Vivek Oberoi

Vivek Oberoi is the man of the moment. He's certainly the most talked about newcomer in the history of Indian Cinema. With his performance being appreciated and praised by one and all he is certainly going to give all the others actors a run for their money. Vivek exudes a level of confidence and maturity that belies his inexperience. He is smart, dashing, confident and modest. All these qualities will definitely make him numero uno in no time.

Excerpts of an interview with this wonderful actor:

What do you feel about this success?

I haven't been thinking about my success or popularity. It is not very important for me; it is not what I live for. I don't work for adulation. Cinema is my passion and I work for cinema. Most important thing for me is my director, the script and his vision, his belief in his vision and my role in helping him fulfil his vision. Like Ramuji wanted to work with me. That was my ultimate dream, ultimate satisfaction in terms of my achievement rather than doing 500 interviews.

How did Company come your way? I have heard that there's quite some story behind it.
Yes, that's true. My father had spoken to Ramu about me. He came over to have a look at me. He didn't think of me at all while casting for Company because, as he later told me, I looked too young to play the underworld don. I had to somehow convince him that I could do it. And I dabbed several shades of colour on my skin to look dark, grew a stubble for a couple of days, acquired dishevelled look with a dirty old shirt and a pair of trousers and went to his office. The receptionist thought I was really some gangster and was hesitant to announce my arrival. When Ramu heard my name he called me in. I walked up to his door and pushed it open with a slam and with a bidi tucked between my lips grabbed a chair, put my feet up and spoke typical Mumbaiya Hindi. Fortunately, my pictures were on his table. It took him a while to relate to the man sitting before him. He merely smiled and asked me to join him for a drive. In the car, he said, 'That was brilliant". I knew then that I had got the role.

So how was it shooting for Company?
It was an amazing experience, to play a crime lord in Company. I had prepared myself for the role from the very start. Stayed in a hut at Vikhroli for months on end to get a hang of how people live in the slums. Their mannerisms-the way they behaved, adopting their lifestyle and trying to mould myself in such surroundings. I met a few petty criminals too. I use to record whatever they had to say so as to pick up their style of talking. For instance, we generally say, 'main bol raha hoon' but they will say, 'main bolre lai na'. Even the pronunciation of certain words that they use is different from the way we speak.

What kind of homework did you do for Company ?
I wrote a 300-word biographical sketch for my character Chandu. I tried to figure out the way he would talk, the kind of clothes he would wear, how he would interact with people around him. It just helped me understand the character better. To understand the role you have to get into it and live it.

What was your experience with the criminals who lived there ?
I did not interact with anyone who enjoyed real status in the underworld. Those guys live on a different scale. But yes, I did meet guys like Chandu who run small gangs and believe that they were a part of the nexus when actually the powers that matter are completely unaware of their existence. There's a certain glamour associated with crime and criminals in the minds of such unemployed youths most of whom are disillusioned with society. Some stand up and fight for a better life, others take their fight out into the streets without realising that what they believe is their strength is actually their weakness.

And how was it working with Ajay Devgan?
It was great. Right from day one he was like an elder brother to me. After "pack-up" we'd go out together in the evenings. He often helped me with my dialogues and at times even told me how I should go about doing a scene. Also, while dubbing for the film, he helped me tone my voice, so as to sound more real. It was a wonderful experience to work with everyone on the set--Antara, Akash Khurana, Manisha and even Mohanlal.

Why did u decide to be an actor? Was it because your father is also an actor?
Any child, at the end of the day, wants to be like his parents. I admire my father. But my decision to step into cinema was not because… "My father was an actor so let me also get into it"… but because of my love of acting. It actually started when I was six. In the school play I did so well that my father send me to theatre workshop in London. After graduation I enrolled myself to an acting school in London. I remember after having completed the course successfully, we were told to do some auditions. I was given a long sheet of dialogues to say. After reading it, I enacted it out in my own style, it was kind of mono act. I was not aware that someone watching me. He was none other than director of New York University. He took me to New York. And I did my post graduation in acting from there.

How does your father view your success?
He is happy of course but very hassled as I make him attend to all the dirty work, you know the dates, producers grievances, etc and I sit in judgement when it comes to story sessions and scripts. I am damn lucky to have someone like him for a father.

What are other films that you have signed?

There is Shaad Ali's "Saathiya", which is co-produced by Yash Chopra and Mani Ratnam. Then I'm doing Rajat Mukherjee's "Road" with Manoj Bajpai and Antara Mali. There is also Dum with Diya Mirza, which is directed by E Niwas. After that there is Vinod Chopra's film and directed by Raju Virani. I'm doing a film being produced by Farhan and Ritesh Sidwani which his sister Zoya is directing. There's another film, which Farhan is directing himself. I haven't committed to that project yet, Farhan's still working on the script with his father.So, I'm pretty booked until the end of 2002.

Tell us something about Saathiya? Isn't it a remake of Alai Payuthe that turned Madhavan into a sensation down South?
It is a remake of Alai Payuthe. The soul and spirit is the same but Gulzar sahab has rewritten the entire script, given it a more North Indian feel. The film is being directed by Shaad Ali, he's Muzaffar Ali's son. Shaad's conceived the film in his own way so while Sathiya and Alai Payuthe are the same film Saathiya has its own identity. You won't recognise in it many moments of Alai Payuthe. It's a love story revolving around Rani Mukherjee and me.

Do you think you would be able to put in the same preparation for future roles?
Agreed that it would be difficult to do that kind of work for all my roles. But, if the role is as challenging as the one in Company, I would prefer to be prepared. My second film Saathiya, which is being directed by Shaad Ali, didn't need a lot of work, because I closely identify with the setting and the personality of my character. But it would be unfair to say that Saathiya is an easier film compared to Company.

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