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'Do you think I like to do rape scenes? No!'

May 05, 2014 17:33 IST

'Do you think I like to do rape scenes? No!'

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Rakita Nanda

'People thought I was one of the coolest rapists to have ever graced the Hindi film screen.'

Prem Chopra, in a candid account of his life and work.

One of Bollywood's best-known villains, Prem Chopra terrorised the Hindi movies for years.

His fascinating life has been captured in his biography Prem Naam Hai Mera, penned by his daughter Rakita Nanda.

In this excerpt from the book, we learn how Prem Chopra perfected his villainy on screen:

Many people are interested in knowing my emotions as I performed all those rape scenes.

I shared perfect harmony with my female co-stars during such shots. I was very professional and ensured that no untoward incident ever took place.

I always kept one point in mind -- an image on the screen should never be confused with the reality off the screen.

I have seen many top actors of Hollywood, who are very simple people, transform themselves into dynamic personalities on screen.

I am of the view that rape scenes need to be part of a film only when they are crucial to the plot. Unfortunately, commercial cinema may have such scenes without any relevance.

Excerpted from Prem Naam Hai Mera, by Rakita Nanda, Rupa Publications India, with the publisher's permission, Rs 495.

You can buy the book here

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Image: Prem Chopra and Saira Banu in Purab Aur Pachhim.


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Revenge!

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Rakita Nanda

In one of my films in the late '70s, I was to hold a popular heroine's arm in a particularly dramatic scene. She wasn't getting her expressions right and we kept doing retakes.

When the shot was finally canned, she complained that I had bruised her arm and she could not come for shooting the next day.

The director tried to reason with her unsuccessfully.

Soon after, a scene required her to slap me, which she did with unnecessary vehemence. I naturally complained to the director and was told that she had insisted on this scene as she wanted revenge.

Revenge?

It was something that had to be done; all of us knew it from the time we had been given the script.

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Image: Raj Kapoor and Prem Chopra on the latter's wedding day.

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'I have nothing against rape scenes but there must be a motive, a reason behind them'

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Rakita Nanda

There were constant nakhras from this actress for rape scenes.

Top actresses like Saira Banu, Sadhana, Asha Parekh and Hema Malini have also enacted similar scenes with me. They were very professional and therefore takes would be done quickly.

In fact, what comes to mind is the inherent grace and dignity that Saira brought to the set. Many other heroines were like her. They accepted the demands of their job and worked without fuss.

At this point, I wish to make it eminently clear that I'm an actor first and a bad guy or a good guy afterwards. I am a professional and therefore I like to do things well.

I have nothing against rape scenes, but there must be a motive, a reason behind them... ample reason.

Thankfully, we don't have senseless rape scenes in our films anymore.

I remember a time when the credentials of a villain were confirmed only after he had raped the heroine or the hero's sister!

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Image: Rishi Kapoor and Prem Chopra in Bobby.


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'The audience of today is more intelligent, more sensitive to these issues'

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Rakita Nanda

The audience of today is more intelligent, more sensitive to these issues.

Cinegoers are no longer interested in watching rapes for sensational value. But if it forms an important part of the story, if it has a significant bearing on the events that follow, then rape can be used constructively by a good scriptwriter and capable director to achieve remarkable results.

For instance, my character raped and murdered Sarika in Kranti, against the backdrop of conspiracy.

Aap Aye Bahar Ayee is a case of mistaken identity where Sadhana gets into bed with me, presuming it to be Rajendra Kumar.

The actual act is not seen.

The camera cuts to the fireplace and a scream is shown on Rajendra Kumar's face, who is sitting outdoors at that time.

Both the sequences mentioned give a turbulent twist to the entire story of the films.

So you see, a rape in any film must be thoroughly convincing and its effect, its impact on the characters clearly defined.

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Image: Manisha Koirala, Prem Chopra, Bobby Deol and Kajol in Gupt.


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'Rape was just another part of the script, one of the many scenes for me in the film'

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Rakita Nanda

My idea of an aesthetically depicted rape was always the more symbolic variety than the tearing around, which had become too amateurish and stale to be accepted. I had always opted for either symbolic rape or a well-picturised dramatic scene.

Rape was just another part of the script, one of the many scenes for me in the film.

But all of us actors knew that we had to rehearse the scene well with the camera in position, so that we didn't waste time in putting the scene together while shooting.

I had to remind my professional self to emote enjoyment while forcing myself on the actress.

I had to tell myself several times that I was there to have fun at her cost.

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Image: Prem Chopra, Manmohan Desai, Raj Khosla, Danny Desai, Amitabh Bachchan, Subhash Desai and Yash Johar.

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'One of my best rape scenes has been with Hema Malini in Aas Paas'

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Rakita Nanda

No heroine has ever declined to work with me.

By the '80s, I had been in the industry for almost twenty-five years and achieved a certain standing.

Of course, some heroines weren't professional or cooperative to start with, but they all had to buckle down to the director finally.

However, the most cooperative star I've ever worked with is Hema Malini. She was a surprise.

When I first worked with her, I used to wonder how she would be able to do such scenes, for she appeared totally disinterested during rehearsals.

The final shot was always fantastic; she was probably saving her best for the last. One of my best rape scenes has been with her in Aas Paas and she was cooperation personified.

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Image: Rakesh Roshan, Prem Chopra, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Sujit Kumar and Jeetendra on New Year's Eve.


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'The leading ladies of the '80s like Kimi Katkar and Sonam were extremely cooperative'

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Rakita Nanda

Another phenomenon was the replacement of the vamp by the heroines opting to perform item numbers.

Earlier the heroine was always a 'sati-savitri', so the vamp was necessary. But today's actresses have no such qualms. So why waste time on a vamp, when the leading lady is game?

The heroine realised the necessity of changing with time.

The leading ladies of the '80s like Kimi Katkar and Sonam were extremely cooperative and professional about enacting any kind of scene, and that is what focus and direction are all about.

But I always feel that the earlier heroines such as Hema, Rekha, Asha Parekh, Mumtaz and Sharmila Tagore were so much more professional.

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Image: The Filmfare award 1976 winners: Asrani, Prem Chopra, Kajri, Sanjeev Kumar and Rakhee with Atal Bihari Vajpayee.


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'The 'villain' in films comes clothed in many forms'

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Rakita Nanda

The 'villain' in films comes clothed in many forms. I will give you an example.

Years ago, I had to perform a rape scene with a character in a film; incidentally, the director was smitten with this girl.

I was trying to get on with my act and each time the director would interrupt to demonstrate 'his way' of doing it. This went on several times and I found out much later that the two were having an affair.

Villain... who?

Then there was this top heroine who was having an affair with a top hero. A shot required me to kiss her and initially, she was willing.

However, her lover happened to be on the sets when we were ready to shoot and he kept signalling to her not to comply.

So whenever I came close to her face she would turn away. This went on, take after take, until I mock-shouted, 'What the hell! We villains get thrown off cliffs, get shot by kids and beaten up by all the heroes. At least we should be able to enjoy small benefits.' It made light of the moment. Finally the shot was taken and the director heaved a sigh of relief.

I could have named these girls, but they are happily married to someone else today.

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Image: Prem Chopra and Pran.

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'Most of the films of that time never showed the actual act'

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Rakita Nanda

Most of the films of that time never showed the actual act; it was left to be conveyed through objects and sound effects.

Like Aas Paas, where the hint of rape is only through dialogue, after which I leave a hundred-rupee note in an empty alcohol bottle while Hema Malini lies with dishevelled clothes. The music takes over.

Do you think I actually like doing all these dirty things on screen? No, I do not!

Violence and sex may be phases of the contemporary scene, but I am totally against glorifying violence or dishing out sex as a box office booster.

By the mid-1970s, film producers had already been told by the government to reduce violence and rape scenes. Even the films that were already on the floor had to conform by the new directive from the centre.

People thought I was one of the coolest rapists to have ever graced the Hindi film screen.


Image: Meet the Chopras: Top: Sons-in-law Sharman Joshi, Rahul Nanda and Vikas Bhalla. Middle: Daughters Punita, Rakita and Prerana, wife Uma and Prem Chopra. Bottom: Grandchildren Vaaryan, Veer, Sanchi, Khyana, Risha and Vihaan.


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