The one film that is taking the world by storm is Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots. While the 3 Idiots – Aamir, Sharman and Madhavan are surely basking in all the adulation coming their way, there is yet another actor who, before the release of the film was unheard of, but is now the talk of the town. Yes, we are indeed talking about the inimitable Omi Vaidya who played the role of Chatur ‘Silencer’ Ramlingam in 3 Idiots. Bollywood Hungama got in touch with the ‘Chamatkaari’ actor for an interesting rendezvous and found out that he is as funny off-screen as he is on-screen. Read on to find out more…
To start off, heartiest congratulations on bagging two awards at the Star Screen Awards…how is the feeling?
It’s feeling unreal…actually surreal. To be honest…I thought I had a chance at winning the Best Newcomer award but never did I think in my wildest dreams that I would also end up winning the Best Actor in a Comic Role award. I was nominated alongside veterans like Johnny Lever, Paresh Rawal etc, so didn’t really think I had a chance there. When my name was finally announced, I couldn’t believe my ears (smiles).
I thought I had a chance at winning the Best Newcomer award but never did I think in my wildest dreams that I would also end up winning the Best Actor in a Comic Role award.
Pre-release, not many people knew about you but after release you have become the talk of the town. What do you have to say about that?
Yeah…a few days ago nobody knew me. I could walk down the street without anyone recognizing me which was kind of nice. But now, wherever I go, most people recognize me as the guy from 3 Idiots and want to come up to me for a photograph or a handshake. The whole feeling is just sinking in. It’s quite unbelievable. I don’t know what the future holds but I am definitely looking forward to it.
What is the best compliment that you have received and from whom?
After the premiere of 3 Idiots, Shabana Azmiji came up to my mother and told her that ”He’s done the best work in the film” To me that was a really huge compliment coming from someone as reputed as Shabanaji.
After the premiere of 3 Idiots, Shabana Azmiji came up to my mother and told her that ”He’s done the best work in the film” To me that was a really huge compliment.
The one thing that people do know about you is that you are based in USA. Could you throw some more light on your background?
Yes! I live in Los Angeles, USA. That’s where I grew up, but every year we used to come to India. My native place in India is Goa and I also did visit Mumbai quite often during my growing up days. I started acting when I was about six in Marathi mandal nataks and some English plays in the US. I learnt more about acting in high school and that’s when I became really serious about films as a career. I went to NYU film school and learnt the ropes of filmmaking, editing, acting etc. I learnt the technical language used on the sets. After graduating in honors from NYU, I went back to Los Angeles and began auditioning for roles in T.V. serials and films.
What kind of work have you been doing in the USA?
I have done T.V. serials like The Office, Arrested Development, Kath and Kim, CSI: Las Vegas. I began doing lots of T.V.shows and ads. I was competing with not only Indian actors but other regular American actors as well and luckily succeeded in getting some good roles which was a good accomplishment in itself.
Staying in the USA have you been an avid Bollywood buff?
Not so much…I do watch Bollywood films but not many. I usually end up watching the ones recommended by my mother. Growing up, I remember having watched classics like Mughal-e-Azam, Padosan etc. Later on, Roja, Dil Se, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam are some films which I can remember having watched. I liked the work of actors like Naseruddin Shah, Nana Patekar, and Om Puri.
How did you land the role of Chatur Ramalingam?
I was here on vacation in India when one of my friends (who writes with Abhijat Joshi) told me that Vidhu Vinod Chopra Productions is looking for an actor to play a part in 3 Idiots. I was apprehensive of going for an audition as I don’t speak Hindi too well. Nevertheless I gave an audition. I said a few lines from ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai‘ in my own typical broken Hindi and as luck would have it they really loved it. They thought that I would suit the role of the NRI character very well and the rest as they say is history. Raju and Vidhu had the vision and were willing to take the risk on somebody new like me. Luckily it paid off.
What was your initial reaction when you were offered this role?
I thought to myself, “What the hell am I getting into? A Bollywood film with Aamir Khan…” It all sounded quite crazy and too good to be true at that point of time. But then I said that lets stop thinking about it and focus on getting the character right
You are a Maharashtrian yet you got the accent of the NRI South Indian bang on. How come?
Yeah! I am a Maharashtrian with a Konkani background. I always had the American accent so playing the NRI part was not tough but since my character is a South Indian I had to slightly get a South Indian twang to my accent. I guess I have managed to pull it off. I took some references from how some of my South Indian friends
I always had the American accent so playing the NRI part was not tough but since my character is a South Indian I had to slightly get a South Indian twang to my accent.
A lot of detailing has also gone into your two different looks in the film during the college scenes and the Ladakh / Shimla scenes. How easy or difficult was that?
It was really tough yaar. We first shot the Ladakh scenes in which I am 10 years older and slightly bald, for that I had to gain 10 kgs. Immediately after that we had to film the college scenes in which I am supposed to look thin and young. I had a month and a half to lose 10 kgs. I went on a strict diet on the advice of a nutritionist, started eating at regular intervals, took some supplements, did some light exercise and ended up losing 10 kgs. Then unfortunately because of the heavy snowing in Ladakh, we had to still shoot some remaining portions of the Ladakh scenes and guess what once again I had to gain back weight. It was quite crazy. In fact, around the same time I also got married and my wife was really upset with me as I was fat at the time of our wedding. She told me, “Who do they think they are? You are going to look old, ugly and fat in the wedding pictures? These photos are going to last forever” I remember Aamir jokingly telling me, ”Tell her, everyone will see your photos when you are 45 and say that you haven’t aged at all” Luckily I managed to convince her that I had to do it for the role and she agreed. Now after seeing the film, she is really happy for me.
For the Ladakh scenes, I had to gain 10 kgs. For the college sequences I had to lose 10 kgs and then since some of the Ladakh scenes were left to be shot, I had to again gain 10 kgs
How similar are you to Chatur’s characterâ€¦are you as cut-throat competitive as him?
No… I don’t think I am like Chatur in any way. I mean I wonâ€™t do the things he does to destroy competition in the film like distributing porn magazines and distracting other students during exams. I haven’t even done such stuff (laughs)
The ‘Chamatkaar- Balaatkaar‘ scene will go down in history as one of the cult scenes…describe the experience shooting for that scene.
(Laughs) Shooting the ‘Chamatkaar- Balatkaar‘ scene was a lot of fun. We shot at the audi in IIM-B. We did the close-ups shots first so I didn’t really know what the audience reaction would be like. Later on we had almost 300 students fill up the auditorium and though we thought it would be quite a task to make them laugh at the right moments, it was far from the truth. They were constantly laughing at each word I spoke. In fact only after shooting that scene did people actually notice me and come upto me. Till then they thought I am just another side actor hanging around on the sets and that’s when I realized the impact of the scene.
Is that your favourite scene in the film?
Gosh… not really. The ‘Chamatkaar-balatkaar‘ scene is no doubt hilarious but personally I like the drunk scene in which Aamir, Sharman and Maddy talk to each other on top of the water tank after being completely sloshed. I also love the last scene in which Chatur thinks he has got his revenge on Rancho and then receives the surprise phone call from Phunsuk Wangdu. I’ve been to the theatres to catch audience reactions and they simply burst out laughing seeing Chatur’s reaction in the end.
The ‘Chamatkaar-balatkaar‘ scene is no doubt hilarious but personally I like the drunk scene in which Aamir, Sharman and Maddy talk to each other on top of the water tank after being completely sloshed.
How was it bonding with the 3 Idiots – Aamir , Sharman and Maddy?
At first I thought that I may be isolated from their group talks considering that they are big stars in their own right. However I was wrong and that was absolutely not the case. They were completely welcoming and made me feel really comfortable. We chatted a lot during the breaks, they were keen to know about my background. Also they fact that I was not too much in awe of them because of my limited exposure to Bollywood helped me get even closer to them. They were really sweet and in general we had a jolly good time.
You’ve worked with one of India’s best directors – Rajkumar Hirani…how was the experience?
Rajkumar Hirani is like the coolest granddad you could ever have. He is so relaxed and chill all the time. The man has made two cult films before this and now with 3 Idiots, he has set the bar really high. He completely trusts his actors and gives a lot of encouragement and confidence. Working with him was very easy. He seems like a simple man but is very smart. There are always a thousand things on his mind at any point of time. He is one of the main reasons why the film has turned out the way it has.
Rajkumar Hirani is like the coolest granddad you could ever have. He is so relaxed and chill all the time
Post release, the whole controversy surrounding Chetan Bhagat arose all of a sudden. What is your take on it?
To be honest, I haven’t read Chetan’s book. Raju told me not to watch any Hindi films or read any books, or even learn Hindi for that matter. So I didn’t read the book. When I met Chetan at the premiere, he told me, ”Oh your character of Chatur was too mean compared to the character of Venkat in the book. You made him too mean. I don’t think he liked my character (laughs)” However the whole controversy reaching such levels is quite tragic and uncalled for.
Finally are you planning to stay in Mumbai or go back home?
Well! As long as the Hindi film industry wants to see me…I will be here. I have already started taking Hindi diction classes. I am looking and hearing out scripts. I don’t want to play another Chatur so will watch out for something exciting and only then take it up.