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'I know I will wake up at 2am wondering how to perform'

Monika Baldwa | February 08, 2003 15:43 IST

Vivek Oberoi's star continues to rise.

Hollywood has come calling, and the actor has been pencilled in for the lead role of the warrior Udaji in the $40 million epic The Invaders.

To be helmed by Oscar-winning director Roland Joffe, the film is set against the first Anglo-Maratha war in the 18th century, and will be shot end of this year. Oberoi will be pitted against a Hollywood actor -- the name is as yet undecided -- who will play the part of James Stuart, the British Captain.

The rising star talks to Rediff.com. Excerpts: 

Did The Invaders chose you or you chose The Invaders?

In this case, The Invaders chose me.

How did it happen?

I got a call from the casting team of the film. I arranged for a special screening of my work. They saw my films and enjoyed my work. I am told it is my ability to carry my character throughout the film, and my expressive eyes that did the trick.

One meeting with Roland Joffe, and I was in the film.

I am thrilled to be working with a director of Joffe's calibre. He is extremely talented and meticulous. I have been a big fan of his work. I have received offers to act in international films before, which I have rejected. This role however really excited me.

What is special about this character?

Udaji, the warrior I play, has both an outward and an inner battle. Udaji is not just about his outward battle, as in being bare-bodied, carrying a sword and physically readying for battle. There is an inner battle as well, in his mind, and that conflict is interesting, too. Also, he is virtuous not just by birth but in mind as well. So it is about courage at both levels.

Besides the scale and canvas, I like the visual perspective. Also, the challenge of being able to portray a man in conflict was interesting. I believe I am at a nappy stage in Bollywood, where I can afford to experiment and play with my roles.

Isn't an epic film a risk?

I don't think one should theorise genres. I am bad at numbers and math. Always was!

Some of the biggest blockbusters at the box-office, like Ben Hur have been period films. I think there are just bad films and good films. Period. 

Besides, life is a gamble. Like women, life is unpredictable and a huge risk. I can't predict what will run. Lines and genres have begun to blur. Somewhere, we are arriving at a balance in the kind of cinema we are making. Also, the entry of multiplexes is now allowing us to view and make cinema which can appeal to different kinds of audiences. It has allowed us to experiment.

What do you look for when you sign a film?

Three things -- the structure of the film, the role and the conviction of the director. This film spoke to me and I knew the audience would be able to identify with it as well.

The way Roland has visualised it helped me make up my mind about this film. I knew I would wake up at 2 am and wonder how to perform a particular scene.

How have you started preparing for the role?

I haven't started any work on it. But I intend to take eight weeks off to work on it during pre-production. I plan to make an autobiographical sketch of the character, read up all the literature available and travel to the locations where the film will be shot to get a feel of my character.

Like you, other Bollywood stars are being approached by Hollywood -- is India becoming a buzzword?

Everything is global. Why divide it into names Iike Hollywood, Bollywood?

Cinema has begun to speak a global language. India is a part of that change. The atmosphere is conducive right now for Indian actors and films to find an international audience. The opportunity has come calling. It is up to us to prove our mettle. 

The fact that a commercial film like Company will be shown at the Berlin Film Festival indicates the exciting stage that Indian cinema is at.

After being launched in a two-hero project, you had two solo starrers -- Dum and Saathiya. Was it planned that way?

I wish it was. But honestly, I have never planned anything in my life. I think it just happened. 

Many asked my dad to launch me in a film with a lot of dance, song and action. But I don't think films are meant to be a launch pad.

One has to fit into a character, the director's vision and perform. If you are good, you will be noticed anyway. So how does it matter how many people you share the frame with? So the bit about moving from multi starrers to solo starrers is not conscious.

I don't have a magic formula yet. 

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