All of a sudden, there’s an ominous silence. The lights dim and the booming music at the Station Pub, Thamel turns low. Girls rush to the entrance with bouquets of flowers, and in the menacing way one has witnessed many times on screen, enters the biggest baddie of Bollywood — Prem Chopra.There are no sounds of gun shots, just that of warm cheer, and the tinkling of wine glasses.
Once he settles down, his fans and long time friends circle him, and Chopra is game for a tête-à-tête with almost anybody who approaches him.Apprehensive that we might invoke his viciousness, we cautiously approach the legendary baddie with a little trepidation cause who can forget his unforgettable line, “Mera naam hai Prem, Prem Chopra.”
We are surprised when the man who’s rarely remembered as playing a good character tells us that he first appeared in a patriotic role in Shahid with India’s son of the soil Manoj Kumar. And while most of his contemporaries have disappeared into oblivion, he lives as lives the Big B (not for baddie). And still puts the sparks on the silver screen with the same charisma.
But since he’s best remembered for his roles as a the baddest of the bad men of Bollywood, ask him how it feels to be the legendary baddie of Bollywood and pat comes the reply that he’s played “all kinds of roles from the archetypal villain to the emotional ones”.
His most recent role is in the blockbuster Bunty Aur Bubli.“I did positive roles when I entered Bollywood, but people started telling me that I was better doing negative roles.” And that’s how the good-guy-turned-baddie ruled Bollywood for almost four decades.
Tell him that he’s slowing fading away from the silver screen and he says, “It’s rare for an actor to work professionally for 40 years and still be loaded with offers. Salaame Ishq that I’m working on is the biggest picture on the floor today. There are many more films that I’m working on and I’m as active as I was when I started my career.”
All things said, how does this actor infuse his character with such viciousness?
“That’s part of my job. An actor has to be convincing, and when he’s not, he’s a bad actor. When I get in front of the camera, I forget everything.”
“People ask me if it’s not time that I retired. I believe people in our business retire for only two reasons, either they’ve stopped getting work or they’re unable to work. And I fall in neither category. There’s a misconception that it’s the group of people you work with that brings more work. I believe it’s your work that brings you more work,” says this versatile actor who first began his work with the Times of India.
“I have a strong fascination for Nepal ever since I did Hare Ram Hare Krishna. I’ve been visiting Nepal ever since. I like the ambience, the hospitality and above all I like the Nepali people,” he says. Whenever he visits Nepal, he never misses visiting Station Pub. “People always told me that whenever I am in Kathmandu I should be at this place.”
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