Vivek Anand Oberoi was born on 3 September 3 1976 in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. His father, Suresh Oberoi, a highly respected actor in the Indian Film Industry, nurtured his son’s talent from a young age. It was Vivek’s first performance as a six-year-old in a school play that he realized he wanted to be an actor. The teachers were so impressed by his performance that they advised his father to send him to a theatre workshop in London, which he attended at the seven years of age. Years later, using his excellent improvisational abilities at an actor’s workshop in London, Vivek performed a monologue unaware that the director of New York University was watching his performance. The director was so impressed that he took Vivek to New York where he completed his Masters in Acting at the prestigious Tisch School of Drama.
He debuted in Bollywood in 2002 and became an overnight success. On Twitter, Vivek Oberoi describes himself as a "Bollywood actor, Social worker, adventure sports enthusiast, poet, Pilot, Dreamer...." But these only begin to describe some of his facets. After the earthquake and tsunami of 2004, he adopted the hard-hit village of Thevanapattinam in Tamil Nadu, helping families get back on their feet. He has always been closely associated with his mother's NGO (Yashodhara Oberoi Foundation). He is actively involved in supporting other initiatives such as Project Devi, Cancer Patients Aid Association and The Banyan. He has often turned up on PETA's annual list of Hottest Vegetarians. On 29 October 2010, Vivek Oberoi married Priyanka Alva, daughter of Karnataka minister Jeevaraj Alva, in Bangalore.The couple have a son, Vivaan Veer Oberoi, born 6 February 2013.
With more than 30 films to his credit, here are five Vivek Oberoi films to watch if you are new to Bollywood.
Release Date: 15 April 2002
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Screenplay: Jaideep Sahni
Music by: Sandeep Chowta
Description: Crime-thriller, violent content. Under the leadership of underworld Don Aslam Bhai (Madan Joshi) flourishes a criminal empire in Bombay. His close associates are Malik (Ajay Devgan) and Chandrakant alias "Chandu" (Vivek Oberoi). Awaiting the right opportunity, Malik and Chandu take over from Aslam and become the two heads of his criminal empire. The two decide to change with the times and legitimize their empire to a very large extent and call it "Company". But the differences in approaches create problems which are fueled by misunderstandings. Chandu breaks away from the gang and a war begins between those loyal to him and those loyal to Malik, on the other. The war intensifies as Chandu and Malik seek to eliminate the opposition.
Why I Love This Film: A fictional exposé of the Mumbai underworld loosely based on the Indian mafia organization D-Company, this film has a gritty realism that keeps you engaged through to the end. As friends, Chandu and Malik are opposites. Chandu is spontaneous and easily brought to anger while Malik is thoughtful and introspective. The rise and fall of Malik and Chandu's relationship provides the heart, and ultimately the tragedy, to this story. This is a tale that sticks with you long after the film is over.
Vivek almost didn't get this role because the director didn't think he could pull off the "gangster" look. In a seasonsindia.com interview, he explains:
"... I dabbed several shades of colour on my skin to look dark, grew a stubble for a couple of days, acquired dishevelled look with a dirty old shirt and a pair of trousers and went to his office. The receptionist thought I was really some gangster and was hesitant to announce my arrival. When Ramu heard my name he called me in. I walked up to his door and pushed it open with a slam and with a bidi tucked between my lips grabbed a chair, put my feet up and spoke typical Mumbaiya Hindi. Fortunately, my pictures were on his table. It took him a while to relate to the man sitting before him. He merely smiled and asked me to join him for a drive. In the car, he said, 'That was brilliant'. I knew then that I had got the role."
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Awards for Best Debut and Best Actor in a Supporting Role; Won, Star Screen Award Most Promising Newcomer - Male.
English Translation: "Companion"
Release Date: 20 December 2002
Director: Shaad Ali
Screenplay: Mani Ratnam
Music by: A.R. Rahman
Description: Romance. Aditya (Vivek Oberoi) goes to pick up his wife Suhani (Rani Mukherjee) at the train station but she never arrives. As he begins to search for her, their love story is told in flashbacks. As a Mumbai medical college student, Suhani meets the ebullient Aditya at a wedding. It is love at first sight for Aditya who pursues and woos Suhani. Despite disapproval by their parents, Aditya and Suhani fall in love, elope and marry. They soon find that that marriage is not the bed of roses it is made out to be.
Why I Love This Film: Love isn't always a smooth proposition. In this tale, opposites attract. Aditya the dreamer falls in love with Suhani, who is more practical. Their union starts off a bit rocky but they trust that love will see them through. While many Bollywood stories focus on finding a "soul-mate", this story goes beyond the blush of true love. The honeymoon only lasts so long and this couple soon discovers the challenges of setting up a new life together. This film lays out all the insecurities that newlyweds experience and reminds you that love is a journey, not a destination.
In a 2002 rediff.com interview, Vivek Oberoi give his take on the film:
"We have a tendency, before marriage, to wear masks. During courtship, you dress up and talk sweetly. You are at your best. She is at her best. After marriage, you start taking things for granted. You don't dress for that person anymore. Romance goes out of the window. You say things like, 'Why are taking so long in the bathroom? I have to get to work. Why isn't the breakfast ready? Where is my newspaper?' These small things become reality. If you can still feel butterflies in your stomach, if you can still look at this person and smile, in spite of all this, then you have found love. That's what Saathiya is all about."
Release Date: 24 January 2003
Director: E. Nivas
Written by: Dharani
Music by: Sandeep Chowta
Description: Action film. Uday (Vivek Oberoi) and his friend Mohan (Sushant Singh) aspire to become cops and serve the country, despite their unfavourable backgrounds. Raj Dutt Sharma (Mukesh Rishi), an honest training officer, sees potential in them and makes their dream come true. However, Uday crosses the wrong kind of person in form of Inspector "Encounter" Shankar (Atul Kulkarni), a man with power and deviously selfish intentions. Uday badly bruises Shankar's ego and the Inspector leaves no stone unturned to make Uday's life a living hell.
Why I Love This Film: This underrated film is tells the story of what happens when bad guys happen to good people. As Uday works hard to achieve his dream to do his part to make the world a better place, Shankar repeatedly undermines him. The film is difficult to watch because of the power afforded to Shankar to do whatever he wants and get away with it. Fortunately, Raj Dutt Sharma steps in to remind Uday that he has a choice in how to respond to Shankar's repeated attacks. Outstanding performances by Vivek, Sushant, Mukesh and Atul make this a film worth watching.
Release Date: 28 July 2006
Director and Composer: Vishal Bhardwaj
Description: Crime drama. A charismatic chieftain who serves as leader to a notorious gang of outlaws, Omkara "Omi" Shukla (Ajay Devgan) is constantly flanked by his right-hand man Keshav "Kesu Firangi" Upadhyaya (Vivek Oberoi) and the devoted Ishwar "Langda" Tyagi (Saif Ali Khan). Upon appointing Kesu as his chief lieutenant, Langda's pride is damaged so deeply that he sets into motion a devious plan designed to convince Omi that his beautiful wife Dolly is having an illicit affair with Kesu. The deception drives the increasingly fragile Omi to the breaking point and the resulting chaos sets Omi's once-secure world aflame and threatens to lead to tragedy for all involved.
Why I Love This Film: A reimagining of Shakespeare's Othello, this version traces one man's unrelenting jealousy and all-consuming obsession against the backdrop of political warfare in a village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Kesu ("Cassio") is exceedingly trusting and loyal. As Omi ("Othello") and Langda ("Iago") begin to turn against him, you experience his confusion at being undeservedly maligned and wrongly accused. Unlike in Uday in Dum, Kesu never recovers from the evil wrought in his life - and neither do his accusers.
5. Krrish 3
Release Date: 1 November 2013
Directed and Written by: Rakesh Roshan
Description: Superhero science fiction. Scientist Dr. Rohit Mehra (Hrithik Roshan) and his superhero son Krishna Mehra a.k.a. Krrish (Hrithik Roshan) face an elaborate conspiracy orchestrated by the evil genius Kaal (Vivek Oberoi) and his female henchman Kaya (Kangna Ranaut). Assisted by an army of mutants, Kaal releases a deadly virus for which Krrish and Dr. Mehra manage to manufacture and distribute an antidote. This gets Kaal's attention and he sends his mutants to find out more about the Mehras. In the process, Krishna's pregnant wife Priya (Priyanka Chopra) is kidnapped by Kaal and the form-changing Kaya takes her place at the Mehra home, eventually falling in love with Krishna.
Why I Love This Film: Bollywood isn't known for its superhero films; however, this foray into the medium gives Hollywood superhero films a run for their money. As the handicapped evil genius with telekinetic powers, Kaal is a powerful force. Once unbound, Kaal's powers seem to know no limits and it takes more than a superhero to take him down. With Mumbai as a battleground, the final showdown between Kaal and Krrish is epic.
In a 2013 Filmfare interview, Vivek talked about playing the complex character Kaal:
"He has a layered personality. It was challenging and exciting to play the bad guy. I was ecstatic when I read it because I was bored of playing the same old roles. I wanted something that gave me a kick and Kaal did. I love superheroes, this character is trippy and fun and gives the term 'bad guy' a new definition. His stature is that of a hero. He has reason to be a villain and isn’t just being bad for the sake of being bad."
Expanding his list villain roles in superhero films, Vivek Oberoi also used his deep villainous voice for the character "Electro" in the the Hindi-dubbed version of The Amazing Spiderman 2, released in May 2014.
Don't know which film to watch first? The following playlist features trailers for four of the films, the opening sequence from the film Dum, and the Hindi trailer for The Amazing Spiderman 2.
If you liked this, check out our other Friday Five posts.