“Uncle, photo,” a kid screams out to the Artist Currently Known as Prince as he turns back to scream back: “Uncle? Who did you call Uncle?” The kid smiles not sure how to react. And Prince asks: “How old are you?”
“Ten,” comes the answer.
“I am seven. I just look big because I drink a lot of milk,” says Prince before calling the kid over and asks someone to take a photograph at the Blur Café at Sathyam Cinemas late on Tuesday night.
The press conference scheduled at four kept getting postponed because Prince was stuck in Coimbatore airport. And then, in Chennai traffic. There’s only so much an action hero can do.
But it has to be said that Vivek Oberoi works hard. Here he was at the end of a long day giving at least a hundred interviews in two cities and still at his charming best, promising a leisurely interview over dinner, one hour before midnight with a flight to catch at six the next morning.
Prince is so articulate that he could write the best ever review for his performance in Shootout at Lokhandwala. Sample this: “It took a lot of hard work to create a character like Maya Dolas in Lokhandwala. He was always on drugs, I had to project this laid back, easy, cheetah on the prowl, man who was seething with crazy amount of self confidence that he could do anything. At the same time, his body language was lethargic, arrogantly lazy… If you watch Shootout, it took hard work to achieve that drawl, that easiness in the dialogue delivery, the menace in the eye.”
We disagree on the merits of Lokhandwala but Oberoi has a rather simple yardstick to define good cinema. “I guess when a film fails, it means the audience has rejected your film. It means they didn’t like your work. Mission Istaanbul was a bad film, it didn’t do good for me. Shootout did really well and won awards, it did good for me.”
Does he regret some of the bad films?
“You wake up in the morning, you take the wrong road with crazy traffic driving to office and you regret it. Life is like that, life is about thinking this is going to all right and realising it didn’t work. There’s no science to that.”
He makes it sound like a gamble.
“Do you know what will work? Art by its very nature cannot be manufactured to precision. Art can be born out of a whim, out of an idea, out of a fantasy, out of how a director is feeling on the day he’s shooting the scene, of what weather you had. Bound script is not something handed down by God. Kisnaa, you want to see it? It’s a thick fat bound script in Hindi and English. Mission Istaanbul was a bound script with shot breakdowns.”
That brings us to how to he signed Prince.
“Prince was a film I wanted to do a film that was challenging as an actor and yet in a sphere of pure entertainment. It’s stuff like the Amitabh Bachchan or Rajeev Rai kind of cinema. It’s the idea of a world’s smartest thief. A man who is charming and super smart and the irony is that someone steals his memory. And he has six days to live and he has to find out who I am, why are people behind him and he has girl problems. There are three girls all claiming to be his girlfriend Maya. So it’s paisa vasool seeti-maar cinema.”
But it wasn’t the five months of training, losing 12 kilos, performing death-defying stunt like hanging off the chopper at 8000 feet or jumping from a 32nd storey to a 28 storey building on the other side that bothered him.
“The scariest part of the film was the kiss, man. There were 700 eyeballs looking at me as I was asked to kiss Aruna passionately. And she said, ‘Don’t worry, I will take care of you.’ First I was nervous, now I am pretty much of an expert now. I can put it up on my wall now: Good Kisser.”
“This is a Bollywood hero who can take down 15 guys but with the vulnerability of not knowing who to trust. It’s like Bourne, or the guy in Memento, there are about 84 films (I bet he randomly made up that statistic because 83.967 per cent of all stats are made up) made on guys who have lost their memory. But here the doctor says that he’s medically fine.”
Does this mean we have to lose our memory, leave our brains home and suspend all disbelief?
“There’s Intellectual stimulation and there’s emotional stimulation. It’s the difference between sitting in a park with a nice glass of juice and sandwich and reading a nice book and riding a rollercoaster. Prince is a rollercoaster.”
Nausea-alert for those of you who like to play it safe.