In the series titled First of Many, the who’s who of Bollywood will revisit their first ever acting project. They will reveal how they landed the role and what was their experience on the first day of shoot.
From debuting as a local gangster in the gritty Company (2002) to playing PM Narendra Modi, Vivek Oberoi has surely come a long way. In a career spanning 17 years, Vivek has been part of hits like Saathiya, Masti, Shootout at Lokhandwala, Omkara, Krrish 3 and others, trying out roles as varied as a quintessential lover boy to an antagonist.
But how did Vivek land his first acting role, Chandrakant “Chandu” Nagre, in Ram Gopal Varma directorial Company?
Here’s what the actor shared:
Q. What was your first acting project? How did the project come to you?
My first project was Company.
I found out that Ram Gopal Varma was making this film, and he is looking for an actor. So, I went to meet him. He saw my pictures and everything. He said, ‘No, you’re not the guy’. I asked him, ‘Why?’. He said, ‘You are polished. You have studied in New York and you have come back. I need somebody from the slums. Somebody from the underbelly of Mumbai, a rough and unpolished guy.’ I said, ‘Can you give me another appointment in 15 days?’ He said okay and then he forgot about me.
For 15 days, how people check into a hotel, I checked into a slum. I went and rented a ‘kholi’, a little hut and I stayed for 15 days in a slum. It had no toilet. I had to go to a ‘sulabh shauchalaya’ (public toilet). I had to keep one-rupee coins with me. I had to bath out of a drum of water with no plumbing. I slept on the floor with mice all around. I ate and drank locally. I observed how they drink their tea, smoke their ‘beedis’ and eat their samosa. Basically, I studied all that. I recorded how they live. I dressed up as that character with chappals, torn shirt, vest inside, tight pants and messed up completely. I then went to meet Ramu.
As soon as I reached his office, the watchman stopped me. He said, ‘You can’t go inside.’ The watchman was also confused and I had a bunch of photographs in my hand, which were depicting how the life of this character Chandu would be in the slums. I went up to meet RGV and walked in. Beedi in my mouth, I pushed the door open. I pulled up the chair and sat on it with my feet on his table. He started staring at me. He was looking at me shocked, trying to recognize me. He had met me only once before that. I looked at a bunch of photographs and said, “Aye tu thopda kya dekhta hai, photo dekh” (Why are you looking at my face? Look at the pictures). Then he saw the pictures and signed me. So, that was my beginning in Bollywood.
Q. What do you remember of your first day on set?
I remember everything! One major principal actor had just been sacked. We started shooting four days before they changed the principal character opposite Ajay (Devgn). I was very, very worried. I said, ‘Oh, my god, will I do well, will I not do well’. My first day of shooting was with the Ajay Devgn. He is like an elder brother to me now. He was talking to all the other actors giving them some tidbits. He didn’t talk to me at all. Even after my scene was done, he did not talk to me, and I thought, ‘I’m gone now!’ I mean, I would’ve got sacked if he doesn’t like my work.
I was shooting by the sea somewhere. I went down and was standing on the shore by myself when suddenly, somebody comes from behind. It was Ajay. I said, ‘I don’t think you liked my work.’ He smiled and said, ‘I am not telling you whether I liked it or not. So just continue doing your work.’
Q. Were you nervous? How many retakes did you take?
I did my first shot. It was crazy. Because I was thinking how I will do it and what will happen. I did my first shot and RGV said, ‘Okay!’
Q. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what’s that one thing you’d like to change or do better?
Nothing actually. I don’t believe in changing the past. I believe in changing the future.
Q. One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?
So many! Al Pacino, I am a big fan of his films like Godfather and Scarface.
(with inputs from Arushi Jain)