Monday, September 16, 2013

Vivek Oberoi

“Acting is just what I do, it’s not who I am”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the September 14, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

It’s always so delightful to meet a happy person; someone who’s genuinely happy, positive, and more often than not, that kind of positivity is infectious. Which is why, you can’t help but smile when you meet Vivek Oberoi, because it’s amazing how he manages to remain more positive than ever despite his share of criticism, tough phases, and failures. He gets funny while he speaks of ‘Grand Masti’, and then he suddenly turns intense while speaking about his baddie act in ‘Krrish 3’. It’s like he is seamlessly seeping into his characters, one after the other as he’s talking about them. But, the best part is to see him get into the role of a husband and father. Those twinkled eyes coupled with a huge smile while he speaks of his wife and son could make anyone go ‘awwww’. All this and more, in this candid conversation with Vivek:

So, may I rightly assume that this year is going great for you, in every way?
(Smiles) Yes, it’s been a fabulous year for me. It started with ‘India’s Best Dramebaaz’, it was my Television debut and it became a huge success. I’m really excited that we’re doing season 2, and we’re going to announce it very soon. After that I got the world’s biggest gift, Vivaan Veer Oberoi, my son, I think it’s incredible, that you feel like he’s the centre of your whole universe. Now, it’s ‘Grand Masti’, and it’s exciting because the response right from the first promo has been phenomenal. And then of course, there’s ‘Krrish 3’ at the end of the year. That’s like the cherry on the top of everything, it’s the crown on top. It’s so nice to be a part of that film, and the way people are reacting to my work, to the film, the promo, all of it, it’s such a joy ride!

How was it like to re-create the whole ‘Masti’ camaraderie after so many years?
It was awesome because ever since ‘Masti’ released, Riteish, Aftab, Induji, me, all of us have been great friends, we’ve always been there for each other through life, and the friendship has only grown, so when we came back together professionally again, it was so much fun. It was like getting on a bicycle. You don’t ride it for years, but when you suddenly try riding it again after years, you get it right naturally. We all had our doubts if we’d be able to create the chemistry that we created in ‘Masti’, but on day 1 itself, the chemistry was beyond ‘Masti’. If you see the film, you’ll know the timing, the chemistry, and the fact that we were on the same wavelength on this film. This film has only got us closer, and made our friendships stronger.

Is it easy for you to now slip into a character which is so not you? For instance your character in ‘Grand Masti’… It’s definitely not easy, but that’s the challenge that you look for as an actor, that’s what excites you. There is this excitement of playing Meet Mehta who’s this husband with a very dominating, over-ambitious wife, and he’s actually thinking of doing some ‘Grand Masti’ with his buddies, and that’s so not me. Playing that character on one hand, and then playing this intense, very powerful, aristocratic villain, this prince of darkness in ‘Krrish 3’ is so nice. He’s the master of his own universe. For me, to play these characters completely opposite of each other was such an incredible challenge, but so exciting. It was a totally different rhythm. What I love about it is that they were shot over different periods of time, but they’re releasing two months apart from each other. So you’ll see one kind of me in one film, and another kind of me in another film. And there could be nothing better than that for an actor, that people see your ability to do this and do that and see it back-to-back being put into perspective. What I’ve been banking on always is to put my talent out there as an actor, the rest is in the divine hands.

But when you play someone as intense and dark as Kaal, doesn’t it also affect you, mentally, emotionally?
Yes, you’re absolutely right. There are some absolutely emotionally draining characters, and ‘Grand Masti’ obviously wasn’t one of them (laughs). All of us were just doing time pass through the day, cracking up all the time, I was the master of all the pranks, and these two were helping me play pranks on all the lovely ladies. But, when you look at something like Kaal, this character was very physically and emotionally draining. The genesis of Kaal is hate, he hates human kind for what has been done to him, his vengeance is a very powerful emotion, his revenge is a very powerful emotion, and that motivates Kaal.

And just as you speak of Kaal, your face and voice have suddenly gone intense….
(Laughs) That’s because, as an actor you tend to get into that space so I think it comes subconsciously. When I was playing Kaal, it was an extremely intense experience, because I had to go into a space which I’m not in real life. I’m a very chilled-out guy, I don’t believe in hatred, I don’t believe in vengeance and all these things. I’m a happy-go-lucky person. For me to go into that space was difficult, I had to isolate myself at times, I had to dress up, get into that outfit, sit down on that chair, get into that zone, so when they say lights, camera, action, it’s Kaal out there, suddenly there’s this intensity. That was draining. I remember going back home exhausted and tired. Acting is sometimes mentally exhausting, because you’re constantly trying to emotionally be something that you’re not. Playing Kaal was difficult. I tried very hard to make sure that anywhere it doesn’t look like he’s trying to be a villain, because he believes he’s the hero and his way is the right way.

So what is your criterion while choosing a script?
I’ll give you an example. For ‘Krrish 3’, I got a call from Duggu saying Dad wants to meet you, so I didn’t know what was happening. I went to meet Guddu uncle, and he put the script of ‘Krrish 3’ in front of me, and told me that I’d like you to do the part of Kaal. So I was stumped to be offered to do that role. I was so excited to read the script. They actually opened a room for me, I read the whole script there, I came back with my jaw hanging, wondering if this is what he’s going to make, and how he’s going to make it. I thought this is the character of a lifetime. I told Guddu uncle, I’m honoured that you chose me to play it, and I’m going to do it. He said, ‘I thought of you while writing this character.’ That’s the greatest compliment. Once I said yes to the film, I started forming this whole autobiography of the character that would give me the sense of where I am, how to be like Kaal, think like Kaal, and behave like Kaal. So now what I’m specifically looking at, is roles that would be an absolute challenge. Whether it’s an eleven-hero film, whether it’s a solo, or a multi-starrer, whether it’s a negative character, it doesn’t matter. I want to do anything that is a powerful character, anything where I can perform, something that excites me as an actor. I’m looking for those kind of roles.

How is it that there’s no sense of insecurity in you, especially when you say you have no qualms about doing multi-starrers? 
As long as the role is nice, I’ll do it. And I have always been very secure. I’m not one of those insecure guys. It’s so funny, when we were doing ‘Grand Masti’, the three of us, the relationship that we share, it was so cool that we would sit down, discuss and advice each other. We would actually contribute to each other’s performances. We would tell each other, ‘oh you take that punch-line.’ There was no insecurity, we’re friends, and we know that if the film succeeds, everyone will benefit from that. To be secure and do the role that’s designed for you, that’s most important.

Having done some very successful films, and then a few not-so-successful films, how do you look back? How has your learning curve been?
My secret is I don’t look back. Because I believe life is an experience and you should enjoy it. You can’t sit back and analyse everything. You analyse life so much, that you make it clinical and stop living it. It all becomes so thought out and so charted. And I’m not that guy. I’m a wandering gypsy. I’m a free spirit. I’m not a meticulous planner. I’ve always said ever since I’ve come into the industry, that I don’t really plan anything, I do whatever excites me in that moment, sometimes it falls flat and sometimes it becomes a big success. And I take both with a smile. Because I know that eventually, none of this matters. If you’ve done something great in the past, it doesn’t matter because that’s not what you’re doing now. And even if you did something horrible in the past, it doesn’t matter because that’s not what you’re doing now.

And now, you’re in a very happy space…
For me, funnily, I think the last 3 years have just been phenomenal, I think ever since Priyanka came into my life. Two things happened after she came into my life – It gave me this incredible sense of stability that she’s my rock. My family has always been there for me, but she’s taken it a level higher. And secondly I’ve realised that acting is just what I do, it’s not who I am. What I am is so much more. It’s my family, my relationships with people, my friends, my hobbies, my charitable initiatives, my interests, my ideas, my thoughts that make my life. Acting is just a small part of it. Ever since I started looking at it just as a job, I don’t take myself so seriously, I don’t take everything so seriously. I don’t think too much about what’s going to happen on a Friday. I take success with a smile, I take failure with a smile, and I always believe that ‘bure waqt mein ghabrana nahi, acche waqt mein paglana nahi.’

There’s ‘Grand Masti’, then ‘Krrish 3’. What next?
Like I said, I never plan my life, but I never say never. If something nice comes up, I’ll do it. I’m very happy with my life right now. I’m very excited to do ‘India’s Best Dramebaaz’ season 2, and post ‘Krrish 3’ I’m going to sit and wait for the right roles to come, because I think ‘Krrish 3’ will give me that incredible platform which I haven’t had in a while, to be able to be in that process of picking the right films. I’m hoping the right roles come my way.

Let’s talk about Fatherhood.
It’s the best part of my life. Every time, I’m leaving from my house, I like to spend that extra half an hour with him, I don’t want to leave, and which is why I get late. Otherwise I’ve always been on time, and I want to leave from home on time, but I’ve been late for the last few weeks, because I want to spend that more time with him, and then I want to rush back at home in the evenings because that’s when he’s readying to play. I’m loving fatherhood! Right from changing his diapers to giving him his feeds, giving him a bath! I love giving him a bath, that’s my favourite part, that’s my ritual bonding with my son. I sing all these nonsense songs I make up, with no tune but he seems to enjoy it, he looks at me and smiles, and that for me is the essence of my whole universe. 

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