'It's good to be bad sometimes': Dino Morea on making a comeback with Telegu action thriller alongside Mammootty

After completing 24 years in Bollywood, Dino Morea is back on the big screen with Agent

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By Yasser Usman

Published: Thu 4 May 2023, 3:32 PM

Actor Dino Morea achieved stardom with the 2002 blockbuster Raaz. But most of his films from that point on did not work out and he lost his way. After a decade of difficult times, he made a successful comeback with the series The Empire. Now, Dino Morea is back on the big screen with a new thriller Agent with Mammootty. In an interview with wknd., Morea talks about his journey of reinvention.

Edited excerpts from an interview.

The cool-looking villain in the recently-released Telugu action thriller is Dino Morea! Twenty four years of being in Bollywood, this marks your Telugu debut. How did Agent come about?

Agent happened when director Surender Reddy was watching my series The Empire (a 2021 series on the Mughal Empire), where I played the antagonist Shaybani Khan. When he saw what I’ve done in The Empire, he saw some madness in my eyes that made him realise that I’ll fit the bill for playing the antagonist. By then he had already cast Mammootty Sir and Akhil. They called me and asked if I would like to be a part of this film. I heard the script and was amazed by the story of three agents. Mammootty Sir would play the boss of the agency, I’d be playing the old recruit who has gone rogue and Akhil, the new recruit. I thought it’s a great cat-and-mouse thriller and immediately said yes to it. Also, it’s releasing in Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and the Hindi print will release in a few weeks. So, it’s actually a pan-India film.

Have you also shot some action scenes in Oman?

Yes, we have. The temperature wasn’t very kind (laughs) because while deciding my look in the film we decided we were going to shoot in the cold climate of Budapest, Hungary and Italy, so the director decided that I’d put on layers of clothing. But then we went to Oman for the action scenes. It’s like taking a polar bear to the desert. On the outside I had to look calm but inside I was soaking wet... baking.

How was it working with the legend Mammootty for the first time?

It’s my second time actually! I did a small role in the Tamil film Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000) many years ago. Mammoo Sir and I, we did a small bit there. At that time, I was new but now I’m working with him after so much experience. When you have an actor of such calibre you just sit and observe. Here, most of my scenes were that of fighting him. That’s what was most challenging for me because I wanted to be the best. I wanted to go one up. At one point during one of the scenes, he looked at me and said, “You’re very good. You’ll go a long way.” Coming from him it felt so wonderful. He is such a gracious actor.

Do you realise it has been such a long innings already? You began in 1999 with Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi. We remember that lovely song Musu Musu Haasi. Then the blockbuster Raaz (2002) catapulted you into stardom. How do you look back at those years?

Wonderful times! I had jumped into the film industry not knowing whether I wanted to act or not. It was just the next transition after modelling. But once I got bitten by the bug after shooting my first film, there was no looking back. Then Raaz happened and its huge success cemented my place in the film industry. Following that, Gunaah (2002), Baaz (2003), Plan (2004), Fight Club (2006) and Aksar (2006) did really well. If I look back from 2000-2012, I worked nearly every day, shot 18 movies. Wonderful memories. Then I started slowing down and saying no to roles that didn’t appeal to me. There were no nice offers coming my way.

You were all over — magazine covers, with regular releases and modelling, but more focus was on your personal life. Do you think it harmed your career?

I don’t regret anything but if I look back , I do feel that the choice of films could have been better. Sometimes, when a script is narrated to you, it sounds fantastic but when it is released, you realise the director had a different movie going on in his head and you had a different movie going on in your head (laughs). It’s also the timing and fate. The media focus on my personal relationships didn’t harm my career but it was just being spoken about more often than the work I did. It bothered me because they were only writing about the women I was dating, but my film that did decently well wasn’t talked about.

There were few years when there was no work, no films. Was that period difficult?

It was very difficult. We live in funny times and a funny place where if you don’t do films, your colleagues will say, ‘Dude out of sight, out of mind. Do something!’. And if you do a mediocre film, they say, ‘Hey! what are you doing?’ It was tough because then insecurity sets in. You get all these conflicting thoughts. Besides that, you have to earn money. You have to survive. So, what are you going to do? What’s the future going to be? It’s like starting off fresh from college, that’s the feeling you get. But I kept working on myself and saying no to work I didn’t like. I knew it was a matter of time.

Finally, your patience has paid off. First Tandav (2021) and then in The Empire (2021) as Shaybani Khan looking so fabulous. Was that the comeback you were waiting for?

Most definitely. The Empire showcased a different side of me to the audience and the industry. However, I am still knocking on people’s doors saying: ‘Hey! I have done something substantial now, you better use that and give me something great.’

So, there have been three phases in your career — the successful model, stardom with Raaz and now two decades later, you are looking better than ever and making your Telugu debut. What’s the plan going forward?

Well, I am doing a negative role in another film, my Malayalam debut Bandra, for which I’m playing a ruthless character. It’s good to be bad sometimes. There is also a film called Mere Husband Ki Biwi by Mudassar Aziz. I’ve waited enough and I am in the next gear now, moving faster because I want to do more work. And better work. Just hoping for a fantastic second innings.

Yasser is a film commentator and author based in London

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