Prabhudeva speaks about his Bollywood stint so far
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You have two blockbusters as a director and now your film ABCD: Any Body Can Dance as an actor is doing well. You are considered a lucky charm in Bollywood...
I don't know if I am the lucky charm; I just think it's god's grace. He has been kind to me and things have fallen into place. After all, Wanted and Rowdy Rathore were both remakes. They had done well in the south and there was little reason why they wouldn't do well here.
ABCD is your acting debut in Hindi. What took you so long?
There were five to six occasions when I have come close to signing a Hindi film. But things did not materialise. I believe in life everything has a time. Maybe, this was the right time.
What made you take up ABCD?
The credit must go to Remo (D'Souza), the director. He told me that I had to be a part of the film he is doing. I really respect Remo and I said yes. At that time, I did not know it was going to be a dance film. But then I got to know and I was happy that this would be my debut. When he said it would be in 3D, it was the perfect icing on the cake.
Was it difficult dubbing in Hindi?
This is the first time I have dubbed Hindi dialogues in my own voice. It was quite a challenge, but I guess, it was a bigger challenge for my Hindi trainer. He taught me patiently and in the end I somehow managed. The accent, however, is still there, but that could not be helped.
Tell us about dancing with so many other noted colleagues?
It was an amazing experience. There are 10 songs in the film, in which I got to dance with some of the best dancers in India. It is amazing how much effort these guys put into their dance. When I was growing up, there used to be one boy from 10 streets who learned to dance. Today, eight boys out of every 10 houses, train in dance. The competition has definitely increased, but the quality is also constantly improving.
When did your tryst with dance begin?
I was never a dancer. But every south Indian household wants their children to learn either dance, classical music or the piano. My parents enrolled me in a Bharatnatyam class when I was in the sixth standard. It was really difficult to wake up every day at 6 am and go for these classes. But I have to thank my dance teachers Dharmaraj and Udipi Lakshminarayanan. They were patient with me and taught me with immense interest. I finally did my Arangethram in class IX. After that, it was Michael Jackson who influenced me. I used to see him on television and imitate his steps. But I never thought of being a dancer even then.
So how did choreography happen?
I was not good at studies and I wasn't interested either. So when I was 14, my father (Mugur Sundar) asked me to assist him in choreography. I went with him on different sets and whenever he was not around, I would take charge of choreography. My first film as a choreographer was Vetri Vizha.
How did you get your first break as a dancer?
While I was choreographing, directors started noticing me. Perhaps, they felt I was a good dancer. They started offering me item numbers in films like Agni Natchathiram, Idhayam and Suriyan. But I gained popularity with Chikku bukku rayile from the film Gentleman.
Your dances became popular in Bollywood too. Most of your songs and films got dubbed here...
That was because of television and the media. I owe a large part of my success to television which played my songs on shows such as Superhit Muqabla on DD2. That is where people first saw me dance to Urvashi and Mukkala.
So, how did you get your first break in Bollywood?
I was far removed from Bollywood, until Boney Kapoor contacted me to choreograph dances for Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja. After that, I used to come to Bombay every year, choreograph one or two songs and then go back to my hometown Chennai. Also, whenever I was here I used to get extremely homesick because everything was new to me. I was not familiar with the language or the place.
Are you at home in Mumbai now?
Yes, I am. I have worked here over the years, and now I have directed two films (Wanted and Rowdy Rathore) too. When you meet more people, make more friends, you start liking the place as well.
And Chennai? Do you miss the city?
Of course. I go home only once in two months and that too for very few days. I miss spending time with my kids. But I have them over whenever they are free.
Does the fact that you're known more for your dance than for acting bother you?
Each actor has his forte, and mine is dance. I started off as a dancer, much before I became an actor. I am happy and grateful that audience are still appreciative of my dances.
Did you learn other forms of dance over the years?
I have never learnt any other form of dance apart from Bharatnatyam. I have not trained in jazz, salsa, popping and locking, hiphop, jive, nothing at all. I just know my style ó the Prabhudheva style. It is working so far, so why worry?
People credit you for reviving the action genre in Bollywood with Wanted. Your thoughts?
It is not me. I was just assigned the task of directing the film. The credit should go to Boney Kapoor who put his money in Wanted and had faith that it would do well. Also, Salman Khan, who took the risk of playing an action hero, when for years he had done romances or comedies.
Would you like to try your hand at any other genre?
The problem is, even if I want to do something else, my producers won't allow me. Even if I suggest something, they say, 'Nahin nahin, we want an action film.' Everyone wants me to do action, but my next Ramaiya Vastavaiya is also a feel-good love story.
You are working with newcomer Girish Taurani in Ramaiya Vastavaiya after working with stars like Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar. How was the experience?
When you have big actors, you know their style and presence can carry half the film on their shoulders. But I wanted to do this film because of the story. I have to work harder on the actor and that is a challenge for me.
Action films are often regarded as mindless entertainers. Do you agree?
I believe a movie has to be entertaining and it has to make money. If it satisfies these two criteria, it is a good film.
You have worked only on remakes so far. Don't you want to tell original stories?
Rambo Rajkumar with Shahid Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha is my story. But I believe a lot in team work. So I also have a story writer, a screenplay writer and a dialogue writer. Each of them gives a new perspective to the film.
Are you a meticulous director or do you let the film develop as you shoot?
I plan each and every little detail before I start shooting. These days, the money is immense and the artists are big stars ó one cannot leave anything to chance.
What kind of movies do you like to watch?
I love watching horror films. I love the feeling of getting scared.
Will you ever direct one?
I don't think anyone will fund me for anything other than an action film (laughs).
Do you have plans of turning producer?
Never. It is a tough job. I am happy giving directions on the set.
Apart from Ramaiya Vastavaiya and Rambo Rajkumar, is there anything else that you are working on?
Yes. I have a film with Ajay Devgn and one with Salman Khan. But it's too early to give out details.