He had his share of highs and lows throughout his career but what has remained constant is Vivek Anand Oberoi’s ability to hold the audience’s attention through his performance. It has been eighteen years since he made his debut and since then, he has played a wide range of characters in Hindi and South films and digital shows. In this interview, he talks about his latest film ‘PM Narendra Modi’, facing the trouble the film went through as an actor and a producer, wrapping up the shoot in thirty-eight days, reviving ‘Rai’ with Ram Gopal Varma, and more
What is the kind of impact you expect the film to create?
I hope the film can inspire people the way it inspired me. I was talking to a friend of mine who is an IAS officer. He told me a couple of years back one had to bribe a lot of people to get the smallest of job done but now, all that is gone. There were several Government schemes on paper which were never implemented. Now, we have fifty-five crore getting direct benefits from those schemes. People at the grass-root level will come to vote as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to the government.
What is the kind of impact working on this film had on you?
I have done 45-46 films in my career. Most characters leave you after the release of a film. But, this is one of the characters that stayed with me. Narendra bhai and I have been friends since he was the chief minister of Gujarat. I have had the privilege of meeting him multiple times and having elaborate conversations with him. Here was a kid who watched his mother watch his mother wash vessels at other people’s homes to make ends meet. For somebody like him, money should have been of prime importance in life but he never chased money. I am a philanthropist and I have lent my support to several causes. But, it is easy for me to do that as I had enough. Great people are those who have nothing on their own and yet, strive to help people.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while working on the film?
The physical transformation was undoubtedly the most difficult part. Earlier, the team was contemplating getting top make-up artists from abroad but I said ‘picture Narendra Modi pe hai, prosthetics Make In India mein hona chahiye’. The first time we tried the prosthetics, it took us fifteen trials to get it right. Each time, it took eight hours to get the make-up done. I thought we will get the make-up right but how do I emulate the sparkle that I see in his eyes. I remember during one of our meetings, Narendra bhai had told me that no matter what time he sleeps, he makes it a point to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning to do his pranayama. For five months, every single day no matter what happened, I was up at four in the morning. I became a vegetarian. I only had fruits in the morning.
A day before the film was released, the Election Commission order a stay on it release. You are not just the lead actor but also one of the producers on the film. What did you go through then?
Our entire team was extremely upset and disappointed. There were all these court cases that had been filed against us. In the Indian electoral setup, there was Narendra Modi on one side and all the her parties on the other end. I felt there was a mahagathbandhan against our film too. Banning our film seemed to have become a poll issue. When we did the film, we did a complete legal check and we were sure that we had not violated any law. One night before the release, I do not know who pressed what button and hat pressure came on the EC but they sent me a notice stating the film cannot be released. The funniest thing that happened during that day was PVR sending us 1500 plates of samosa and asking us ‘iska kya karein’?. The costs increased substantially because of the delay and sadly, I do not have a legal recourse for that. We were about to release the film in forty countries and we had to stop everything immediately.
When were you approached for the film?
I was shooting for a film and Sandip, whom I have known for eighteen years, suddenly landed up and we had lunch. Sandip had pitched a couple of films to me in the past but I always declined saying ‘not this’. When he told me told me about this film, I said ‘yes’ immediately. He came back to me after pack-up and later, met me in my house. The next day, we put together a team and started doing the research work for the film.
The film was shot very quickly.
We shot the film in a record time of thirty-eight days. It was not easy. We shot in some really difficult places like the sands of Kutch and Gangotri.
What are you doing next?
We finished shooting for ‘Inside Edge 2’ a while back. We start shooting for the third season soon. I am in talks with Ekta (Kapoor) for a very interesting project. Then, there is a multi-lingual film I am very excited about.
A couple of years back, Ram Gopal Varma and you had announced a film called ‘Rai’ which was based on the life of gangster turned activist Muthappa Rai. What happened to that film?
It was a very exciting project but for some reason, the film did not take off then. I am still hopeful that we will make it someday.