three months, 12 hours every day. I learnt how to react before the camera.” And now James is ready for release. “Ramuji has given me a full-on masala role. Lots of fights, drama though not much dancing. I’m an okay dancer, not exceptional. For tall people it’s very difficult to get some movements right. I play a migrant in Mumbai. James is all about how I react to the city and how the city reacts to me. Politics, drama, all the mirch masala are in it. I’m confident about myself. But like any newcomer I am nervous. When I started the film I didn’t know what I was capable of. But now I know what I can do. I like myself in James. It’s important to have respect for your own abilities before others do the same.”

So is Ramu correct in categorising Mohit with Shah Rukh and Hrithik' “I don’t think I should compare myself with anyone. I want to create my own place in the film industry.” It’s being written that Mohit has said ‘no’ to another offer with his mentor. “Say ‘no’ to Ramu' Do you think that’s possible' There are some people and obligations that can never be forgotten. Even if Ramuji asks me to play the walk-on part of a chowkidar I’ll say ‘yes’ immediately. He’ll always do his best for me, that’s for sure. Ramuji is planning another project with me. I’d definitely prefer to work with Ramuji again in my next film.”

What about his kith and kin in T-Series' “Bhushan always wanted to launch me. But the kind of films they make are very different from what I’d like to do.” Blunt. What-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude. He stops to ponder. “Where do these rumours come from' There was a rumour some time back that I got into a brawl in a pub. I never go to a pub! I party maybe once a month. Would I spoil things for myself by getting into fights so early in my career' I don’t think people like the idea of an outsider getting the kind of break that I am. Ever since I started working with Ramuji, I’ve lost so many friends. People have changed like hell. I’m happy being Ramuji’s blue-eyed boy.”

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