Actor-producer Uday Chopra on quitting acting, producing Hollywood films, tweeting and bhabhi Rani Mukerji.
How did you go about producing films in Hollywood?
This was not a strategic idea. In 2010, I was looking to change careers. I wanted to do something other than acting and I was discussing options when my brother (Aditya Chopra) suggested that I could take our company, Yash Raj Films, international. I went to Los Angeles and enrolled in a production course at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the morning I attended industry meetings and in the evening, I would go for the course. It wasn’t easy to break in because the perception about Indians in Hollywood is that either we just talk, do meetings and then vanish or we put in a billion dollars and buy DreamWorks. I was neither. I knew I had to show them that I’m serious about making Hollywood content. So in November 2011, I put money in The Longest Week and the ball started rolling. Then Grace of Monaco followed — it was a highly contested film. Now we are talking of an India release.
Grace of Monaco was slammed at Cannes Film Festival. Does that put you on the back foot?
Well, the opening movies at Cannes are almost always panned. It happened with The Great Gatsby too. There is bound to be a difference between films that open the festival and the ones that are in the competition. Somehow the critics don’t get that. Critics went in expecting an art-house film whereas Grace of Monaco is a commercial fairytale so they were disappointed. That said, unflattering festival reviews do put us on the back foot. We can’t give up on the film because one territory did not like it. I expect it to do decently well in India. We are releasing it in 70 screens. I’m not expecting big money from India. It has more of a prestige value for me.
How do you deal with bad reviews?
Bad reviews hurt me more as an actor because it’s directed personally at you. As a producer, it hurts less because you are just putting together a project and it’s business where emotions are not involved.
Did bad reviews have anything to do with your decision to quit acting?
No, I quit acting because I didn’t reach the place I thought I would. I had hits. Dhoom 3 is the biggest hit ever, but all the roles that were offered to me were like Ali (my character in the Dhoom series) in an ensemble cast. I could have done those roles and made a decent career but I wasn’t happy personally. I had said this initially that I don’t like being mediocre and the day I start feeling that I’m mediocre, I will quit. Most people don’t have a choice. They keep doing the work that doesn’t make them happy because they have to earn a living. Thankfully, I had that choice. Acting will always be my first love and I’ll always miss it.
Your interactions on Twitter have been quite a revelation. How do you navigate Twitter?
Back in 2010 when I decided to quit acting, I was going through a very low phase. I was travelling on my own, trying to figure out life when I discovered Twitter. It was just something as small as posting a picture of a sunset and I had all these people commenting on it. It just occurred to me that I don’t need to be alone. I had lots of friends who I could carry around in my pocket. I don’t even need to remember their birthdays and they will still be there. I tweet all kinds of stupid and profound stuff, and people enjoy it.
Before Twitter nobody had an inkling that you are a seriously funny guy. In fact Twitter made us realise that as a nation we are pretty funny. Do you agree?
I think as a nation we are embracing our Indian-ness. We have discovered that we are super cool just as we are — the more brown, black and bearded we are, even better. Main Babydoll sone di is what we are. This is reflecting in our cinema too. We don’t need template good-looking heroes anymore, we are finally casting according to characters. I feel our youth is angry a lot more. But it’s good for evolution.
On the family front, how is it going with your bhabhi, Rani Mukerji?
I’ve known Rani for ages. I’m really happy that my brother and she finally tied the knot. She’s a homemaker. She’s lovely with me. After my father’s death, we were a little lost. She has bonded with the whole family and brought a lot of warmth at home.
When are you and Nargis Fakhri making it official?
I’m not saying anything about it. We are great friends. For now, I’ll only keep it as jokes on Twitter.