Dino Morea essays the role of Shaybani Khan in ‘The Empire,’ which releases today
Dino Morea is back and how! Essaying the role of a medieval Uzbeki hero in the magnum opus, The Empire, which releases today, we catch up with the actor to talk work and wisdom
The first time we saw this Bengaluru boy on the big screen in 1999, his dimples caught the attention and the imagination of a whole generation! His role as Siddhant in Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi, as he sung Musu Musu Haasi to Rinkie Khanna, fuelled an obsession with a new kind of masculinity — a soft spoken, almost cotton candy like hero, and he certainly looked the part.
Fast forward to 2002, and Dino Morea reinvented himself as a sex symbol with the steamy Raaz (2002). The actor also made his Tamil debut in a memorable cameo role as Captain Vinod in Rajiv Menon’s hit Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000) and returned to South Indian cinema in Bejoy Nambiar’s Solo (2017). In between, he also starred in several Hindi films that didn’t quite make it at the box office.
The Malayali-Italian model is now back with a bang in a brand new avatar; as medieval Uzbeki hero Muhammad Shaybani Khan (a descendant of Genghis Khan) in the magnum opus, The Empire — based on the Mughal Sultanate, which releases on Disney+ Hotstar today. We catch up with the 45-year-old model- turned-actor-turned-producer to find out more about the role, his possible return to South Indian films and his career ahead. Excerpts.
Tell us about your role as Muhammad Shaybani Khan in ‘The Empire’:
First, let me say that it’s brilliant to get back to working and this is my third OTT outing. The first was Mentalhood on ZEE5 & ALTBalaji (2020), the second was Hostages Season 2 on Disney+ Hotstar (2020), the third was Tandav for Amazon Prime Video (2021), and I feel like they were all just getting me warmed up for this massive magnum opus. I am quite excited about my role as (Muhammad) Shaybani Khan. If you ask me as a character, he’s beautiful. He’s got so many layers and he’s so complex; and so brutal and savage. He believes a throne should never be inherited, it should be earned. He had a very troubled childhood and he is what he is because of that childhood. He’s a warrior, so, you don’t see much emotion and even if there’s emotion, he tries to hide it. So, to get under the skin of the character was an amazing experience and the feedback we’ve been getting from the trailer has been amazing and has left me overwhelmed.
You took a break for a while from mainstream cinema?
Yes, I did take a break in between because the offers that were coming to me were just terrible. I knew that by doing more rubbish, I’d be digging my own grave. So, I decided to just say no. It was a tough period for me from 2012 to around 2017, because I just had to say no to any mediocre work. And at some point I was also worried and wondering whether I would be out of sight, out of mind? I kept asking myself: are they going to forget me? How do I stay relevant? But, I decided to work on myself instead, so that in the event that something good came my way, I wanted to be prepared. And fortunately for me, the OTT boom happened. I also got into production in between. I produced Jism 2 in 2012 and the whole idea of me wanting to be a producer was to stay connected with the industry.
You debuted in Kollywood’s ‘Kandukondain Kandukondain’, that recently celebrated 20 years since its release; and Bejoy Nambiar’s ‘Solo’ was in 2017 — are you planning on doing more projects in the South Indian film industries?
I don’t think anyone considered me as a great idea for an actor in the South, but now you’d be surprised at the offers that are coming my way. In the past, I think most people thought I wouldn’t fit, but now people are open to the idea of casting someone like me. I think people are finally looking at me as someone who can go beyond the sweet romantic boy. Roles like the ones in The Empire really help in redefining how people look at you.
Finally, what next?
Well, my next production Helmet is all set to release on September 3 on Zee5, so I’m really excited about that.
‘The Empire’ releases today on Disney+ Hotstar.