Riteish Deshmukh next's film Housefull 4, also starring Akshay Kumar and Bobby Deol, released this Friday. Despite being challenged to bring a fresh concept in the new installment, the actor, who has been a constant in three other comedy franchises (Masti, Kya Kool Hain Hum and Dhamaal), does not tire of the genre.
“Every time you make a film like Housefull it is important to figure out what is that one thing that can excite the audience to bring them back to theatres. Each time we want to give them a different experience in the same genre. After the first part, part two had a much bigger star cast with Mithun da (Chakraborty), Rishi and Randhir Kapoor, John (Abraham), Akshay (Kumar), Shreyas (Talpade), myself and Asin. Then, for Part 3 we went on a conceptualised mode with a love story, of course.”
“But for Part 4,” Riteish continues, “Unless it was conceptually still bigger it was very difficult to crack it. Eventually we came up with the idea of reincarnation comedy and we developed it over the year. It’s a unique concept and probably for the first time it is being attempted in cinema.”
Since the story is based on reincarnation, spanning six centuries, from 1419 to 2019, Deshmukh says, it was quite the challenge for actors to play their parts.
“I had never played a character that existed 600 years ago and at the same time the film is in a comedy space making it much more difficult. It is not a Baahubali or a Padmaavat. You need to have a different body language when you do comedies because the entire set up is such. You are heading towards laughter, your entire physicality, the reactions and situations are slightly exaggerated. I play Nartaki Bangdu Maharaj, he’s a dance teacher who pretends to be slightly effeminate so that he can be close to the princesses because he is in love with one of them. Obviously 600 years ago men were not allowed in the queen’s chamber and this was the only way to be with his beloved,” he explains.
Lately, Deshmukh has acted in comedies which are a part of a series and that, he says, puts him in a comfort zone. He was recently seen in Total Dhamaal, third in the series of Dhamaal films.
“The beauty of doing sequels is that you know your co-stars well, you know the genre and you have already been in that space and hence it comes easy. But at the same time you want to figure out how different can you be this time and that is why the concept and the story needs to be worked upon, dialogues needs to be funnier, situations have to be fresher, then you put yourself in that situation and try and do different things,” he says.
“I have been constant in four franchises, and in fact, one fourth of my career constitutes these franchises with the total of 12 films in Housefull, Dhamaal, Masti and Kyaa Kool Hain Hum series. It’s a good thing and I will be happy if I keep doing franchises,” he laughs.
For someone who has made a career out of comedy films, the genre should be serious business. Deshmukh, on the other hand, often takes a joke on himself. The actor feels that getting "unnecessarily serious and touchy" is limiting and takes away one's sense of humour.
“These days you are almost judged for everything by someone or the other which is fine. Sometimes you realise that probably this will hurt sentiments of large section of people and it is not in good taste then you drop that. But so many times we hope that we don’t take each other so seriously that we miss seeing humour in things around us. That is happening quite often now and these are the same people who find it okay to laugh on the same jokes on WhatsApp. If there are jokes that offend somebody’s sensibility, of course, we shouldn’t do it but we shouldn’t lose our sense of humour as well,” he says.
With Housefull 4, Deshmukh is collaborating with Kumar for the fifth time, whom he says is one of best co-stars to have, especially in a comedy.
“When we face the camera together it feels as if we know each other inside out. We give each other space and we respect as actors and our craft. Both of us think that we can add certain value to a scene. After so many years there is a sense of understanding and ease. We don’t take offence to things spoken to each other,” reveals Deshmukh.
He will next play a vertically challenged man in Marjaavaan, alongside his Ek Villain co-actor Sidharth Malhotra. He is also a part of Baaghi 3, headlined by Tiger Shroff, which also promises a generous dose of humour.
“I am ready to experiment with all kinds of roles, it may or may not be my personality type. I have reached this space and time in my career where I just wish I get more interesting roles irrespective of genre. It could be comedy, or thriller, or it could be negative or romantic. I am willing to play old, young or even a woman, I have done it all,” admits Deshmukh.
Housefull 4 made the headlines last year in October after director Sajid Khan was accused of sexual harassment. His exit brought the shoot to a standstill until he was replaced by Farhad Samji.
“I have had a great working relationship with Sajid Khan. He is wonderful at his craft. He directed 50 percent of the film. But the studio took a certain decision and Farhad was the natural choice to take the reins from Sajid because he (Farhad) had directed Part 3 and he had written Part four, three and two. When you see the film they have managed the same language structure and it has turned into a fine product,” says Deshmukh.
Talking about the #MeToo movement, Deshmukh opines, “I respect the fact that it takes a lot for a woman to come out and speak. I feel whatever has happened with #MeToo world over needs to be looked in a positive light. At the same time I also feel that there needs to be a system to figure out to reach every issue to its conclusion. If it is kept hanging then no one knows what had transpired, what is the person guilty for and what is the punishment for that. I wish people from the industry, or the lawmakers decide the logical solution. If something is proved then there is a clear-cut demarcation and there is no confusion. If not clear then it lives in a space that may not be comfortable for people around."