An effortless beard. Tousled hair. And a broad grin. The description is simple. Befitting the simplicity that he exudes. For no one would expect this quiet, unassuming man to suddenly roll-up his sleeves and break into a dance routine that would leave us out of breath! It’s not without reason that he is fondly called the Michael Jackson of India, for Prabhu Dheva in his own way revolutionised the dance scene in Indian cinema. You may have sniggered at his baggy pants and off-beat shirts. But when the music came on… you just had to bow down and submit. Nothing has changed since. Of course, he grew out of the baggy-do, but the quick moves are very much intact. Prabhu Dheva might be a man of few words, but he definitely surprises you with his genuine repartee.
Interview: KAANCHAN PRASHANTH
Photography: Kunal Daswani
Styling: Chaitanya Rao
Wardrobe Courtesy: Rare Rabbit
Eyewear Courtesy: Lawrence and Mayo
Location: Park Hyatt, Chennai.
Hair & Make-up: Page 3 Luxury Salon and Makeover Studio, Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Chennai
AFTER QUITE A GAP WE SAW YOU IN A TAMIL FILM – DEVI. THE MOVIE WAS RECEIVED WELL. DID YOU REALISE THAT WE TRULY MISSED YOU HERE DOWN SOUTH?
In the pre-release promotions, while doing interviews, I got the feeling that I was missed. That the people wanted to see me in Tamil movies again. It was a good feeling and I’m happy I did it.
IN YOUR ABSENCE SEVERAL NEW HEROES HAVE EMERGED. DID THAT GIVE YOU A SENSE OF INSECURITY?
I wouldn’t say insecurity. But just before the release, I did have my doubts. People may not have forgotten me, but they were definitely not that much in touch with me because they had not seen me. So I was a bit worried if they would immediately accept me again. I did have some apprehensions and doubts as the release date for Devi drew near. But then on the day of the release, when I visited the theatres to see how the movie was faring, I was relieved to hear the sound of applause. The claps were reassuring.
DID YOU FEEL GUILTY FOR HAVING IGNORED US?
No, no. I did not ignore the South. I did not have a predefined plan to just go off to Bollywood. Nothing like that. I just did one movie and then went with the flow. I honestly did not stop to strategise. But now that I have started working in Tamil movies, I feel really happy.
AND NOW AFTER DEVI, YOU ARE WORKING WITH DIRECTOR A.L. VIJAY AGAIN…
Yes. Vijay is a very sweet man. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with someone like that and after my upcoming Hindi movie, I will team up with Vijay once more. His work is fabulous and I believe in his stories, but the main thing for me is that he is such a sweet person.
EVERSINCE DEVI YOU HAVE BEEN SIGNING ON TAMIL FILMS IN A FLURRY. AREN’T YOU BOTHERED THAT BOLLYWOOD WILL FORGET YOU?
No, I don’t really think that way. Moreover, I will begin working on my next Hindi movie by November. I am in talks with a Bollywood producer and when the details are sorted, I will share the news with the world.
WE OFTEN HEAR ACTORS DESCRIBING THEIR DIRECTORS AS DRAMATIC ACTORS THEMSELVES, WHEN EXPLAINING A SCENE. BUT YOU DON’T TALK MUCH. WHAT’S YOUR METHOD OF WORKING?
The same way I got actors to dance! Having been a choreographer and worked with several actors, I know how to extract work from them. I may not chit-chat, but I definitely know how to act out a scene and get the actor to perform.
HOW MUCH FREEDOM DO YOU GIVE THE ACTORS, ONCE YOU HAVE CONVEYED WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND?
I give them freedom, of course. The actors have to feel comfortable doing the role, so I welcome their suggestions. See, as the director I am looking at the whole movie. I know what every scene is about. I already have a picture in my head. But when someone comes with a newer perspective, I cannot simply ignore it because I have the power to do it. I pay attention to every small detail.
WHO HAS BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH?
I can’t think of anyone. I don’t think I have ever faced that problem. To a certain extent most stars that I have worked with are established names and they are very professional. They do their job and move on. And even if there are some difficulties, I am mature enough to deal with them without anyone getting frustrated. I have worked with so many actors as a dance master, so I know how to work with actors of all moods!
WHAT’S MORE DIFFICULT TO TEACH: DANCE OR ACTING?
Both! Ultimately the dance moves and the acting has to be received by the people and they should like what they see. So, it’s important to get both right and that means putting in a lot of effort into it.
YOU HAD THIS INTERESTING VENTURE KARUPU RAJA VELAI RAJA WITH VISHAL AND KARTHI, IN THE PIPELINE. RUMOUR HAS IT THAT THE MOVIE HAS STOPPED. IS IT TRUE?
It’s a valid question, but I don’t quite have the answer! What you know about the movie’s progress, is all that even I know. It sure does seem like it is on hold right now!
THAT’S A PITY! KARTHI AND VISHAL HAD PROMISED TO GIVE THEIR SALARY TOWARDS THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE NADIGAR SANGAM BUILDING…
Yeah. It was a good project. Even we found it very interesting. We did talk about it at length and now it has come to a standstill. Why? I have no clue! Maybe everyone has gotten busy and don’t have time for this one. Or maybe it was so good that jealous people cast an evil eye on our dream!
YOUR RUMOURED ‘LOVE-LIFE’ IS AS INTERESTING AS YOUR MOVIES. WHAT’S THE STATUS ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TAMANNA?
I have no idea why and how I get linked up with the heroines I work with. It just happens and I ignore it. I don’t feel a thing. However, I do feel bad for the actress. Tamanna is a wonderful person. She is extremely hardworking. I was in absolute awe watching the dedication and commitment with which she practiced her dance moves. It’s really not fair to her.
HOW FAR IN THE PAST IS YOUR WHIRLWIND ROMANCE WITH NAYANTARA?
Very far! It happened so many years go. I think even the people have forgotten about it and will be bored to rake it up.
NAYANTARA HAS DEFINITELY MOVED ON. WHAT ABOUT YOU? CAN YOU WORK WITH HER IF THE NEED ARISES?
It’s great that she has moved on. So have I. My focus is on my work. I’ve kept myself busy and I’ve not really thought about what did or did not happen. As for working with her, I don’t know what the right answer is! And I’m going to leave it at that.
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT GETTING MARRIED AGAIN? FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN? OR HAVE YOU HAD ENOUGH OF ALL THAT?
Honestly, I have not thought about all those things! I am just enjoying my work. Great things are happening here and I’m going with the flow. It’s not like I have been through so much trauma in my love-life that I have vowed never to marry or love another woman. I have not had the time or need to think on those lines.
WHAT KIND OF A DAD ARE YOU? HOW DO YOU SPEND TIME WITH YOUR BOYS?
I love my sons to bits. I spend as much time as I can with them. I take them on holidays abroad. I drive them to school whenever possible. They are very important to me and I make sure I have quality time with them. I am not concerned with how much marks they score in their exams. All I want is for them to grow up into decent, respectable men and to be good boys.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PARENTS. HOW HAVE THEY SUPPORTED YOU THROUGH EVERY PHASE OF YOUR LIFE?
It is the same with me as with anyone. Without parents’ support it is next to impossible to achieve anything. My parents have always been my strength! I love them, but I must add that till today I am thoroughly scared of my father! I fear what he would say about something that I have done. He has scolded me on several occasions for the kinds of movies I have acted in or that I have directed. We don’t get into the details of cinema, but he has chided me for some of my movies!
IS IT HARDER TO TAKE CRITICISM FROM YOUR DAD OR FROM A THIRD PERSON?
Criticism from anyone is hard to take. We put in lot of effort to do what we do, so when someone comes along and points out the flaws and puts down the movie, it definitely is a blow. But you have to jump back into the game. I make note of the mistakes I made and try and correct it all the next time. But most often, again critics will have something to say, and I will be left clueless! But I just keep doing what I do and hope to get it right the next time!
And on that positive note, we bid adieu and let him get on with the plans for his next Bollywood flick with Sooraj Pancholi. We wish this elusive super star tonnes of success in the years to come.
IF YOU KNEW THE WORLD WAS TO END TOMORROW. WHAT WOULD YOU DO FIRST?
I’ll spend time with my boys.
WHAT’S THE SONG TOPPING YOUR PERSONAL PLAYLIST?
I don’t listen to songs anymore. I’m into speeches now, by people like Suki Sivam & Ganasambandham.
KUTHU PATTU VS MELODIES: WHAT DO YOU PREFER CHOREOGRAPHINHG MORE?
It keeps changing. I’d want to do a love song, but after three songs I’ll be wishing for a fast number. I’ll do three like that and then I’ll want a folk song. So I cannot settle for any one genre.
THE HABIT YOU ARE TRYING TO GET RID OF?
Losing my temper!
BETWEEN DANCE, DIRECTION & ACTING WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE?
Dance. No second thoughts.
WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT THAN DANCE?
My parents and my sons.
WHO WOULD YOU TAKE ON A ROAD TRIP: SHAH RUKH KHAN, SHAHID KAPOOR, RAJU SUNDARAM, SALMAN KHAN?
None of them! I’d pick one of my school friends instead!
A SUPERSTITION THAT YOU FOLLOW?
My parents have brought me up in the midst of all our traditional beliefs and practices, and I follow them all! Including things like not cutting my hair on Tuesday… Not wearing footwear indoors at home… et cetera… et cetera…
WHAT DO WOMEN FIND MOST ATTRACTIVE ABOUT YOU?
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST IN THE MONTHS TO COME
I just hope all the movies I’ve signed on, do well!