By Suneel V. Gaur and Rajesh V. Gaur
With the success of his roles in Hindi films such as Woh Kaun Thi (1964), Upkar (1967), Do Raaste (1969), Kati Patang (1970), his negative image became strong. Veteran actor Prem Chopra is Bollywood’s most colourful screen villain, appearing in over 300 movies, but off screen, Prem Chopra is a thorough gentleman. Suneel V. Gaur and Rajesh V. Gaur met the actor for an interview.
How did your journey in Bollywood begin?
I came to Mumbai from Simla. I landed myself a job with The Times of India in the circulation department. I worked for four years as a circulation supervisor while doing rounds of producers’ offices as a beginner would. I did a Punjabi film called Chaudhry Jarnail Singh and it did well.
Despite the success of this Punjabi film you started doing Hindi films?
I did not want to end up as a Punjabi actor and hence started accepting meaty character roles in films like Shaeed, Woh Kaun Thi, etc. After Woh Kaun Thi, there was no looking back for me since the film clicked in a big way though my role had negative shades but it was as good as that of the hero.
Which films have you have liked doing the most?
The films that standout are Kati Patang, Purab Aur Paschim and Do Raaste. I really enjoyed doing Kati Patang as the role had multiple shades and terrific dialogues.
What are your other interests besides films?
I am very fond of reading and watching all genres of films as an audience. I am also very fond of theatre and whenever I go to London on a holiday, you will find me busy watching a play. I am toying with the idea of acting in a play again.
Why are villains not seen in strong author-backed roles, nowadays?
It’s partly because of stories and partly because of heroes. Today, heroes want to be bad characters as there is a great scope for histrionics there. In my case, I used to add unusual touches to my characters and get-ups to have a greater impact on the audiences.
Do you think the strong villain will reappear in Hindi films?
He certainly will. I just saw Prakash Raaj playing a villainous Thakur. It really depends on the kind of stories that come out of Bollywood. But I do see hope for villains in Hindi films.
You terrified audiences with your performances. What are you terrified of?
I am terrified of snakes. So much so, that I was on the verge of refusing a film because I had to handle a real snake. The director got it changed with a fake snake at the last moment [Laughs].