Villains make the narrative interesting but unlike the black and white portrayal of negative characters in the past, they are given a backstory in cinema today, says veteran actor Prem Chopra.
The 88-year-old actor, who embodied evil men of all shades in the films of the 70s and 80s, is being praised for his guest appearance in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal.
Chopra said the negative characters were not justified in movies earlier and gave the example of his 1973 hit Bobby. Directed by Raj Kapoor, the film starred Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in the lead.
“In those days, we were stamped as the bad guys… It was in a straight way, whether Prem Chopra, Amrish Puri, Pran sahab or anyone else, it was like, ‘Yeh gadbad karne wale hain’ (people knew that we were up to some mischief),” the veteran actor told PTI in an interview.
“Like, in Bobby, I just had one dialogue and that became very popular. Raj (Kapoor) didn’t have to explain. People knew that he was going to do something,” he said, recalling his most famous dialogue, “Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra”.
But in “Animal”, Chopra said a reason has been given for Ranbir’s revenge in the film.
“The narrative was made interesting because of the negative characters (in the past). It is the same even now. They are a very important part of the film. Now-a-days, the difference is every negative character has a reason, how and why he has become a villain.
“In Animal, there’s a reason why he (Ranbir) is like this and that’s because his father was shot and he had to take revenge,” the actor said.
Directed by Vanga of Arjun Reddy fame, Animal showcases a violent world set against the backdrop of a troubled relationship between Ranvijay and his father Balbir Singh, played by Anil Kapoor.
Chopra, whose career has spanned 60 years that saw him feature in many prominent movies such as Do Raaste, Purab aur Paschim, Teesri Manzil, Kati Patang, Souten and Trishul, plays the role of the elder brother of Ranbir Kapoor’s grandfather The cinema veteran believes the audience has become more appreciative of a good performance, regardless of a positive or a negative role.
“People have become emancipated, they appreciate it if you give a good reason. Sometime back, people were not able to adjust to the actors who were playing the negative characters.
“When a person (who generally plays a) negative character is playing a positive character, they had doubts. In Hollywood, the actors are accepted in both (kinds of) roles, total negative or total positive, the performance matters. TV and all that (referring to OTT platforms) have made them (the audience) more literate about these things,” he observed.
The actor also praised Ranbir for his performance in the action drama. Animal marks the second collaboration between the duo after the 2009 comedy-drama “Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year”.
“Ranbir is a very hardworking actor and performed so well in ‘Rocket Singh’. In this film (‘Animal’), he is tremendous. He has done a great job. It is a very difficult and complicated role.
“It is action-oriented but even then, his character has a great background (story). People seem to love him very much. Not just him, even Bobby Deol is very good in a special appearance. All of them are very impactful.” In movies, Chopra has worked with four generations of the Kapoor family — from Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor, and Kareena Kapoor Khan and Ranbir Kapoor in recent years.
All his co-stars from the Kapoor clan are thorough professionals but his most-favourite was Rishi Kapoor, who passed away in April 2020 after a battle with leukemia.
“Some of them gave great performances, like, Prithviraj ji was known as the great actor, then Raj Kapoor was a known superstar and a genius director. Shammi Kapoor had his own style of working. But it was Rishi Kapoor I liked the most.
“He was very involved when he was working. He would fit into any character easily. He was a great asset to any film that he was working on,” he added.
The actor said he has experienced his fair share of highs and lows, but has managed to survive in the film industry.
“I’ve been in the profession for more than the last 60 years. I’m grateful to God. I’ve never been unfair with my work. Every film for me was a test. I’m very hardworking, honest, and determined. There have been a lot of embarrassments and controversies but you have to continue doing your work,” he said.
Going forward, Chopra said he is looking forward to doing selective work, something like American icon Marlon Brando’s character in the Hollywood classic Godfather.
“I’m open to good roles. It has to be very selective,” he added.