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Interviews

The big bad guy of 70's still hoping to play Godfather
Tuesday, August 03, 2004

He is the man who made something as simple as telling one's name into a classic art. His six-worded introductory sentence "Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra" made him a household name, with scores emulating the suaveness, élan and style of the man.

Today several decades down the line, he introduces himself in the same manner--- the style, the look-in-the-eye and the impish smile all-intact. Recollecting the shooting of the film, BOBBY, Chopra, said: "Raj Kapoor told me that I have to report for the shoot and deliver my dialogue. When I reached the sets expecting a long dialogue, he handed me a one liner...I was baffled. Is this all that I have to say, I queried, quite perplexed by the miniscule line. Yes, he insisted and told me that I have to deliver it with that punch.... and I did it, the rest is history" the veteran actor told PTI in an interview.

  Labelled as the `big bad guy' of celluloid of 70's-80's Chopra's entry on the big screen often send shivers down the spine of viewers as his sinister smile and his eyes unreavled a nefarious plot waiting to spoil the perfect romance of the leading pair or creating a rift of misunderstanding.

"In those times villains had roles which made a hero look so good and perfect. Today times have changed. Heroes themselves have characters with shades of grey like Sharukh Khan in BAAZIGAR. Now the roles are more intriguing than the past. There is a lot more shades for a villain to play than in those days."

"Maybe, if I entered the industry now I would have much more scope and more layers to enact," the villain who ruled the roost among the bad guys of the industry said. "When I entered the industry, there had been a void, Pranji had already moved on to performing more character roles and Jeevan had already played so many roles of the mean-sinister guy. When I came in, there was a change in preference, Directors were looking out for a good-looking villain who appeared good enough to ask the heroine's hand in marriage and who proved to be a challenge to the hero", says Chopra whose face appeared on the cover of a magazine with a heading --Man with a hero's face becomes villain. Chopra, who opines that he was among the first to herald the concept of good-looking villains, claims that he also was among the few who set a trend of the villain being not just one who spews the stereotype venom or mouths the expected dialogues, seething with anger and grinding his teeth. "I realised that audience gets bored if one tended to deliver the same stuff everytime. I knew one needed to innovate if one had to survive and so I decided to introduce some subtle humour into my roles. Thus grew the concept of a villain who makes you laugh without losing the actual depth of his evil designs," he said.

"I filled my character with such sadism, that my character was even loved by my children, who mouthed my dialogues and mimicked me with the same savageness" he grins gleefully. My roles in films like BOBBY, TEESRI MANZIL, UPKAAR, all clicked in a big way. "Many of my films were jubilee hits", says Chopra who has acted in over 300 films in a career spanning over three decades.

For Chopra who has enacted many memorable roles like the scheming best friend with lecherous designs in DO AJNABEE or the distrustful relative with eye on the money. SAUTAN, Chopra sailed through them all, innovating, experimenting and trying out various punch lines. Chopra's forte he admits has been his punch lines. Be it "Mein Woh Bala hu jo pathar ko shishe se tod saka hu" in SAUTAN or "Mera naam hai prem...prem chopra" or "Kar bhala to Ho Bhala". Even the positive adage `Kar Bhala to Ho Bhala' was given that sinister feeling when delivered he says.

Recounting his punchlines, he said, "The punchlines were always the product of brain storming. We worked on it as a team, looking at various options and zeroing the most apt one and that worked on delivering it in a convincing manner that it became a refrain", Chopra added.

However, the use of numerous disguises or get ups does not find favour with the cine actor. "I have never been in favour of various get-ups unless the script demanded. In one particular film of mine, KALA SONA, the child remembers only the false eye of the villain when he commits a crime. At that time I agreed to sport the false eye since it was essential to the script", he added.

Interestingly, the man whose evoked disgust and made viewers squirm in their seat and pray for the future of the hero, himself began as the leading man in a Punjabi film CHAUDHARY KARNAIL SINGH CHAUDHARY which won acclaims and awards.

Recollecting his tryst with films, Chopra says it was his love for theatre that saw him coming to Mumbai. Coming from a middle-class background, he chose `job security' over an impulsive decision to join films. Starting off as an employee in Times of India, he also simultaneously looked out for work in films.

Lady luck strode in when a gentleman spotted him while travelling and asked him whether he was ready to work in films. "I accompanied him to the producers and they were so desperate for a hero that they signed me up then and there. They told me that it would take a few months to make the film, CHAUDHARY KARNAIL SINGH but the project ended after three years. This made me realise the importance of a steady job and I did not quit my regular job till Upkaar became a hit", says Chopra, who never looked back after that.

Though initially he played the lead role in a few films, he soon realised that it was his films with him as villain were doing well. Being a practical man with a realistic assessment of oneself, he chose to play the role at which he was at his best--being the scheming villain and acting as perfect foil for the good-hearted hero. "I have no regrets taking up as a villain. At least I made my name and am still working," he said.

Though his voice mellows down when he recounts his present work, "Now I do roles I get. I know I deserve better but there are no roles being written for villains of my age. However, whichever roles I get I try to give it my own touch be it a small role like KOI MIL GAYA or in a role like PHOOL BANGE ANGARE.

However, ironic as it seems this villain like ever hero has a dream. Would he like to play a role like his inspiration Marlon Brando he laughs his chrematistic style, "Why not. I would love to play the role of Godfather."


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