Prabhudheva is synonymous with over-the-top entertainers, but the moment you enter the choreographer-actor-director’s Andheri home, it is hard to ignore the contrast visible in his personal life.
As the 42-year-old artiste, who grew up watching “very few” Hindi films, launches his production house in Chennai today, we catch up with him to talk about his directorial journey, his many debuts, and more.
Are you happy with the way your Bollywood career, as a director, has shaped up?
I never planned anything — acting, choreography or direction. I started my career in Telugu films as a director, but I never planned it that way. Similarly, I have known Boney sir (Kapoor; who produced his debut Bollywood film, Wanted) for the past 20 years, as I worked on Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1993) and Pukar (2000). So, it (his Bollywood directorial debut) just happened. I have made so many ‘debuts’, as I have directed films in multiple languages, I have choreographed songs and acted in projects. For the past 20 years, I have only been making debuts.
Are you content with the place you have created for yourself?
Even now, I have to keep proving myself every Friday. I have been in the industry for many years now, so I know how hard it (surviving in the industry) can be. It’s very tough.
Many say that you are responsible for the revival of ‘masala films’ in Bollywood…
Songs, dance, comedy and romance have always existed in our films. Then, how can I bring any of them back?
Are your films a reflection of the cinema you like?
Yes. I have always loved watching film series — like The Lord Of The Rings, The Avengers, Super-Man, Spiderman, Mission: Impossible and James Bond — in which heroes always save the world. I don’t know what over-the-top means; I just want to entertain [the audience]. We call it the big screen, so films can be larger than life. I have also grown up watching films starring actors like MG Ramachandran and Rajinikanth. When people watch their films, they go crazy and forget everything else. I love the entertaining genre.
Many feel that Prabhudheva can make only one kind of cinema.
I am happy that at least they say that I can make something. Like the good things, I also accept the bad things people have to say. When I used to dance, they would say, ‘He can only do this.’ The same happened when I started acting. People will say things. It’s okay. In my first directorial film (Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana, 2005, Telugu), there was no action; it was a totally different film; even Ramaiya Vastavaiya (2013). But I am not going to contest what ‘they’ have to say.
Do you think you can ever direct a tragedy?
I won’t do it just because others want me to. So if I want to make a horror film, I’ll keep my producer in mind, because I can’t experiment on his or her money. I won’t do anything just to show how talented I am.
After back-to-back hits, was it hard to see Action Jackson fail?
It was not the first time I tasted failure. I have gone through everything in the last 25 years. But, of course, like any human being, when you work on something so passionately and it doesn’t do well, it does hurt.
Did you notice a change in the industry’s perception of you post Action Jackson?
Yes, I did. I was sad, but not because their perception was changing. For past 100 years, it has been like that. That’s the way. We have to work harder. I have to take this defeat, and please them. Whatever they say is right.
What’s your film-making process like?
I don’t know. I have to think about it now. But I am always available. I am available 24/7 for producers (laughs). I love to do many things, and I have been doing that — acting, choreographing and directing — for many years now.
How do you manage everything?
I don’t know how, but I love it. Because my day starts at 7 am, till 12 in the night, I manage to make two days of eight hours each. So I manage.
You are also a producer now?
Yes, I am launching my production house. I am starting it first in Chennai.And I am really scared. Production is a challenging job, so there is tension. While one film will be directed by Priyadarshan sir, Jayam Ravi will helm the other one. The third film will be directed by a newcomer. I will direct too, but later.
We don’t see you at too many parties or events. Why?
I feel comfortable shooting, but going out and meeting people still makes me a bit uncomfortable. I am not a party person at all. Even in Chennai, I am the same. Yes, I make an exception for friends. Like, I went for Sonu Sood’s birthday party.
Among all your callings, what do you enjoy the most?
Acting isn’t easy, but I enjoy choreography and direction the most, because I am what I am because of dance. I love directing because there is a lot more tension and responsibility, and I love tension. I work better when I am tense.
Your kids live in Chennai. Do you miss them?
Yes, I do. As a matter of fact, they’re all I miss. Whatever time I spend with them is not enough for me. I am managing only 5%; rest 95% still remains.
Do they complain?
They are used to it by now, so they don’t complain. I guess maybe, they don’t miss me that much (smiles).
Do they want to join films?
That’s their wish. They must stay healthy, and be good at heart, and they can become anything.
Did you always want to become a director?
It wasn’t planned at all. But when I do something, I give it my 500%. The same goes for my dancing too. I was very bad at studies in school. My father (Mugur Sundar) was a choreographer, and since I had to do something in life,I assisted him for a year and a half. I was learning Bharatanatyam at that time, but not with an eye on the film industry. Then, at 15, I became a choreographer. But whenever my father would send me for a shoot, I used to get tense. I was only 15. After six months or so, I got used to it. Then when some of my songs became big hits, directors started saying, ‘Let’s make him the hero.’ Even while I was acting, I continued to choreograph. Then, one day, a producer asked me if I would direct his film, and I said, ‘Okay sir.’
You said in an interview that you never imagined joining films…
It’s true. I never imagined joining films, because I am a very shy person. I am not open at all. I am comfortable only with my family, and a small group of friends. Earlier, I would never dance in front of others, but now, I perform for so many people (laughs). I am just going with the flow.
My favourite stars
If he hadn’t said yes to me for Wanted (2008), I wouldn’t have entered Bollywood. Boney Sir (Kapoor; producer) and Salman Sir took the risk with me. So there is a lot of respect and love in my heart for both of them. One yes from Salman Sir changed my life.
He never acts like a superstar. He is a very positive person. If you are feeling low, you have to be around him and suddenly, you will feel happy. He is a simple and happy person.
We both are Aries, so we are similar in many ways. I remember, on the sets of Action Jackson, I would tell my assistant in Tamil, “Call the gold for the shot”, because he is such a nice-hearted, simple person. He has a heart of gold.
Read: Prabhudeva to produce Tamil film starring Jayam Ravi