Vidyut Jammwal on Bollywood's nepotism row: 'You should shine so bright that they can’t ignore you'

Seema Sinha
·6-min read

Vidyut Jammwal is excited about his two upcoming consecutive releases €" Tigmanshu Dhulia-directed Yaara and Khuda Haafiz, both headed for a direct-to-digital release, on ZEE5 and Disney+ Hotstar respectively.

While Yaara (30 July) is touted as a crime drama that revolves around the friendship of four notorious criminals (also featuring Amit Sadh, Shruti Haasan, Vijay Varma, and Kenny Basumatary), Khuda Haafiz (14 August) is a true-life story set against the backdrop of the 2008 recession. It is about a husband's search for his missing wife (Shivaleeka Oberoi) in another country. "Both are of completely different genres and helmed by directors with different vision and different mindset. Tigmanshu is a National Award winner, and Farukh Kabir is a critically acclaimed director who made Allah Ke Banday," says Jamwal.

The 39-year-old actor who is a trained martial artist, and is also proficient in the art of Kalaripayattu, established himself as an action star with his debut Hindi film Force (2011), an action thriller with John Abraham in the lead. Jammwal played the antagonist, a dreaded gangster, which earned him the Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut.

Reflecting on his career, he says, "In retrospect, it has been brilliant because whatever I was getting I thought, 'Wow, how lucky am I.' But everything wasn't materialising, and now when I look back I feel, 'Thank god, it didn't materialise'. Whatever finally materialised, it made me who I am, and what didn't also made me who I am. I had come to Mumbai to become an action star, and I have become one. I have no regrets, and I feel that people shouldn't have regrets," says Jammwal.

With the coronavirus outbreak bringing down the curtains on theatrical experience, OTT platform is the new normal. Jammwal, when asked if he would have preferred his movies to enjoy a theatrical run, he shoots back with a grin,

"It is like asking me that would you prefer to have been born in a star family, or would you prefer to have been born in a family you are born into? I was born where I was meant to be. Similarly these movies are releasing on a platform they are meant to release.

It is the perfect time and it is a new change. It is quite cool and I am proud to be the pioneer of the movies that are releasing on OTT. It feels good to be part of the change."

"Besides going to various countries, the bigger thing is that these films are going to the whole nation. Now whether it is Zee or Star, they are reaching small cities, small centres where people don't want to go to theatres for different reasons. The whole nation will get to watch high-quality cinema directly in your bedroom. I promise you I am very excited about this change. It is good, and it is inevitable."

Jammwal recently created quite a stir when he called out the 'bias' and 'unequal' representation given to him (and the other cast members) and Khuda Haafiz at the announcement event of the release dates of a bunch of Bollywood films such as Bhuj: The Pride of India, Sadak 2, Ludo, and Laxmmi Bomb, with Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Abhishek Bachchan, and Akshay Kumar invited by Disney+ Hotstar. Questioning the trend of star power dictating terms in Bollywood, Jammwal wrote a scathing tweet.

Explaining his "impulsive" reaction, Jammwal says, "Every time you need not react but when you react, it should be natural. I woke up in the morning, and saw on social media where they said that they are releasing these movies, and the first thought that came to my mind, 'Oh, but how come your name is not there?' There was no emotion to it, it was just a thought. I picked up my phone, and on an impulse, I wrote verbatim what my mind was saying. I am glad that I did. Sometimes you have to do what you think at that time is just perfect. It should not be, 'Should I? Should I not?' People normally keep balancing between these two, and I think they should just take a jump sometimes in life. The act of non-balance is more difficult than the act of balance."

Jammwal's objection comes at a time when people across the country are fuming at the special treatment doled out to star kids, shunning out newcomers and outsiders. The debate has rekindled after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput on 14 June. "I feel the whole world wants a change, and the change should be towards being kind towards everybody else. It is not just about the debate that is going on. The Hindi film industry needed a change that they have been talking about, and I am hopeful that the change is positive. I am hopeful that people are genuinely kind towards each other, and they don't make people feel invisible. They should acknowledge people. This is what I have done in my life, and I really believe that this is the right way to go," he says.

It was the right moment to ask Jammwal if it has been difficult being an 'outsider', and the actor, an army man's son, says, "Who is scared of difficult things? If you have the fire in you then nobody will be able to stop you ever. I do believe that there is a gate which is guarded well and it is not easy to get into the gate but you should shine so bright that they can't ignore you for long. Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar... they were also outsiders."

He continues in the same breath as he concludes, "Actually my mechanism is a bit different. I have grown up in an ashram, and I have been practising Kalaripayattu from the age of three. I have professionally fought in a fighting ring. I am used to being slapped, kicked, and thrown. I have been trained to not give up. So these small or big things in life don't really affect me because you want to get up and fight. I am very happy the way I have been. Also, if you find yourself, it is easier to manage everything in life."

All images from Facebook.

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