Neil Nitin Mukesh has a lot to be excited about these days. The Bollywood actor is transcending territories by making a tri-lingual film with Baahubali sensation Prabhas in the much-awaited Saaho, and he tells us he has another big film announcement to make soon.
On playing the 'villain' in Saaho: His 'most important role'
Neil has two movies in production, Saaho and Firrkie, and he was quick to point out that he is not a villain in the latter, but plays a character that represents 'shades of grey'.
Speaking to The National over the phone, Neil said Saaho is his biggest role yet, and that he's playing more than just the 'baddie': "there is a lot more to this than that. I don't categorise [characters] as villains or protagonists. But I will say it is my most important role in a film.
Saaho began shooting in June, and is tri-lingual - being shot simultaneously in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. Most details of the sci-fi movie, which will be partly shot in the UAE and is being directed by 26-year-old Sujeeth Reddy, are being kept secret.
"Definitely, the expectations are high. Especially with Prabhas after Baahubali and with Sujeeth as a young director.
"I am sure he will deliver on our expectations. He has got the Hollywood stunt director Kenny Bates so I am sure Sujeet is doing his best. There is an international feel to it, too, with that.
"To be honest, wherever the film takes us, I am excited just to be part of Saaho. Schedule-wise, they [production crew] themselves are locking it up. We are all going to be there [in the UAE] at the end of the month."
Matching up to Prabhas physically
To match up against strongman Prabhas, Neil had to put on weight for Saaho he tells us: "Prabhas is taller than me. Then I had to match his strength, so I put on weight with the help of my trainer.
"In Firrkie, I had to be very frail. But in Saaho, Prabhas also has to be a lot leaner than he was in Baahubali so it kind of balanced off well. There was not too much work to be done there."
On doing a multi-language film
Talking about the challenges of a doing a film in multiple languages, Neil said he is not having much trouble because he already has a Tamil movie, 2015's Kaththi with another big name, Vijay, under his belt.
But he was surprised when we told him that three of the top Twitter hashtag trends in India of 2017 were 'Baahubali2', 'Vijay' and 'Salman Khan'.
"So, I have done work with all three of them!"
An exciting secret project
Neil assured us that he is open to all kinds of roles despite the fact he often plays the antagonist.
He then told us, excitedly, "there is an announcement happening in the next 10 days, something very close to my heart."
"The film that I am talking about... there is a reason why this movie is special to me. You will know soon."
When we asked him about the filmmakers behind this next movie, he added: "Let's just say, it is someone I've always wanted to work with."
He went on to tell us that he turns down roles if they aren't right for his career: "I am not running a numbers game. But I am definitely in the race to be a good actor, performer and wherever that race takes me I am ready to go... if [a role] is not what I am looking for as an actor, I say no."
The son of Nitin Mukesh and grandfather Mukesh, both singers, the actor has had moderate and mixed recent success after a promising start at the box office. And having been married for a year, he will be hoping to get back on trend soon with these recent developments.