ACTION man Vivek Oberoi, who starred in 2007 thriller Shootout At Lokhandwala and earned the nickname 'Tiger', talks to the Observer's Bollywood columnist DEVANSH PATEL about the movie's follow-up Mission Istaanbul, released this week
Q So, Maya is back after Shootout to complete his Mission. What says Vivek?
A I like the way you put that - very creatively done. Actually, I am really excited about Mission Istaanbul. Maya was a big bad boy who ended the shootout. Here the good guy is going to complete his mission. My character, Rizwan Khan, lost his wife and his child to a bomb blast in Ankara. So he takes an oath that he will try and protect as many innocent lives he can from the dreaded terrorists. That's his mission, he is the hero and the good guy. But having said that, his attitude is a real bad one and that's what I love about him.
Q Chiseled looks, bulging biceps and long hair is something we haven't seen much of from you. What went into creating such a look?
A Rizwan Khan is such a cool guy that the clothing, styling and everything was an extension of his personality. I mean, he is the kind of guy who'll land up anywhere, anytime.
That is precisely what Vikas Sagar tells him, "Rizwan Khan tum toh bhoot ho yaar, kahin se bhi aa jaate ho aur kahin se bhi nikal jaate ho". Anything that is impossible, he'll make it possible with a wink of an eye. One wanted someone who could physically look like that.
Dilshad who is my hair stylist, did my hair, and Falguni Thakore did the clothes and designed the entire look. On the other hand, Apoorva was working with both of them in tandom to create the entire image of Rizwan.
Q What went into your exercise regime? Did you have to build a six-pack and then shoot the film?
A No. The first thing that Apoorva explained to me was a scene where Vikas Sagar is running through the grand bazaar with six guys after him to kill him. Just as you think that he is going to get killed any minute, in the nick of time, a guy comes from nowhere, grabs him and pins him up against the wall and takes care of the six baddies in 32 seconds single-handedly. Rizwan is that strong.
Apoorva wanted me to think strong to act strong. So there was very little which went into my physical training, even though we actors have to stay fit. Here I just had to stay extra fitter.
Q When I spoke to Apoorva last week, he said he had Abhishek Bachchan in mind before he signed you for the role of Rizwan. Do you consider yourself lucky?
A You know, it's been strange. I think many people don't know this but my first two films - Company and Saathiya both originally had Abhishek Bachchan in the lead. I got a break because Abhishek didn't do Company and then I got Saathiya for the same reason. Even in Apoorva's previous film, Shootout at Lokhandwala, he had considered Abhishek to do a full-fledged role but he only managed a special appearance. So all this is rather quite interesting. People remember that Siaf Ali Khan did Hum Tum after I said no. I couldn't do that film. I think it's destiny for all of us. Someone's loss is other person's gain.
Q We've seen you at your best in Company and Shootout At Lokhandwala. In between, you have a bit of Masti as well. But then again you are on a mission. Should we change your name to Versatile Oberoi?
A Thank you so much. It's a very nice compliment. There are many critics who tell me that I should stick to roles like in the two films you mentioned. But the point to remember for me is that I'm a greedy actor and I like to do every kind of role, whether it's action or comedy. Recently, at the IIFA Awards in Bangkok, I had 20 pretty girls apprehend me. They grabbed hold of me and told me that they were going to threaten the action hero. The point they conveyed was that if I didn't do another love story for them, I'd be in big trouble! They said: "We supported you through Shootout, we are supporting you through Mission Istaanbul but it's time you did a love story". So yeah, I am doing different stuff now. I am excited. I'm doing a big film in South Africa with Tips (Films) and that's a huge solo hero film for me. After that I'm doing Karan Johar's film with Renzel DeSilva directing and writing it which stars Saif and Kareena. And there is this love story which I am doing and is being developed in the first quarter of next year. It's very sweet, a Saathiya kind of feel.
Q This is your first film where you've performed some daring stunts all by yourself. Were you willing to take such a risk?
A That's actually untrue. I've been performing stunts from my very first movie. In fact, I earned the nickname 'Tiger' because on my very first schedule in Kenya for the film Company, I was challenged to leap across from a six-storey building to a five-storey one. In Mission Istaanbul, too, we are coming down from a 44-floor building. That was mad and insane but I had to do it.
Q Does Mika's song Apun Ke Saath start where Ganpat ends?
A Absolutely. It was always meant to be a follow up to Ganpat. Ganpat was such a rage and such a big sensation that we wanted to take it to the next level and promote Mission Istaanbul. Apun Ke Saath shows the attitude of Rizwan Khan.
Q What do you have to say about the young Gujarati boy Chirantan Bhatt, who is just 21 years old and has had chartbuster hits like Mission Mission and Nobody Like You?
A Oh my God, I didn't even know his name was Chirantan Bhatt! We call him Chiru. But I'm really happy for Chiru and Hamza who has worked with him in both these songs. They have done a great job and I'm very happy with the entire album. My favourite is Apun Ke Saath. The kind of dynamics, lyrics and cool quality that Mika has come up with after Ganpat and the kind of response it got at the IIFA Bangkok is truly unbelievable. Everywhere I go now people associate me with this song.
Q Mission Istaanbul is a film which will have its own target audience. Do you think the film will work in the overseas?
A One never thought that Shootout would do very well with the overseas audience. But it did. In the Middle East, it did terrific business. The audience's mindset is changing. There are liking different kinds of cinema, so we're hoping. Overseas has a big audience and is important for the success of our films. If Mission works in the overseas, we all will be very happy.
Q Any plans for having a premiere in Istanbul?
A Yeah. Apoorva always wanted that. I don't know how much of that is going to be possible. At the end of the day, one wants to have a big premiere in Mumbai and then fly off to Istaanbul the very next moment. It's not as easy as it looks.
If it happens, it'll be exciting and awesome, but that really isn't my call. It's between Apoorva, Suniel Shetty and Balaji.
Q Besides filming, what did you get up to in Istanbul?
A We had a blast. I mean, I am a complete party animal. When I get days off I love to club all the way through to the morning. One of the other nicknames that I've earned from college days is 'Rockstar'. That's not because I'm musically inclined in anyway. I can't play any musical instruments. But if I party, I've got a golden rule - I don't come back before seeing the morning sun.
Q Your director says that Mission Istaanbul is going to be your best performance to date. What are the odds?
A I am really excited about that - it's a really big statement to make. But I don't know. I've given my best, worked an entire year, I've not done anything else and focused only on Mission Istaanbul.
I hope what Apoorva says is true. He keeps telling me that. I haven't even seen the film yet but I have faith and belief in Apoorva.
Q Any special message for your fans?
A A big thank you, straight from my heart. When I was not doing well in films, the one thing that kept me going was the belief in my fans and the support which they have shown for me. Every little 'I love you Vivek' which comes out from them makes you feel so special. My fans aren't just statistics for me, they are the ones who have made me what I am today and got me where I am.