Prince Vivek Oberoi shares his heady success after a five-year wait. Here's what the actor had to say.
Tell me frankly, did you expect Prince to even take an opening?
The film was a complete entertainer but it was a solo-hero starrer for me after a long time. There were no other known faces in the cast and the director, Kuki Gulati, too was a first-timer. So naturally, I had my share of pre-exam jitters on Thursday night.(Grins) But by Friday evening, distributors and exhibitors were calling with the audience feedback. And I was like, "Is this really happening?" Prince gave me the biggest opening of my career.
Your last commercial success was Shootout At Lokhandwala three years ago with an ensemble cast. How much have things changed for you since Prince released ?
I’m thankful that people have accepted me again as an actor. The film has made me a bankable star again. It has given filmmakers the confidence to make solo-hero projects with me. Earlier, I had to try and shine in multi-starrers but now Kumar Taurani, the producer of Prince, wants to sign me for a romantic film. And it will be another solo-hero project. We’ll sit down soon on script. (Smiles) It’s good to know that I’m a crowd-puller too. That’s something I’ve been waiting to hear since I started work on my debut film, Company.
How do you react to all the bitching?
It’s sad that people like to make fun of each other behind their backs. But today I’m happy that some of those who were blatantly going around ridiculing me, have had to eat their words. Now a lot of influential filmmakers have been calling to discuss work. Wow!
Do you feel vindicated?
Yes, in a big way. It’s not easy being looked down upon. It’s hard hearing, “He started very well, but look what happened.” You can hear all this for a year, even two. But five years is a long time. Things started looking up after Omkara. I was praised as an actor in Shootout At Lokhandwala and Kurbaan but Prince was the film that brought in business.
The critics weren’t kind… You were dubbed a poor desi Bond.A film that released with Prince got four-star reviews but brought in only a handful of people to the theatres. On Saturday, that film was pulled out of a number of multiplexes and replaced with Prince. So there!Your film is not a classic…
(Cuts in) During the two months of promotion, we blatantly said that it’s a commercial masala film. I didn’t expect the critics to say, “Wow, great!” What I don’t appreciate is them getting personal. Our movies are always being compared to Hollywood films and we’re reminded of how far back we are lagging. Why don’t they compare themselves with critics in Hollywood too? See how insightful their criticism is, how they talk about every aspect of filmmaking, instead of getting into personal issues.
Comparisons with Bond, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible or any other Hollywood actor doesn’t bother me? Most of the kids who participated in a contest with a radio station, are going ga ga over the stunts and the gadgets.
Kumar Taurani has announced a sequel to Prince. Will you be in it?
Yes, he’s already started work on the script. I’m really grateful to Kumarji, working with his company, Tips, has been one of my best experiences. He had faith in me at a time when I didn’t believe in myself. When I expressed my anxieties to him on the eve of the film’s release, he reassured me saying I should trust him. The film would take the biggest opening of my career.
He was right. Prince has reportedly opened well in centers like Bihar, UP, MP, Orissa and even Assam where Hindi films haven’t worked in recent times.
It’s taken the biggest opening since Salman Khan’s Wanted. One of the best compliments came from Ram Gopal Varma. He sent me a text message saying, “You bloody blew my mind. I had only seen you as Chandu. Never thought you could pull of a Prince with this élan. I went to the theatre and I’m blown. I owe you an apology. Well done. Hats off.”
When my mentor says this to me, it means a lot. I’m touched. He has finished editing Rakta Charitra Part 1. I’m waiting to watch it.
In Rakta Charitra you play a Andhra don in a dhoti with a moustache. It’s a very different look from Prince.
After the rugged look in Company, I was warned against doing a soft, romantic Saathiya. But it worked. So did Maya Dolas in Shootout At Lokhandwala, Riyaz Masood in Kurbaan and Prince in Prince. Now I’m looking forward to Rakta Charitra. I know that the multiplex crowd and the masses at single screen theatres will respond to the character in different ways.
Hasn’t Prince made you the hero of the frontbenchers?
If it has I’m happy. For every one Rs 200 ticket at a multiplex, I have eight people paying Rs 25 per ticket in a single screen theatre which means that that many more people are watching my film. When people called me from centers that I didn’t even know existed, saying that my film has brought in great business for them after months, it’s an amazing feeling. (Laughs) I feel like a true Prince.
Think your detractors will also take you more seriously now?
A respected trade analyst called me after Prince’s release to inform me that some of my friends and foes too were checking and double-checking with him about the numbers the film had taken. A day before it opened, people had written off the film but on Friday it was a different story. (Shrugs) That’s common in this industry. It happened during my father’s (Suresh Oberoi) time too, it’s happening with me as well. Nothing has changed.