The 2005 Canadian drama Water tells the story of a group of destitute Hindu widows - including children and the elderly - living together in an ashram in 1938 India. Into their world comes young and charming upper-class Mahatma Gandhi follower Narayan (John Abraham) who falls in love with the young widow Kalyani (Lisa Ray) and seeks to marry her. But life is complicated ...
In Water, John Abraham delivers a memorable performance as he quietly takes on the establishment by rejecting irrelevant cultural norms through his understanding of the real drivers of social, economic, and cultural oppression. In the end he does not save his love, but he does save a life.
While John Abraham has starred in many successfully Bollywood action and comedy films, his dramatic performances stand apart. Each of the following dramas feature John Abraham in memorable stories with striking scenes that stay with you long after the film has ended.
If you are new to Bollywood, check out these five John Abraham films.
1. Kabul Express
Release Date: 15 December 2006
Director: Kabir Khan
Music by: Raghav Sachar, Julius Packiam
Producer: Aditya Chopra
Description: Drama. After 9/11, Indian journalists Suhel Khan (John Abraham) and Jai Kapoor (Arshad Warsi) go to Afghanistan in search of the ultimate news scoop: meeting the Taliban. They hire the driver Khyber (Hanif Humghum), a proud Afghan who has seen the destruction of his country over the decades. Along for the ride is Jessica Beckham (Linda Arsenio), an American photojournalist ready to risk her life to photograph the Taliban. The trip takes a unique turn when Taliban soldier Imran Khan Afridi (Salman Shahid) hitches a ride to flee the wrath of the Afghans and escape to his country, Pakistan.
Why I Love This Film: The film is loosely based on the experiences of Kabir Khan and Rajan Kapoor in post-Taliban Afghanistan. In an IndiaGlitz.com interview, John Abraham explains:
"My character is partly based on what Kabir [Khan] is all about. He is a black and white person. Pretty no–nonsense person. He gets his job done. Wants to go wherever there is danger During the shooting…Arshad said that Kabir would chose his location….That what are the chances of living here…5%....Ok we are going there. He doesn’t believe in boundaries, religion. He just gets his job done at whatever cost. There is a soft side to him. He is a strong silent person and that’s what my character is in the movie."
Filmed in Afghanistan, the banter between the characters offsets the dangers of the trek. The film offers a unique and authentic travelogue of the journey of five people from different worlds through a war-torn country.
2. No Smoking
Release Date: 6 October 2007
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Music by: Vishal Bhardwaj
Producer: Kumar Mangat Pathak, Vishal Bhardwaj
Description: Neo-noir psychological thriller. When chain-smoker "K" (John Abraham) discovers his wife has left him, he visits the "Laboratory", a labyrinthian rehabilitation facility that will help him kick his habit. Here he meets Baba Bengali (Paresh Rawal) and is presented a contract saying, I hereby agree to do whatever I am asked to do in order to successfully quit smoking. I am getting into this programme knowing exactly the risk my smoking will pose to me and my family. After signing the contract, K is told that for each cigarette he smokes from now on he will lose something ... or someone. Defiant at first, K soon learns the cost of his smoking habit.
Why I Love This Film: From start to finish, this is an surrealistic, mind-blowing story full of strange events and bizarre consequences offered in a realistic framework. John Abraham appreciated the script so much that the non-smoker was willing to smoke 80 cigarettes a day. In an Indicine interview, he explained:
" ... I am a non smoker. You won't believe this, but during the shoot of this film I had to smoke and I actually took an x-ray of my lungs to ensure that I have not damaged by body! I was shocked to see my lungs filled with smoke."
John Abraham turns in an excellent performance as a narcissist who tries to maintain control of a situation far beyond his control. The film has a comedic edge wrapped around a totally unique story complex enough to incite viewers to find their own interpretations.
3. New York
Release Date: 26 June 2009
Director: Kabir Khan
Music by: Pritam, Pankaj Awasthi, Julius Packiam
Producer: Aditya Chopra
Description: Dramatic thriller. In 1999, Americans Samir (John Abraham) and Maya (Katrina Kaif) attend a university in New York where they meet and become friends with Omar Aijaz (Neil Nitin Mukesh), a student from Delhi. As they spend time together Omar begins to fall for Maya only to learn that she and Samir are in love. As he nurses his emotional wounds, the country is wounded by 9/11. Omar moves to Philadelphia and years later is picked up by the FBI as a suspected terrorist. As he tries to clear his name, he learns that the FBI is really after Samir. When Omar reunites with Samir and Maya, FBI undercover agent Roshan (Irrfan Khan) sets the ball rolling for a series of tumultuous events that dramatically changes the lives of these friends.
Why I Love This Film: The story is told from the viewpoint of a community of people who experienced ethnic profiling after 9/11. Each of the characters has both good and bad qualities which come into play as they navigate the impact of terrorist activities in the United States. How each person responds to this new reality is what provides the depth to this story about love, loss, and life. According to a DNAIndia.com story, John Abraham explained:
"It dwells on how the world and America looks at a certain community after the (9/11) attacks and vice versa. But it is not a jingoistic America bashing film. It shows both sides of the coin."
Release Date: 30 September 2011
Director: Nishikanth Kamath
Music by: Harris Jayaraj
Producer: Vipul Amrutlal Shah
Description: Action thriller. Narcotics Control Bureau ACP Yashvardhan (John Abraham) and his team is in the midst of his most dangerous and significant operation to crack down on India's drug cartels when he meets talkative, free-spirited Maya (Genelia D'Souza). He slowly allows his friendship with Maya turn into love while tracking down drug dealer Anna Reddy (Mukesh Rishi). An encounter with the team kills Vasu, and some of the team gets suspended. Tensions escalate when they meet their greatest challenge in Anna's brother Vishnu (Vidyut Jamwal) who is on a murderous rampage targeting the police unit and their families.
Why I Love This Film: While this film has some of the old-school Bollywood item numbers , the story is modern with an authentic storyline. Even intense action sequences relied on the actor's physicality. In a SyFy.com interview, John Abraham explained:
"Force doesn't have any unreal action sequences...yet they are all very entertaining and commercial. Generally with technology progressing so much, we use cables for stunts. But in this film, be it me or the villain Vidyut (Jamwal) or others, we mostly didn't use cables and kept it real in real locations. That's why I sustained quite a few injuries during shooting. My bones broke, I fell from great heights, but after we saw the film, I was satisfied that everything looked real. ...There is a scene where I pick up a motorcycle and throw away. At that time my weight was around 100 kilos. And if the motorcycle weighed 115-120 kilos, it was like doing pull-ups. The stunt was not difficult, but looks good on screen."
John Abraham's Yashvardhan is honest, confident, focused and not quite sure how to deal with his sudden attraction to Maya. Maya brings out the human aspect of Yashvardhan and his relationship with her is a both a distraction and his salvation. The tension between Yashvardhan's work and personal life is felt throughout the film and he manages to navigate both sides with strength and honor.
5. Madras Cafe
Release Date: 23 August 2013
Director: Shoojit Sircar
Music by: Shantanu Moitra
Producer: John Abraham, Shoojit Sircar, Ronnie Lahiri
Description: Political espionage thriller. After the unsuccessful Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war, RAW intelligence officer Major Vikram Singh is sent Jaffna to disrupt the rise of the Liberation Tamils Front (LTF) - a.k.a. the "Tigers" - a violent guerrilla group fighting for a separate homeland for Tamils on the island of Sri Lanka. Leading India's covert operations Major Singh leverages the information and resources of British war correspondent Jaya Sahni (Nargis Fakhri), Bala (Prakash Belawadi), and local contacts. As Major Singh navigates through the situation in Sri Lanka, he discovers a conspiracy that threatens India. Racing against time, he tries to put the pieces of the puzzle together and take action before it's too late.
Why I Love This Film: While the film is a fictional account adapted from history, the story highlights important events that shaped the political landscape of both India and Sri Lanka. The film presents the complex political situation with honesty and responsibility. Highlighting the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the film also tries to portray authentic experiences of spies in the field. In a Newswala interview, John Abraham talks about what he learned while preparing for the role:
"Real RAW agents don't jump off the buildings like Spiderman. They don't show six-pack abs around. They are very regular people like you and me. They know how to be so normal that if one of them sits beside you in a cinema hall, you will never know. So for Madras Cafe we had to normalize a lot of things. I had to work on my body language as well as my dialogue delivery so that I don't sound like a hero. Shoojit had done enough research to make me look like a true intelligence officer. The first thing he told me was 'Lose all the weight you have got and look like a regular guy.'"
Don't know which film to watch first? The following playlist features trailers for each of these films, including Water.
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