'All mothers are the same. Mine came out of the MAMI screening, crying.'
'Recently, a critic compared me to the best debut since Hrithik sir and she was so overwhelmed with that.'
'Someone said 'You are Bhagyashree's son and the innocence is the same.'
'Even if I can even touch the shadow of that in my entire career, I will be very happy.'
Thirty years after Bhagyashree made a blockbuster debut in Maine Pyar Kiya, her son Abhimanyu Dassani made his celluloid bow with Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota.
Vasan Bala's film has been getting amazing reviews, winning the 29-year-old actor several awards at international film festivals.
Abhimanyu may be having a star mom, but he admits he hated her popularity.
"I detested it because she was my mother and she should only sit next to me; she should feed me food and hold my hand... why was she talking to strangers on television? I didn't like it at all," he tells Patcy N/Rediff.com.
Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota got good reviews. What kind of compliments did you get?
I am very happy and humbled because the people I look up to, whose films I've grown up watching and the people I want to work with, they were quite excited to see the film.
Audiences are leaving the cinema hall with (my character) Surya -- they can relate to Surya -- and it is extremely humbling to affect the audience in such a way.
I got the most calls when the trailer was launched at the Toronto International Film Festival.
It was amazing because a lot of people suddenly realised that I existed.
No one knew me before that.
People located my number, called me and messaged me -- that effort had a great effect on me.
What was your parents's reaction after watching the film?
All mothers are the same. Mine came out of the MAMI screening, crying.
She is very proud of me and every time she reads some critic saying nice things about me, she has a tear rolling down her eye.
Recently, a critic compared me to the best debut since Hrithik sir (Roshan) and she was so overwhelmed with that.
Someone said 'You are Bhagyashree's son and the innocence is the same.'
That kind of overwhelmed me because even after 30 years, people recall that Suman had so much innocence.
Even if I can even touch the shadow of that in my entire career, I will be very happy.
How was this film offered to you?
No movie was offered to me unfortunately.
I have auditioned for everything.
I have been working hard in this industry for the past nine years.
I have assisted on multiple films. I have been a part of a documentary produced by Ramesh Sippy Entertainment -- it was about the effect of Sholay on this industry.
I auditioned for six weeks for Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota before getting selected.
Then, it took another four weeks to negotiate my contract.
I chose to work with Vasan sir (Bala, director). He believed in me and that's why I started believing in myself.
Why did it take you four weeks to negotiate your contract?
I graduated in finance, so I knew what I was doing.
Mard... was in a state of flux because the original production company bowed out.
After a year, RSVP came on board. By then, I had started training to become Surya.
How did you prepare for the role?
I did about nine hours of physical training every day, of which I had six hours of skill training.
I would practice martial arts -- which includes MMA, boxing, taekwondo, jeet kune do, jujitsu -- three hours in the morning, and three in the evening.
I would do weight training, yoga and meditation and end the day with an hour of swimming.
Then, I would go home and train tribal combat.
The last three months before the shoot, I went into isolation. I only spoke to my trainers and Vasan sir.
How did your mother take that?
She was very upset.
She couldn't ask the question which all mothers ask -- 'Khana khaya ki nahin?' -- and I couldn't tell her.
Your mother comes from a different cinema background of masala movies. How did she react when you signed up for an Indie film?
My parents did not know what the movie entailed until they actually saw it.
I didn't tell them the story.
This is not my launch film, it is a debut film. There is a big difference.
A launch film caters to you and is written around you. A debut film is when you get a chance to be part of a film.
I am part of Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota; it was not made for me.
Even before the film released in India, you won the Best Debutant award at the Macao Film Festival and the film won the People's Choice Midnight Madness award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018. But its release in India was delayed.
It didn't affect me so much honestly, but it affected everybody around me.
For me, it is never about showing others what I have accomplished.
It was never about the result.
For me, it was always about the journey, the hard work and the sweat. And I loved it.
To be appreciated by Oscar-winning directors and for the jury to select you as the Best Actor or put you in the same sentence as Jackie Chan -- the hero I've grown up watching... I can't explain what that feeling is like!
Every moment was breathtaking!
This whole journey was such an adventure.
But you said the people around you were affected.
Yes, because they were waiting to see the film.
I don't dwell on the details of the work I do.
I don't discuss the details at home or with my friends, so they were anxious to see what I was doing in those three years.
Is it true that you founded and sold off 10, 12 successful start-ups ever since you were 16?
What kind of start-ups?
I did different things.
The first was an event management. I had a company with a group of seniors and we would do events at night clubs and for New Year's Eve.
I was too young, so I could not go for the parties that I organised myself.
I organised one of the first turf footballs in Mumbai.
There were many things that I dabbled in.
I also worked in infrastructure with my dad.
And then, all of a sudden, you decided to act?
It was not all of a sudden.
I shifted from one industry to another to find what interests me.
Making money didn't interest me, as I was making a lot doing these things.
How much money did you make?
Enough to take care of myself.
And how much is that?
Imagine not taking money from your parents from the age of 16, and then going to New York to study on your own.
What turned me on was the creative aspect.
And where is creativity at its best in India? Film-making.
I persuaded Rohan Sippy to have a cup of coffee with me. He agreed and called me to his office.
I told him that I wanted to understand film-making.
He didn't know me, so he gave me a booklet to read and then asked me to meet him.
I sat with his watchman for three hours and read the whole book.
He assumed that I would go home and read it in a few days.
When I went to his office again, he asked, 'Tu abhi tak kya kara raha hai?'
I told him that I had finished reading and then asked when I could join him.
He asked me to come from the next day. That was my first day on the sets of Dum Maaro Dum, nine years ago.
When did you think of acting?
I did not know what I wanted to do, so I was trying to get a feel of the industry.
The energy on the sets is where I found myself. I realised that there was something I could see myself doing.
But I didn't understand what it was.
I had a couple of conversations with Abhishek Bachchan -- big shoutout to AB! -- and he cleared my mind and give this a shot.
So I went to the New York Film Academy to study acting in the summer.
After I returned, I assisted on Nautanki Saala.
Then I went back to New York to study at the Lee Strasberg theatre. The teachers had a lot of confidence in me.
As a child, were you aware that you mother was a popular actress?
Yes, I realised who she was.
At first, I detested it because she was my mother and she should only sit next to me; she should feed me food and hold my hand... why was she talking to strangers on television?
I didn't like it at all.
I was very possessive. I am still very possessive and protective about her.
People would come and take her autograph and I would say, 'This is my time with her, please.'
As I grew older and started understanding life, I realised how substantial her influence on Bollywood has been.
Her role (in Maine Pyar Kiya) was so magnanimous that even after 30 years, people fondly remember her as Suman.
Her character was larger-than-life and it crossed boundaries of time. That doesn't happen often.
I am really proud because when we go out on trips in Europe, people recognise her.
What kind of childhood did you have?
An absolutely normal one.
I have not understood what it is like to be a star kid even now because I go to events and red carpets and I still have to introduce myself.
When we were promoting the film, reporters were calling me 'Aditya' and 'Abhinav'. So no one recognises me.
I am okay with that as long as you have seen and enjoyed my work.
Radhika Madan said in an interview that even after four months of shooting with you, she had no idea you were Bhagyashree's son.
No one in the industry knew I was Bhagyashree's son.
Only after my trailer went viral, people knew who I was.
What kind of work would you like to do?
Acting is about pushing the envelope, and that’s what Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota has done.
It has defined Bollywood action in different way.
What change would you like to see in India after the Lok Sabha elections?&nb
I would love to see kindness. That's what is missing, not only in India, but in the world.
I think kindness is a superpower.
We need more kindness in this world.