‘Prem Nam Mein Mera, Prem Chopra’. This dialogue is enough to send a generation of moviegoers into a frenzy and also give their money value. The popular actor, now 86, has starred in nearly 380 films over six decades and enjoyed the fan frenzy he usually offers to the top stars of the day. They are also simple periods. Away from social media scrutiny and 360-degree coverage, the stars are magical creatures for the ticket-paying audience. In the velvet darkness of the cinema hall, you can get a movie ticket for three hours. “Villain Ko Dekh Ke Dar Jaate The Log, and Stars Ko Dekh Ke Pighal Log Log,” Chopra This interview tells indianexpress.com. Working with actor Raj Kapoor and how the showman’s Bobby gave him something memorable to this day revisited his innings.
Excerpts from the interview:
You’ve been synonymous with the bad guy in cinema for decades. Did people take it literally and did it affect your life?
When you make a lot of negative characters confident, people get a negative impression about you. But it is my profession and I take it as a compliment. The same way I got a job and made a living. In order to play these roles confidently, an actor has to come under the skin of those characters, which is what I am doing. Then I started adding humor and satire to my characters.
However, there was one occasion when my daughter was impressed with my acting. I took her for a movie preview because she wanted to see Papa work. Throughout the film she is silent and watches every scene carefully. After the movie was over, she kept looking at me when we came out and didn’t talk to me. She feared. She wondered what had suddenly happened to her father, who was a joker at home. So I sat her down and had to explain to her that her Joker was always a Joker and that what I was doing in the movies was only my job, and that was very important because we could get her to go to a good school and buy a big new car. It took her a while to understand, but in the end she understood the difference.
What is the story behind ‘Prem Nam Mein Mera … Prem Chopra’?
(Laughs) That’s from Bobby. When Bobby came to me, I was already a star, and I had even received some awards and accolades for my work. So, when Raj Kapoor offered me a special role, I was reluctant to do it as I was doing parallel roles with the lead actor in many movies. I was told that other directors were offering me chunky roles, so why should I do his film. And he said, ‘I don’t care, you have to do it!’ I did, how can I say no to Raj Kapoor?
He loved to drink and one day we sat together. I keep asking him to give me a script to learn my dialogues; That is a Raj Kapoor movie! All he had to say was, ‘Batayenge batayenge, fursat se’. He said a young couple had fled and I was the only one to catch them. I had to say ‘Prem Nam Mein Mera … Prem Chopra’.
When I first heard it, it was not recorded. During the shooting, I met Prem Nath and told him that I was unhappy with the character. His advice is, trust Raj Kapoor. The film is believed to be a big hit. With his encouragement, I did my best and the dialogue clicked. Even today, wherever I go in the world, people introduce me to that dialogue or whatever I want to say. It is very close to my heart, my book name is also Prem Nam Mein Mera … Prem Chopra.
– Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia Retired (t Ptr6Vb) August 8, 2021
Why do you think the era of great, bigger Hindi film villains than life is over?
Over time, everything changes. We do those kinds of roles because movies need it, because every character is written that way. Now, such characters are not written because the heroes want to write shades of gray to prove their versatility. Each character has a story, so when a hero goes to the dark side, there is a reason for it and it creates sympathy for them.
A lot of actors these days are doing such a great job, you never know the arc of their characters, they are so layered. Characters and movies are now written for many platforms. When we started working, there were no televisions, radios or OTT platforms. Our whole generation was talking about the audience coming to the cinema halls for entertainment and they applauded. Now, people criticize every story, every character and accept actors who play versatile roles. They accepted heroes who played negative roles and villains who turned positive.
Didn’t you want to be a hero?
Everyone who enters the showbiz wants to be a hero, I wanted to be a hero too. I also tried to make positive rolls. Later in my career, I did similar roles in Bunty Babr Bob and Rocket Singh and they worked with the audience. At that time it was not possible.
Now the actors are given the whole spectrum, but we are typecast. ‘Villain Ko Dekh Ke Dar Jaate The Log, and Stars Ko Dekh Ke Pighal Jaate The Log’. Also, now the negative characters are not so important, no scope or glamor is added to them.
I tried to make positive rolls, but they flop. When a movie is a super hit, all credit is given to the hero, and when the movie flops, he takes away all the good deeds. So the actor’s career becomes very dangerous and short. It is best to accept whatever task comes your way and do full justice to your character. This is the only reason I have had a long career.