Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Why is 3 Idiots so popular years after its release? – In Conversation with Actor Omi Vaidya

Interviewed by – Darshita Gupta 
Written and edited by – Robin Bhuyan (Editor-in-Chief) 

Omi Vaidya is an actor, comedian and director, who is best known for his impactful performance as Chatur Ramalingam in 3 Idiots. In this interview with Enigmatic Horizon, he shares how he became involved with 3 Idiots, some behind-the-scenes moments, the social impact of the movie, his experiences in other movies, and some of his insights regarding life and cinema  and his latest ventures.

You are known mostly for your iconic role of Chatur from 3 Idiots. Tell us what attracted you to Indian cinema and how were you chosen for the film 3 Idiots?

I didn’t watch any Indian cinema growing up as I had grown up in a small town in the US with around 40,000 people, where only two families were Indian. Also, I spoke my mother tongue, Marathi and didn’t speak Hindi. Only when I went to India, I began watching Hindi movies. ‘Hum’, ‘Dil’, and ‘1942 Love Story’ were some of the few movies that I had watched. I also watched some Marathi films, and some of Satyajit Ray’s movies, which I really liked. I didn’t really have any interaction with Bollywood, till one time, when I decided to use the opportunity to audition for the movie. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t get the role, so I walked there with full confidence. Due to this confidence, and due to the fact, that I didn’t speak Hindi well, I got chosen for the role!

How did you prepare yourself for the role of Chatur Ramalingam?

This character didn’t know Hindi, which is why I decided not to learn it either. In addition, I decided to stay separate from Aamir, Madhavan, and Sharman, since my character hated them, especially in the scene where I had to be mean and angry. Unlike Chatur, I am not a money-minded guy, being an artist. But I had to relate to that character, so I tried to find something in my own life that I really care about, as much as him. So when you see desperately wanting something, that was me wanting something that I cared about.

3 Idiots had a huge impact on Indian society and education system. How would you say your character contributed to this impacted?

Since I am not from India, I can only speak from what people have told me. In real life, there are indeed many people who act like Chatur, without even knowing it! The education system merits you on how good you are in relation to other people, and this doesn’t lead to an environment where people try to bring others up. And this empowers people like Chatur, who only cares about themselves. So, I feel a lot of aspects of the education system were explored through my character.  Many people told me that people started having electives in their engineering programs, shortly after the movie released. After the movie’s release, there was also a lot of discussion about suicide suicides. It makes me glad to be a part of that movie to have made such an impact.

Tell us about your experiences in other movies such as Dil toh Bachcha Hain ji and Blackmail.

I decide to take up a role only when I feel it would be challenging. It was great acting alongside Ajay Devgn. He was quite patient with me though my Hindi wasn’t good. Emraan Hashmi was also very kind. And then working alongside Irfan Khan was a completely different experience. The way he approached his character was completely unique, which is something you don’t really see in Bollywood.

Standup comedy is a different form of expression as compared to acting. How has your work as a comedian influenced your approach to acting.

Standup comedy has to do with things such as storytelling and timing and audience expectations, which you are supposed to break. These things are really important. And if you can make your body act a certain way, it can make it even better. The timing is also quite important, and yes, these are some of the ways through which stand up can have an impact on acting. However, most stand-up comedians are not good actors, actually, though they may be good at storytelling, as there are multiple factors involved.

What are the differences that you see working in the American entertainment industry and the Indian entertainment industry?

In America, everybody gets paid by the hour, and there is a much more focus on efficiency. The crews are much smaller also. In India, every job has its own person, and there might be around 200 people in a crew. However, working in Indian entertainment industry has a different feeling, as people are much more friendly. They drink tea together and invite you to their house. In the American industry however, it is a very professional, and it feels like working in a bank.

Today, memes have become a popular part of pop culture. How do you see the impact of memes in how people perceive a film, especially iconic movies like 3 Idiots.

A picture or a short video can say a lot. And yeah, whether satirical or critical, memes can be used quite effectively today. A lot of clips from 3 Idiots have been used by people to express themselves. My scene from the Teacher’s Day speech in 3 Idiots has been used by many for this purpose.

How do you see Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence impacting the future of cinema?

Although we don’t know what is going to happen in the future, we can look at history to see how things have changed in the past. When TV came, it did have an impact on radio, and the preferences of audiences began changing. So as radio stars faded away, TV and film stars started getting popularity. But at the same time, even today, with the emergence of digital media, radio and TV still exist. In addition, I would like to say that A.I. is just a tool, and without human intervention, it cannot do much. Even if we talk about video games, which offer you quite an immersive experience, you need human actors and voice actors and writers for them. So, there will always be a need for human artists, and A.I. can never take over completely. As long as we are doing good work in an honest way, there is always going to be room. A.I. has its limitations; for example- it doesn’t understand subtlety. It can only understand words. For example- if I am hungry, but I am looking at a sandwich, you can tell that I am hungry. But a computer is not able to do that.

Tell us about some of your most memorable moments from 3 Idiots.  

I never anticipated that the film would be so successful. One thing that was noteworthy was that unlike other movies, where the crew is never interested in the movie, when I was giving the speech as Chatur, everyone was amused, and they found it quite interesting. At the time, I was a new actor, and I wasn’t expecting that I would be hanging out with the senior actors. But along with Aamir, Madhavan and Sharman, we spent a lot of time talking about philosophy and stuff. When we were shooting in Ladakh, we were shooting in a village, which used to get electricity only for one hour a day. We had to eat nothing but Maggi, as the place was very remote. There was an instance where we were playing a vocabulary game, and I used a word which was very difficult. This made Aamir extremely competitive, and he was not willing to give up! He did whatever he had to do, in order to win! So all I can say is that we had a great time working in the film and it was one of the best experiences in my life!

3 Idiots is still celebrated as a cult classic. Why do you feel it still resonates with the audiences even years after its release?

It is really bizarre. One reason might be that out of all the characters, people relate to one of them. And it effectively addresses the problems that most of us face in our lives, schools and careers. So, the concept was universal. And the social issues that it addressed are still relevant.

Are there any specific lessons that you gained from working in this film?

The movie was all about telling people that you need to become the best that you can be, and to go beyond societal expectations. I feel that is something that has stayed with me.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I do a lot of commercials here and have been working on a few behind-the-camera projects. There is no significant project of mine that is soon to be releasing. But I urge everyone to watch my latest film Aaichya Gavat Marathi Bol, which is on Amazon Prime. It is my debut into the Marathi industry, where I am also the director.

What is your advice for upcoming artists and entertainers.

This is one of the most difficult industries to survive and thrive, because there is no guaranteed path to success. There will be highs and there will be lows. So, I would suggest that you should walk this path, only if you have a big passion for acting. If you want to act and work, no matter people are watching or not, then this path is definitely for you. But don’t come into this profession, looking for the outcome, whether it is fame or money!

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