Vivek Oberoi on Bollywood: 'An exclusive club where surname or which lobby you do salaam at, matters more than talent'

  • In a new interview with Hindustan Times, Vivek Oberoi shares his thoughts on the way the film industry works, and how he is changing the hierarchal set-up with his 'humble' efforts. Vivek currently stars on Inside Edge season 3.
Vivek Oberoi in conversation with Hindustan Times.
Vivek Oberoi in conversation with Hindustan Times.
Published on Dec 05, 2021 06:00 PM IST
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Vivek Oberoi has said that he may have made mistakes in the past and taken wrong turns in his career, but he has no regrets. In a new interview with Hindustan Times, the actor opens up on how his journey in the industry has been and how Bollywood was made into this ‘exclusive club’ where surnames matter more than talent. Vivek Oberoi plays a significant role in the new web show, Inside Edge Season 3.

Talking about whether he regrets any of his mistakes in the past, Vivek said, “Regret is not the word I would choose. I believe you regret when you are not happy where they got you. If you take a wrong turn, and it is a bumpy road and you land at a place where there is nothing but scenic beauty around you. Then you thank that bumpy road. I am in that space where every single part of my journey, I treasure and I smile about it and laugh about it.”

“As far as practical aspects of it, being ….(sounds funny when I say it) being a senior who has been around for 20 years, I do feel we have missed a trick or two. One big complaint that I have against my industry is that we haven’t developed the nursery that nurtures young talent. It is difficult. We made it into this exclusive club where it is either surname or who you know or which lobby or which darbar you do a salaam at… that matters, not your talent. That’s unfortunate,” he added.

Calling Bollywood an ‘exclusive club’, Vivek further said, “For any industry to thrive, for any industry to grow, you need fresh ideas, you need people coming in and you need to be a welcoming space and not a space that goes on (to say), ‘Listen this is an exclusive club, and unless you have the right surname or the right contact, you are not in. That, to me, is unfortunate. I love that the OTT is playing the part of that nursery where we are discovering and nurturing stars as we watch content online. We watch The Scam 1992 and Pratik Gandhi becomes a star. That gives me great joy.”

He then added, “That is something I (also try to do) in my own small, humble way. I attempt to bring in fresh talent, support new actors and remove any kind of hierarchical structure in the movies that I do. When I did this show (Inside Edge), for the small women empowerment story that I have in my head, I requested Excel (producers Excel Entertainment) to put Richa Chadha's name above mine. Even though technically, I have been in the industry longer than her, I said ‘no let it be starring Richa Chadha and then Vivek Oberoi. That is fine’ and that is something I celebrate. I celebrate all my women colleagues, I celebrate Richa as a great actor and I am fortunate to have worked with her. That equanimity, that sense of doing away with all hierarchical structures and just being creative people having fun on sets, is what should drive it.”

Talking about his father Suresh Oberoi, Vivek Oberoi said, “I had a crisis of conscience. I idolise my father. Vikrant Dhawan is hugely inspired by a performance of my dad’s. He did a film in the 1980s, called Shradhanjali. A film where he plays a Laxmi Narayan, who is this villain with a smile. It was something unheard of in the 1980s. It was always people who are screaming and shouting, playing almost Raavan in Ramleela. So, I have always admired him.”

He added, “And one more thing. We came from a ‘royal family’ from Punjab, we came from wealth. (But) He decided to struggle on his own. He got into film institute on his own, made it on his own merit. He never needed any letter or sifarish (recommendation) or anything from anybody. I wanted to emulate that.”

Vivek then recalled the launch that his dad had planned for him. “Dad was producing a film for me. And, Abbas-Mustan were very kind, they were directing it and it was a full-on launch. You know, ‘Beta aa raha hai dekho, launch karenge (The son is coming, look at him. We are launching him). In those days, it was quite typical - you had a launch film where the actor was presented, and he could do anything. It was like ‘Look, we present him... the star son has arrived’. I wanted to do anything but that.”

Asked if he wasn’t fascinated with the idea of a larger-than-life ‘launch’, Vivek said stardom does not excite him. “No (not fascinated), I wanted to be an actor. To me, stardom is not exciting. Just the process of acting and enjoying that. Being in that moment of creation, that is what drives me - that purity of creation is what is exciting.”

He then added, “I have been lost down the path, I have taken the wrong path...I have been confused, I have gone from my own errors, my own journeys and I own all of them. I own all my mistakes because they have enriched me, they have taught me to be who I am today. Who I am today is a very content person, and that is the journey I decided to take. I decided to be someone who wanted to make it on my own merit. My dad was very worried, he was like ‘you do not know how difficult struggles are’. And, it was difficult. It was 18 months of constant rejection and it was very personal. People would not just say 'no', they would say ‘no, you do not have it, you can never be an actor, no you do not have the qualities of being an actor.' And, you feel very judged.”

Also read: Vivek Anand Oberoi took his son Vivaan to catch MI vs CSK live in Dubai

“For me, it was like Arya Stark's (Game of Thrones character) diary. I was writing down the names of people and I was like these are the ones who are going to call me one day, they are going to come to my house, asking me to do their films. And when it happened, that was a humble victory I never gloated about," the actor said.

He added, "I really enjoyed that. They did not even remember me, did not even remember I was there, struggling in their doors, they dissed me, or they made me wait 8 hours outside their office for a two-minute meeting. They didn't even remember me, and here they were saying ‘Sir and aap please humari film kijiye (Sir, please do our film).' It felt like a big victory and big vindication inside. You have to believe in yourself. I feel very proud, in fact, more than me, my father feels very proud that without using his last name, his money, or connections, I have made it on pure merit, on talent.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sweta Kaushal has 13 years of experience covering Bollywood and regional movies, TV shows, national current affairs and social issues.

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Friday, May 27, 2022