Despite being a part of the much-acclaimed Marathi film ‘Court’ (2015), which he produced himself, it was not easy for Vivek Gomber to get acting jobs. With the Rohena Gera directed ‘Sir’, he is happy about the fact that the audience will get to see him on the big screen after a long period of time. The film has garnered acclaim at several prestigious film festivals across the globe and has released and performed well in around thirty countries. Vivek is also elated at the fact that ‘The Disciple’, a film that he had produced, has become the first Indian film in twenty years to be selected in the main competition section of the Venice Film Festival. In this exclusive interview, he speaks about his expectations from the Indian theatrical release of ‘Sir’, why the success of ‘Court’ did not do much to his career as an actor, what made him enlist himself in the Singapore army, why he did not enjoy being a part of a very popular television show, the tough experiences he has gone through as a producer and more.
‘Court’, which you produced and acted in, came out in 2015. After that you did a short film called ‘Leap Of Faith’ and acted in Mira Nair’s mini-series ‘A Suitable Boy’. You did not do much work as an actor in the last couple of years. Why are we seeing you in a feature length film after such a long gap?
Since I was also the producer of ‘Court’, I had to assume many responsibilities. Even after the theatrical release, the film was being screened at several prestigious festivals. I was completely occupied with the film as a producer till January 2016. After that, I did a play with Kalki Koechlin and Sheeba Chaddha which ran for a very long time. After ‘Court’, I did expect a lot of work to come my way as an actor but that did not happen. I auditioned for a lot of projects but nothing really worked out. Maybe some people thought I act only in projects which I produce myself. Or maybe, it was just destiny. I became a producer as I believed in a story and give it all the support I could. I produced ‘The Disciple’ which is Chaitanya’s second film as a director. The film has been doing really well at festivals but I want to focus on my career as an actor. I make a conscious effort to separate my identities as a producer and an actor.
When one sees the trailer of ‘Sir’, one realizes that it is a film that talks about class divide. What did you make of the script when it was offered to you?
I actually auditioned for the film. When I read the script, I found it to be a very interesting and difficult topic to explore. It was a subject that required to be dealt with a lot of sensitivity. There should not be any voyeuristic or exploitative approach to it. An aspiring actor comes to Mumbai to play the male lead in a film. I got to be one with this film, so I am happy.
Did you look for or follow any reference to play Ashwin?
There was no particular reference as such. You just get inspired by a lot of things to create and play the character. I trust my director and let them drive my performance. Whatever I have created, the credit should be shared with my director. There is a backstory to Ashwin. He has come out of something. The film starts with him going through an emotional turmoil. That becomes the beginning of his journey. Rohena has executed the film very well. It is a film about love and dreams. Ashwin is going through his share of problems when he stumbles upon this woman who has such big dreams in her eyes. You always get attracted to people who bring a sense of positivity in your life. That is the reason Ashwin gets drawn towards Ratna as well.
‘Sir’ received a lot of love in the festival circuit. But, the festival audience and the audience which comes to a theatre to watch a film tends to be very different. What are your expectations from the Indian theatrical release of the film?
Yes, it has received tremendous love at film festivals but it has also been released in theatres in several countries and has done very well there. It ran for eight months in the cinemas in France. Rohena keeps saying that it is an out-and-out commercial film. I remember her telling me, ‘this film is for the masses, it is not a festival film’. Rohena believes in love, romance and dreams. That is what reflects in the film.
There was a time when you enlisted yourself in the Singapore Army. What was the reason behind that?
I was born in Jaipur and lived there till the age of ten.
Where you spent a lot of time watching Amitabh Bachchan films.
Yes (laughs), that’s right. Watching Hindi films and cricket matches were the two things I loved doing. My mom was a judge in the High Court. My parents thought if I study in an international school, I would get better exposure and have good career prospects. They did not know that I had already decided to become an actor (laughs). We moved to Singapore. If you are a Singaporean citizen or want to become one, you have to do national service for two years. In order to become a Singaporean citizen, I gave up on my Indian citizenship. There, I did theatre and trained extensively as an actor. After a couple of years, I moved to Mumbai and started auditioning for different projects.
You were a part of the popular TV show ‘Astitva’.
Yes. When I first moved to the Mumbai in the year 2004, I did a play. Around the same time, I auditioned for a TV show. I got the part and took up the job immediately. I learnt a lot from Astitva. It was a big show but I had no idea of TV shows back then. I was in Singapore, in the army and then, doing theatre. Doing a TV show was quite a different experience. I did not really enjoy being in that space. Also, I do not think I was ready for it at that point of time. I got back to doing theatre. I also did a film called ‘Meridian Lines’, co-starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui which never released.
Is it true that you came up with the basic idea of ‘Court’?
No, that’s not true. I met Chaitanya in the year 2009. We were supposed to do a play together. We became friends. In 2011, I moved back to Singapore as my dad was unwell. He eventually passed away. I got back to Mumbai after a while. Chaitanya shared the basic idea of ‘Court’ with me. I loved it and told him he should start developing it into a script immediately. I gave him a monthly remuneration to write the script. I think he was around twenty-three years old then. Knowing how brilliant he was, I wanted him to focus on writing the script without worrying about anything else. He had also made a short film when I was away, so he knew about how film festivals function. We reached out to NDFC and a few other platforms for funding. It was difficult to put the finances together for the film but we were extremely driven about making the film. The film got made at four times the budget we had planned it in. It was tough but a great learning experience.
Zoya Akhtar’s story in the anthology film ‘Lust Stories’ was about an affair between a man and a woman who happens to be his domestic help. Do you think there could be some similarity between ‘Sir’ and that film?
I have only seen the trailer of the film. I do not know. Maybe there are similarities, maybe there are not. Zoya and Rohena are different people. They have different sensibilities as filmmakers. So, even if they work on similar subjects, the outcome is bound to be different.
You have had a long and difficult journey as an actor. What is that one advice you would like to give to an aspiring actor?
I am nobody to give advice to a passionate dreamer. I would just request them to take care of themselves. They must keep their dream and passion alive. It is important to keep a plan ready for the time you are looking for a job and are unemployed. It is important to be healthy, both physically and mentally. You have to keep doing something that keeps you creatively interested and motivated.