I am a Cambridge professor now

Chides Mirza Abbas Ali, more famously known as Abbas as we catch up with him before his next release, Ramanujan, where he plays the Bengali scientist Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis

Everyone knows Abbas has been on a sabbatical.  Why, however, only a few know. “I was quite tired with the industry and at some point of time, wondered if I even wanted to continue. So, I took some time out, put my priorities in place and now I am back. That said, I am also all set to foray into TV production, but that’s definitely a chat for sometime later,” says Abbas, opening up the conversation.

Now, Ramanujan is almost out and the excitement is definitely being felt, so do tell us how you got involved with the project?
When I heard about the script, what caught my attention first was the young team involved. That’s definitely not something I am used to, so my interest was piqued immediately. What stood out next was that I had never played a role like this ever before. I mean, I was going to play a Cambridge professor… who’d turn down an opportunity like that? More seriously though, this was an international project and even though my role was miniscule… it was definitely a project I wanted to be associated with.

You’ve always bagged interesting roles: be it the ever-youthful student, or the business-man tycoon-poem-spouting lover or even the obedient homely son… you’ve always been the good boy. Is that something you chose?
Not really. I have never chosen the path my career took. I took what came my way, and if I was ever, over-burdened with choice, I then chose something that was more interesting, at least, according to me. I am more like this typical Indian traveller in a regular class bogey, waiting to choose and indulge in the treats being sold on the train. If I feel like I want something cold, then maybe, I’d wait for the cool-drink guy, but if something hot passed by, I’d even settle for a coffee. It all depended on what came my way, I think.

You spoke of the sabbatical earlier, was that something that you wanted for a long time?
Yes, films can get to you and more than being fed-up, I think I was tired. I’d moved permanently to Chennai and at some point of time, I guess I just wanted a break. I just wanted to sit back, take some time off and realise what I wanted to do with my life. I have always chosen what I wanted to do… from the options given and maybe that needed to change? I wanted to follow my instincts for once, irrespective of the fact that God has been far too kind to me. The sabbatical was therefore very refreshing.

Do you have a soft corner for Kollywood?
Surprisingly, people often call me a Tamil actor and I am actually more popular in Tollywood. I guess the irrefutable fact that I was based out of Chennai made me get more Tamil projects? I guess, that is why that happened. No soft corners and all, but the industry has been good to me.

Bangalore’s still home, we hope? Or is that changing too?
The Bangalore you call Bangalore today, is not the city I grew up in. I just heard that Airlines Hotel was closed down… I mean, how can that happen? You can’t just keep closing down everything that actually means Bangalore to a lot of us who call the city home. The city’s changing too fast for me and even though I have family there, I must say, as much as it will always be home, it is losing its charm, especially for us old-timers. There’s always something new there, which is not a problem… but why change the old? That I do not understand.

What state of mind are you in right now? Change seems to be the biggest thing we’ve talked about so far…
That’s true. I am open to wherever life takes me now, as long as I find peace. Ramanujan was one of those experiences which was just so nice. I was swept off my feet by the cast and I am a Cambridge professor now (laughs). I updated my timeline on Facebook on my return from Cambridge, saying that I was now a professor and the response were pretty funny. Change is inevitable and so all I have to say is: bring it on!

Very true indeed, so what other projects can we look forward to in the near future?
Well, there’s a bilingual called Marupakkam, which might be renamed as Onnukku Rendu and there’s the Kannada film Savaari 2, just around the corner. I’m also doing a Telugu film called Chori and then there’s my budding career as a TV producer. So yes, for now, I have my hands full again.