Actor Vivek Oberoi Opens Up On Roller-Coaster Journey in Bollywood, Success on Web Series

© Photo : vivekoberoi/instagramVivek Oberoi
Vivek Oberoi - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.02.2022
In a career spanning 20 years, Bollywood star Vivek Oberoi, son of veteran actor Suresh Oberoi, has appeared in a plethora of hits including ‘Company’, ‘Saathiya’, ‘Omkara’, ‘Krrish 3’ and ‘Shootout at Lokhandwala’, to name but a few. The 45-year-old star is also one of the first actors to have switched from films to web series in 2017.
Basking in the glory that has been showered upon his web series ‘Inside Edge’ season 3, actor Vivek Oberoi - who plays shady Vikrant Dhawan who owns one of the world's largest sports management businesses - is clear that his star is in the ascendant as his career advances by leaps and bounds in the world of digital streaming.
And the actor's presence on the web continues to grow both with the recently released short film 'Verses of War' and the forthcoming series 'Dharavi Bank'.
After being a "star kid", Oberoi decided to follow an unconventional path and has faced all manner of struggles as he has tried to carve a niche for himself in Bollywood. Now, 20 years after he first took the Hindi film industry by storm, he looks back on what was truly a roller-coaster ride.
Vivek has chosen to share with Sputnik stories of his acting journey, how he's attracted a devoted global audience thanks to his web series ‘Inside Edge’, and much more.
Sputnik: You've spent 20 years in the film industry; how has Bollywood treated you?
Vivek: This industry made me who I am today. It gave me an opportunity to shine, got me 37 awards and tested my mettle. I’m acting, producing and writing and I’m enjoying a great flow of creativity. I have nothing but gratitude for this industry.
Of course, there are some bullies who abuse their power instead of allowing new talent to grow by applying equal opportunities. I have been a victim of that.
Our industry needs to evolve and throw out that nonsense. However, it’s one of the best industries in the world and should be about art and talent.
Sputnik: Being the son of veteran actor Suresh Oberoi, you have often been referred to as a ‘star kid’. How do you feel about this?
Vivek: I never saw myself as a "star kid" or a star. My only goal in life has been to be a good actor. In my career spanning 20 years, I’ve done about 15 projects and I’m pretty happy with where I am, and my ability to challenge and reinvent myself.
Sputnik: What was your big Bollywood debut?
Vivek: In 2001, when I came back from New York University after completing my Masters in Film Acting, my father launched me into the film industry like a rocket. It was a tradition that every celebrity father would produce his son’s movie and launch him on society - kitted out in designer clothes, riding horses, shooting guns, doing action, dance, and everything to secure the limelight.
I was signed up for a film by Abbas–Mustan (celebrated Indian film-making brothers Abbas Alibhai Burmawalla and Mustan Alibhai Burmawalla) which had an amazing storyline. However, I told my dad that I want to make my debut on my own. I needed to get a role in the film on my own merit.
Sputnik: How did your father react to your plans?
Vivek: He went mad when I told him that I wanted to carve my own path in the industry and warned me that the route I was proposing was full of hardships as actors don’t get a break in Bollywood.
But I was sure about this. So, I dropped my surname - Oberoi - and went from one audition to another under the pseudonym Vivek Anand so that nobody could recognise that I’m Suresh Oberoi’s son.
Sputnik: What struggles did you face before making a breakthrough in Bollywood?
Vivek: It took me 18 months of setbacks before I got my debut film ‘Company’ by director Ram Gopal Varma. I faced so many rejections. People told me I would never make it as an actor. Nobody knew whose son I was.
Sputnik: Most actors opt to play the hero's role in their debut but you decided to go for the negative role of a gangster instead. How did that pan out?
Vivek: When my family and friends discovered that I was playing a gangster and that my skin had to be two shades darker, my hair messy and my clothes dirty clothes, people said I was committing career suicide and that I’d gone mad.
They kept asking: "Where are the dance sequences? Where is the fight scene with cars blowing up? Why are you not wearing designer clothes? Where is the romantic scene?"
Once the film turned out to be a huge success, however, and I got several awards for Best Male Debut of the year, everybody was full of praise for my idiosyncratic career path. But not many have followed that trail.
Sputnik: ‘Company’ opened doors for you as you went on to do a romantic hero’s role in ‘Saathiya’. How was that?
Vivek: When I signed ‘Saathiya’, everybody said, "Are you mad? You should be doing action films. You are an action hero now. You should go to Yash Raj Films [the production house behind Saathiya] and tell them to add a climax action scene". But when it was judged a success, people were surprised.
Ever since I started my career, I have wanted to be a versatile actor and I've challenged myself to take on unconventional roles. Whether playing a super villain in an action sci-fi film ‘Krrish 3’ or an antihero in ‘Shootout at Lokhandwala’. That’s why people call me "Versatile Vivek".
Sputnik: You were one of the first mainstream Bollywood actors who took a plunge into the world of digital streaming in 2016 by signing up to the ‘Inside Edge’ web series. That must have been a dramatic turning point in your life.
Vivek: Again, people thought I was making a big mistake by doing web shows. They said "What will people say when a mainstream star is prepared to do this kind of series?"
Before the launch of Amazon Prime and Netflix in India in 2016, people were used to watching web content on YouTube such as ‘The Viral Fever’. Nobody thought that web streaming platforms and prime video would become so big.
But I had a hunch about it. When 'Inside Edge' was offered to me, I realised that in a film I’d never be able to do something like this.
When 'Inside Edge' got nominated for Best Drama series at the International Emmy Awards, people started believing in web series and praised me for spotting the trend so early. Now, every Bollywood actor is doing web series and films.
Sputnik: ‘Inside Edge’ has been the talk of the town as it sheds light on illegal betting and spot fixing in cricket. What sort of reception has it had globally?
Vivek: It has been fantastic. With the release of Season 3 in more than 240 countries and territories on Amazon Prime, people from all over Europe - including Russia which isn't known for its love of cricket sport and the more recondite topics of spot-fixing and betting - were watching the show and reaching out to me on social media, sending so much love. It felt incredible.
I truly believe that art has no boundaries and no language. And the web has made the world such a smaller place.
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