Gaurav Chopraa - A man apart

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I have to admit, I am a bit nervous about interviewing Gaurav Chopraa…I suppose it’s got something to do with his image as the “Angry young man” of Indian television. Not that I expect him to bite my head off during the course of the interview…but nevertheless, I am intimidated. The baritone voice that answers the phone is unmistakably his and I have to bite my tongue, as the impulse to greet him as “Mr. Rathore” overtakes me. We exchange pleasantries and not wanting to waste his time I clear my throat, ready to ask him the first question. A brief pause ensues and he asks – “So, tell me about your project?” I am pleasantly surprised after all I am supposed to be interviewing him…I am feeling at ease already and so I start talking… prattling on and even before I know it…the ice has been broken!


Being Gaurav is more than just being tall, dark and handsome. In an industry full of the tried and tested clichés, he has carved a niche for himself on his own terms. Thoroughly committed to his work, independent, sincere and simple, the good looks are just the cherry on the top. The interview is a revelation at so many different levels and yet something we always knew - Gaurav Chopraa is in a league of his own.


We know you give your complete commitment to a role and as a perfectionist, how do you gauge the "perfect shot"?

 I don’t think you can ever gauge the perfect shot. I feel that it’s more about giving your best within a certain circumstance. A lot of the times, in my mind I know that a particular shot is an important moment in the story but in terms of production management of the day we need to wind down the scene in the next 10 minutes and that pretty much seals it…I know I only have 10 minutes…it is an important shot…so you have to strike a balance. I try to do whatever I can and I am always on the set with a lot of questions and suggestions. For example, there have been scenes where I have gone up to the director and requested that I don’t want to say anything…I might have been given 10 lines but I feel that it may be more effective to look or glance at my co-actor for a few seconds and walk away. So basically there is no one way to gauge that perfect shot…it is like a painting, always touching up, trying something different, a pause here, an emphasis there, modulating your voice…adding nuances. At the end of the day you just give it your best and try and do something that will satisfy the audience, the director and yourself. A lot of the times I get a big smile and thumbs up from my director and that is when I decide…ok…this is where I’ll have to leave it!


Having a background from NIFT, do you provide inputs to your character's style? Can you give us some examples?

I’ll be honest, I am actually very troublesome. Most of the work that you see is either styled by me or I have made contributions. For Rathore’s character (Uttaran), I would think of the suits, the colors, provide visual references for the kind of cuts I wanted. Then my team would get swatches of the fabric, I would approve of the fabric after which they would make a suit for me to try etc. Once I would approve of the whole thing I would decide what suit, color to wear for a particular scene…so I admit that I am the spoilt one but lucky for me everyone indulges me so much.


When someone reads a character to me and it excites me, I start thinking about it and basically I start imagining the character while it is being narrated to me. So, in a way the character is with me at the back of my mind and during all this time it keeps getting constructed in a particular way and references start building up – his walk, his look, will he keep his hands in his pockets? Will he be the kind who gets animated as he talks? etc. So by the time I reach the sets, I have an entire vision on how I want to play this guy and when I read the scene, I try to imbibe everything that I have constructed. I try to go with my convictions and my experience has taught me that when I go with my convictions then most of the time the viewers are able to understand and catch just what I was trying to portray.

With your well rounded experience (theatre, TV, movies, Broadway shows, reality shows, print ads), will you ever consider directing a serial or show? If yes, what kind of a show would you direct?

Very realistically, I do foresee myself directing in the near future. Even now, I do tend to do that on the sets because I am constantly contributing, suggesting, bringing up nuances…completely out of line sometimes but like I said everyone indulges me. When I first read a scene or a script I don’t just look at my role or my character. Instead, I look at the whole scene and story and that helps me in my characterization as well. So, that “director’s vision” has always been a part of me and it just makes sense that the natural progression will be for me to direct. I would like to enjoy what I am doing right now but whenever I feel that I have troubled other people enough and that it’s now time to trouble myself….I shall make that jump!


You have played many different types of characters, which one was the most challenging role for you?

I had played a character called “Sandy” for a show called “Lavanya”, it was my first show and I believe that for someone like me, it was the best role to start off with…especially in terms of my vision, my aspirations and my particular way of doing work. Lavanya was written and directed by Mr. Habib Faisal (writer of Salaam Namaste, Band Baaja Baarat, director of Ishqzaade) and his approach was and still is very fresh, young and non-clichéd so we had very similar viewpoints.


Apart from Sandy, I played a character called “Samay” in a show called “Aisa des hai mera” on Sony. Samay was a bit difficult to play because he was extremely passionate, intense and very impulsive. He would do things, make mistakes and then regret them the very next moment and he just had this tendency to make mistakes continuously. I feel that you don’t see those kinds of characters anymore because now it tends to be either Black or White.


Then of course, Raghuvendra (Uttaran) has not only been extremely satisfying but also very difficult to play. We had no background on this character, no reason why he came into the story – where did he come from, why did he come, what was his childhood like, what kind of a person he was etc. Basically we just kept constructing him out of our imagination and we never showed that imagination to the audience. So there was no past to this guy and yet he was an integral part of the show.


Have you ever been in a situation where the scene that you have been given appears to be over the top or just not believable (you find it difficult to digest)? How have you dealt with such a situation (voiced your concern with the director of just gone with the flow etc)?

Indian television tests you with that on a daily basis. Someday, someone will come up with a thought, we’ll like it, we’ll share it with other people, write an episode over it and then when you read it back, it sounds very abrupt and out of line from what you were saying or doing. At that point you wonder – how the hell am I saying this? why the hell am I doing this?? But that is the challenge of television, you cannot determine a consistency, cannot determine boundaries. It does get a little crazy and haywire and eventually what happens is that as an actor you take it up as a challenge. I would think, “this is not sounding like a Rathore but if Rathore was saying or doing this”….so, you find a middle path and in the scenes you emphasize on the reasons some more so as to make it look convincing. Television tests your conviction levels on a regular basis and very often you go out of the boundaries. It is not a matter of believing the situation but you have to think, “what if I was in that circumstance?” As an example, Mr. Bacchan is the epitome of class, style, so well articulated and yet he has played roles where he is loud and the exact opposite of who he actually is. His conviction is what shines through and that conviction is the biggest test for an actor. You have to find that middle ground, personalize it and play it with conviction.

Which of you co-actors have added to or brought out the best in your own character?

Rashami (Tapasya from Uttaran) has definitely brought out the best in me as Rathore. In many ways she was so close to her character as Tapasya and that would automatically make me Rathore. People on the sets would joke that when I came on the sets I would be Gaurav and the moment she would come on the sets I would automatically become Rathore! So the performance would just become enhanced. Also, to some extent Saumya Tandon from “Aisa des hai mera”… She was so protective about her character and so close to it that it automatically made me sure about my character.


Are you a director's actor or do you believe in improvisation?

I am a very collaborative actor. In principal I do improvise a lot but I know how to strike a balance as well. You may understand the character and the situation very well but the director has a vision so you do as much as you can with the given situation. As I mentioned earlier I always have suggestions and ask – how will it be if I say this or for that matter not say anything at all and most of the times I am allowed to go with my instinct because people understand that I may be in the right zone but eventually the director is the “Captain of the ship” and I rest with his vision.


I will read two lines, rehearse them 2000 times and when it’s time for the shot I might say it like I rehearsed it with that same energy level or, it may come out in a completely new and unexpected way…so performance is sort of an uncontrollable phenomenon. I feel that as I become a better actor, it becomes a bit easier for me to accurately enunciate and express what I had in mind. So improvisation has a lot to do with the “moment” and you can’t really determine it! So when I say I am a collaborative actor, it is ultimately the director’s vision in collaboration with my perception, my face, voice, body language and expressions but it starts and ends with him and I meander somewhere in between trying to bring my own signature into that scene!

What are your thoughts about Indian television today? Any aspect you would like to change about it?

Indian television is in a bit of a flux right now but then it has been that way for a while. There need to be lesser episodes and a focus on “quality” rather than quantity. With episodes airing 2,3…and now 7 times a week it is not physically possible to give your best work when you have to produce an episode per day. So the focus really needs to shift from the quantity aspect to the quality aspect of things.


…and on to the lighter stuff, how does Gaurav Chopraa unwind?

Music…I listen to all kinds of music. I used to be a voracious reader but don’t get much time for it now. I do have to add that if you enjoy what you do…then you don’t feel the need to unwind. He chuckles, “hopefully, you won’t feel the need to unwind after you have interviewed me and the readers won’t feel the need to unwind after they read this interview…at least, I hope not…fingers crossed!”


Now, that is an eye opener…I definitely don’t feel the need to unwind after interviewing Gaurav…if anything, I can’t seem to wipe the smile off my face for a while and that is the effect he has on you! Tremendously talented, he refuses to accept that he is exceptional and this humility just adds to his quintessential charm. Glowing accolades have not made him complacent rather Gaurav uses every role, every character as an opportunity to learn, reinvent and redesign himself. “I am passionate about every facet of my life” states Gaurav and that shines through in his work. Well, all I can is that you have the right combination of charisma, intellect and talent and that, Mr. Chopraa definitely makes you exceptional!


Photo credit: Gaurav Chopraa


Interview and article: Anjalika Gupta

© Tinsel Gupshup



Aparna T. Spinthakis
Oct 22, 2012
can't believe I am reading Gaurav Chopra intv.I didn't know he is so talented a NIFT a MUST read intv. Thank A/Tinsel for making this intv. so interesting with ur Qs n GC well Ans.:)

Monisha Miranda
Jun 01, 2012
super read!

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