Vivek Oberoi on reprising role in Inside Edge 2: He's come back like a wounded lion to reclaim his territory
Vivek Oberoi discusses his character of a calculative mastermind Vikrant Dhawan in Inside Edge 2, and why he did not hesitate to play a dark character again.
When Vivek Oberoi was offered the role of a ruthless power drunk jet-setter for Inside Edge, he said, "'This has to be done. It's going to be a big hit,'" says the actor. Vivek made his debut in the digital world with Amazon Prime Video India Original, which delves into the murky world of cricket, cheerleaders, betting, and power-hungry people.
The actor is kicked about his character graph. “From running the show and being the master puppeteer, to coming out of the shadows and starting from zero is extremely exciting”, says Vivek. Throwing some more light on his character in the second season of the show that released on 6 December, the actor says, “Power is his drug, his weapon, and that is the spirit of my character. At the finale of the first season, it is all taken away. His power, his relevance, his entire kingdom has been taken away that he has built. His own mentor has stabbed him in his back.
What is exciting in the second season is to bring the whole different kind of Vikrant Dhawan, someone with vulnerability, someone with fear, insecurities, and also with a seething rage, a burning vengeance like a dark phoenix rising. He is coming back like a wounded lion to win his territory again.
That was super exciting. But I was pretty surprised with the kind of love that my character got. We were kind of teasing the audience this time to make them sense that Vikrant is dead, and he is not a part of this season but eventually his voice is heard at the end of the promo. I got tremendous response for that.”
Someone who took a “conscious decision” of making his film debut with a dark character in a gritty, gangster film (Ram Gopal Varma’s Company, 2002), it is not surprising about Vivek’s excitement to play Vikrant Dhawan. “The very first role I did was the role of a gangster. Now, it is all okay to do that but at that time, it was an absolute ‘no no’. The trend then was different. You had to wear designer clothing, like a show-reel, the new boy has to act, dance, do action, romance.., you had to be everything in one film. That is how newcomers were launched back then. But I took a conscious decision . I opted out of the film that my father was producing with Abbas-Mustan for me. I decided to go out there, drop my last name, struggle, go to different offices, and production houses, and just try to make it on my own. It was considered a cuckoo thing to do back then but I am really glad I did it. At that time, when I did Company, it was something very new a debutant was taking up,” says Vivek.
So Obviously, Vivek did not pay heed to people discouraging him from taking up Inside Edge. Not only did the actor shut down the advice he was getting, he, in fact, wanted his character a few shades darker. “When everybody said why would you do it, it is so small, and why play such a dark character, I said digital was the future. I loved the character, and my only feedback to Ritesh (Sidhwani, producer), Farhan (Akhtar, producer), Karan (Anshuman, show creator) was that the character needs to be darker. It was funny because they felt I might have apprehensions. Instead, I sat with these guys, and we worked on how can we make the character more crazy. I had a lot of fun. The character had to be larger-than-life, almost comic-bookish, graphic novel but at the same time, it had to blend, and not supposed to be so much up there that it looked unnatural. So there, Karan and I worked really hard in fine-tuning every scene for that character. It was great because Karan and I kept bumping into each other at every award ceremony after that, grabbing awards for the show. That was an amazing and fulfilling experience."
However, it was quite shocking for Vivek, a cricket lover, to know about the dark side of the gentleman’s game while researching for his role. “The show’s approach has been to look at the world of sport globally, and also see what’s going wrong with it. In the first season, I got to learn how betting is actually done. I had to research how bookies worked, and how match-fixing happens, whether doping has happened, and how does it happen. Is it the team’s decision, or is it an individual player’s decision? I was shocked to see some of the physical research to point where it made me lose my innocence. I stopped. I was always one of those blind believers of cricket but now, there is so much doubt in my head that when I watch a match which is damn close, I wonder that in Vikrant Dhawan style – ‘Kuch gadbad toh nahin hui hai?’ (isn't there something fishy),” he laughs.
But what also caught his fascination was the strong connection between Bollywood and the cricketing world. “Bollywood has always had that incestuous relationship with the media. There has always been the inside information, scoops gossip. I will tell you but don’t tell anybody, and then all the rumours, content, and spin coming out. But cricket, the gentleman’s game, has always had a veil that kind of protected it, and suddenly with all the tamasha, the spectacle of IPL, the cheerleaders, the firecrackers, the Bollywood-style production that happened, and the veil got lifted. People were interested in sportsmen beyond what their performance on field was, like who they are dating, what are the scandals...,” says Vivek.
Best known for his performance-driven roles in films like Saathiya, Omkara, and Yuva among many others, one wonders how pivotal this role is for Vivek at this point of his career? “I don’t look at my career like that. I don’t think it is a road which has milestones on it. I wake up, live, go, act, and enjoy myself every single day. I don’t have this traditional approach that, ‘Oh, I am graphing this trip from Mumbai to Pune.' For me, I love being Vikrant Dhawan. The medium and the space offers me so much freedom to go out there, and play this character the way I want to which I could never do in films, at least not in the today’s world, not for the five or 10 foreseeable years. It is far more liberating, and then, you get eight-nine hours to play it out. It is a very collaborative and democratic space. So if I am in a scene with Sapna (Pabbi), and if it is her scene, I would want her character to claim that scene because it is designed for her. It doesn’t matter whether I am senior, and I have done some 47 films, and Sapna has done four. Same thing goes if it was in the reverse. So I love that collaborative effort with this medium,” he says.
And when asked if there was a reference point for him, he signs off with a mischievous laugh, “I could say yes but then that would be scandalous.”
All images from YouTube.
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