New Delhi: My first encounter with actor Vivek Oberoi, at a remote seaside hamlet in Chennai in 2004, was quite unusual. Oberoi had set up camp at the village of Devanampattinam, to help the locals ravaged by the Boxing Day tsunami. He had assumed that I was from the Port Trust of India (slight misunderstanding regarding the name of my former employer) and wanted me to take a look at the damaged boats the moment I set foot at the camp.
His deep chuckle over the phone as I reminded him of the incident brought backmemories of him playing freely with the children of fishermen who lost their houses to the devastation. In that tiny village of Cuddalore district, the children were unaware of Vivek's star status and would follow him around in droves as he joked with the local boys.
"It teaches you about your inner potential," Vivek said. As he prepared for his upcoming film 'Kismet Love Paisa Delhi' or 'KLPD', Vivek spoke about a particularly bountiful period in his life (2012-2013) during which he has nine film projects lined up. His wife Priyanka was due to deliver the couple's first child and he couldn't seem to stop talking about her.
"I had gone back to that village later, you know, to hand over the housing projects that we were overseeing at that time. But at some point you have to cut the umbilical cord and distance yourself after you have done your job," he said during an interview.
"I'm crazy about her"
Priyanka, who shared a birthday with Mahatma Gandhi, has proved lucky for Vivek. "I'm crazy about her," he said and you could almost hear the grin in his voice. "Priyanka usually does not involve herself in the decisions about my career and what roles I should or should not accept. Her taste in art and cinema are completely different than mine. But she is actively involved with our social causes," he said.
One of Bollywood's most underrated actors, Vivek marked a memorable debut with 'Company' which at that time was a huge risk to take for a newcomer. "After that everyone was warning me against 'Saathiya', would you believe? They said right after 'Company' this was a crazy decision to make. Why would I take such an unconventional path? But look at that film today. I tried 'Home Delivery', it tanked at the box office, but the film was a brave attempt. I've done all kinds of films, I even learnt Telugu for Rakht Charitra," he said.
With elaborate commitments to promoting their films, are actors more of marketers these days? Should artists even have to take part in promotions?
"There is space and harmony between art and comment. I love walking into a mall with thousands of fans waiting to interact with me. I love the rush. Some people don't. You need to stay anchored and connected with the people who made you who you are," Vivek said.
"For me, these are rainbow years. I have a period film lined up, I'm doing comedy, romance, action, a dark, negative character...the entire spectrum and yeah, I'm having a great time."
People tell me I'm too opinionated
Vivek, who raised hell at one point in his career, has visibly calmed down. He is more diplomatic in his approach to people. But he wouldn't let you believe that.
"Really, people tell me I'm as opinionated as ever, and that I need to be more diplomatic, (laughs) but now I choose my battles carefully. I don't believe you have to belong to any camp to survive in Bollywood. Or I wouldn't be standing here. Is there politics in Bollywood? Of course there is. But you can still make your own destiny," said the actor who is due to play a super villain in Krrish 3.
Only 3 per cent of business is swayed by review
Vivek didn't believe that reviews actually mattered. "Studies have shown that only three per cent of business is swayed by reviews. There are some reviewers that I've come to respect. I have done some good films and some really bad ones. And I'm all right with criticism," he said.
"I have won so many commercial awards. But I also want to win a National Award some day."
Checked out girls while shooting for KLPD
"We had such a blast. I interacted with 20-year-olds at JNU, went out late night with them, learnt their language - you know how Delhi boys talk - their 'maal' and 'tota' - done all that while researching for the film. We'd check out girls and back in Mumbai when I practiced that with Priyanka she'd all most have a heart attack. She'd say 'stop that right now! (laughs)".
Vivek is set to appear in Zilla Ghaziabad, Krrish 3, Jayanta Bhai Ki Luv Story and Grand Masti.