What happened to Vivek Oberoi, the actor?
Published: Fri 31 May 2019, 12:00 AM
Last updated: Sun 9 Jun 2019, 10:13 AM
He can be impulsive to the point of immaturity. As soon as Vivek Oberoi reposted a meme on social media - making a joke in bad taste of his long-forgotten liaison with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan - he was trolled mercilessly, and correctly so. And if Sonam Kapoor spoke her mind out against the meme, he hit back at her with a nasty comment. Would any gentleman - as the good, old word goes - do that?
As for the emergency press conference he had called over a decade-and-a-half ago to announce that Salman Khan had made threatening phone calls to him, the incident was uncalled for. Surely, the threats, as alleged, should have been reported to the police instead of serving them as sensational news tidbits before the ever-hungry media.
Evidently, at the age of 42, Vivek Oberoi hasn't recovered from his past, which included the headline-making break-up with Aishwarya Rai, besides a career which can be best described as 'rocky', the flops far outweighing the successes.
Right here, right now, despite the landslide victory of BJP at the general elections, PM Narendra Modi - with Vivek portraying the title role - hasn't exactly upped his brand value in the Bollywood market. Opening amidst a welter of controversy, the biopic - directed by Omung Kumar, whose Mary Kom (2014) and Sarbjit (2016) were far superior products - has been categorised as an outright hagiography. The actor's performance, in an admittedly difficult part, has been thumbed down as thoroughly unconvincing.
Currently, the actor has only a couple of projects on his plate: a Kannada film titled Rustam and the next season of the Amazon Prime Video series The Inside Edge. All that the ode to PM Narendra Modi appears to have affirmed is that he is close to the powers-that-be. Whether this strategy will translate into more film roles remains a question mark.
Which is a pity, since Vivek Oberoi is a competent, flexible actor, open to portraying the goody-two-shoes hero, as well as the poison-spewing antagonist evidenced most notably in Krrish 3 (2013) and this year's Malayalam film Lucifer, in which he crossed swords with Hrithik Roshan and Mohanlal respectively. Undeniably, even in the risible adult comedy series - Masti (2004), Grand Masti (2013) and Great Grand Masti (2016) - he could project a pleasant screen presence and a flair for knockabout farce.
Guided by his father, the veteran actor Suresh Oberoi, initially, Vivek emerged on the scene with Ram Gopal Varma's Company (2002). Impressively cool and nuanced, he snagged the Best Debut as well as the Best Supporting Actor Filmfare trophies for his performance. In the same year, he was seen to advantage with Rani Mukerji in Shaad Ali's Saathiya, a sensitive study of the period of adjustment between a newly-wedded couple.
The Ram Gopal Varma-Vivek Oberoi collaboration continued with Road (2002) and Darna Mana Hai (2003), but the director, who was in the peak form then, began to complain that success had gone to the actor's head. Worse, it was buzzed that Vivek was getting a bit too intrusive for comfort on the sets of Mani Ratnam's ensemble youth-centric film Yuva (2004). Fortuitously, on realising that he was being high-handed, Vivek cleaned up his act and was once again cast by Varma as a vengeful politician in the two-parter Rakhta Charitra (2010).
While watching him at the studios or meeting him up for interviews, Vivek Oberoi would emphasise that he was 'misunderstood' and if he gave his suggestions to the directors, he was merely striving to give his inputs. "If that came across as disrespectful, that's my bad," he had agreed. "I'm more than aware that the director is the captain of the ship. I was just trying to do my bit as part of the team."
In the same breath, he would point out that he's a vociferous reader of literary classics, possesses a collection of CDs of world music, and was interested in painting and writing. "Perhaps, some day I'll have the guts to show you what I've written and sketched," he'd smiled. "Right now, they're very raw and maybe amateurish."
There was an earnestness about him. Marriage and two children added that touch of sobriety to his personality. Yet, his career was going nowhere. The A-list banners avoided him and younger actors were racing ahead. Next, I hear that he's close to the higher echelons of the government, culminating in the quickie project PM Narendra Modi, obviously intended as a propaganda piece.
Its release was banned till the election results were declared. Surprisingly, BJP's return to power in full form didn't make a difference. Politely, some trade pundits said it had 'underperformed' commercially while the critics shredded the film and the actor's performance to bits.
Where does that leave Vivek Oberoi now? Hopefully, chastened and wiser. Once he had attempted to spell his name differently - Viveik - for a reversal of fortunes perhaps. The numerologist's advice didn't work. He has returned to Vivek now. In the event, here's still keeping my fingers crossed for the young man who would once converse animatedly for hours about literature, art and his dreams to become an artiste of substance.
Here's a shoutout then to the actor. Believe me, Vivek, it's never too late to prioritise one's metier instead of playing with politics.