When nothing is off limits

When nothing is off limits

When nothing is off limits

When he dances, it's magic. When he directs (Wanted, Rowdy Rathore, Singh Is Bliing in Hindi alone), he delivers hits. And when he acts, he connects - even in Hindi films, despite his pronounced Southern accent. Prabhu Dheva's facial expressions and body language never fail to enhance the emotional quotient of the script, as we noticed in his hit franchise as an actor - ABCD and ABCD 2 - and other films.

We catch up with the multitasking, multi-lingual man of Mercury, Indian cinema's first silent film in 31 years after the acclaimed Pushpak, where he gets into a new form of expression. It's all face and body language this time, and something the all-rounder icon is doing for the first time in his career - playing a negative lead!

So, what made the well-known director Karthik Subbaraj think of him for such a first-time double experiment? "I too asked him the same thing!" laughs Prabhu Dheva. "When he told me that there are no dialogues, I asked him to confirm this twice or thrice. Then, I asked him how would we sustain the audience's attention for two hours with no dialogues, and he said, 'Listen to the story', and I listened!"

But was it not because Prabhu Dheva is so good at changing expressions and postures in a fraction of a second that can make spoken words possibly superfluous? "This film does not work only on expression," smiles the actor mysteriously. "The genre is different. After 10 minutes, the pace of the story, which happens in one night, becomes so fast that you will not even feel like it's a silent film. Out of two hours, you can say that 90 minutes is the climax."

He also reveals that while shooting, the director agreed to give him a free hand. "There was no homework, no rehearsal after the brief. I went straight for the take. I did not want to think or plan, but do things spontaneously. I told Karthik, 'Let me do it, if I am doing wrong, you can correct me.'"

Finally, why the title 'Mercury'? He quips, "It could have easily been even 'Gold'." With a smile, he adds, "But I am not allowed to be so open about the film!"

Would he like to direct a silent film some day? "If I take any unique story to a producer, he just says, 'Good story. But now, let's do a proper commercial film!'" Prabhu Dheva guffaws in reply. "But Mercury is a commercial film too. As I said, in the last 90 minutes, you will not want to turn your head from the screen even for a second."

In that sense, he assures us that the film is different from Pushpak. "In that film, there were times when the characters could have talked, but did not. Here, you will not want that, or even ask why they are not talking."

How does Prabhu Dheva decide when to choreograph, dance, act or direct? Or does he like to do things simultaneously? He nods his head, "I like to do things together. I am now acting in five Tamil films that are on floors, and also producing a Tamil film. I will direct Dabangg 3 besides acting in Remo D'Souza's film with Varun Dhawan and Katrina Kaif."

How is the new production experience? "It's tough to give money. It's easier to take it!" he chuckles. What about Dabangg 3? "I am excited. I am the newcomer in the series. Salman Khan-sir, Sonakshi Sinha, Arbaaz Khan and Sajid-Wajid - the entire team is the same," he says with a broad smile.

We get serious and ask him about why dance in Indian movies has transformed completely. There is a strong international influence and our ethnic styles in classical and folk are being sidelined, just as in music. He nods his head sadly and says, "I agree completely, but in this whole system, people like me are the victims! We cannot give what we want. I am a trained bharatanatyam dancer, but the audience does not want our styles. The youngsters are just not interested and the days when our parents would tell us what to see and do are gone. We were scared of them. Today, parents are like friends, and children are not scared of us. In fact, I am scared of my son. So, I have really no idea what to do about this."

On a happier note, what are the advantages when a choreographer turns director, over any other new director? "The main advantage is that you and the producer know each other very well. No, I am not joking. I know how good and sound he is, and he knows how hard I work. He will also know that I am technically sound. Besides, most of us now, like Farah Khan, Remo and I have proved ourselves, and what we have made are not necessarily dance films."

What, according to him, works more in dance? Is it hard work or natural talent? "Real interest works more than talent or training," is his instant reply. Having worked with many big stars of Hindi cinema, he has good words for so many actors. Beginning with Salman Khan, who he directed in Wanted, he says, "Salman-sir is the best! He is super-cool, super-super-cool. He rehearses so much. You should see his dedication on his concert tour backstage. As a huge star, he does not need to do that much."

Prabhu Dheva is also highly impressed by the hard work and effort put in by Katrina Kaif. "Oof! How hard she works!" he says, and also lavishes praise on Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan, with all three of whom he just did a song for Thugs Of Hindostan. He is also highly impressed by Shraddha Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez, Hrithik Roshan and Shahid Kapoor among those he has worked with, and feels that Tiger Shroff (with whom he is yet to do any song) is "like a dream."

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