With his latest Salman Khan-Aishwarya Rai Bachchan tweet, Vivek Oberoi might just have sabotaged his chances of a comeback as well as a resurrection of a career in Bollywood.
After his infamous press conference in 2003, there was practically a radio silence from the star of the 2000s, Vivek Oberoi. But he shot back to the headlines this year, what with having landed the lead role in PM Narendra Modi, the upcoming biopic on India’s Prime Minister and landing in a controversy right before the release of his film. Vivek stirred up a hornet’s nest on social media on Monday when he shared a meme on the Salman Khan-Aishwarya Rai Bachchan affair. The crass tweet got him heavy flak from netizens and celebrities alike, who did not hold back from calling him “classless”.
But how did a rising star, a potential superstar at that, get to this impasse?
In 2002, a young and determined Vivek Oberoi shot to fame with his role as the steely-eyed Chandu in Ram Gopal Varma’s gangster drama Company. You wouldn’t forget that scene where he tells Ajay Devgn without batting an eyelid, “Main kisi se nahin darrta.” Ironically, that line now is perfectly symbolic for Vivek’s personal life as well as his flagging career.
Yet, back then, we thought that Vivek was there to stay. He won hearts with his role as the ardent lover Aditya in Saathiya and made a mark with Company, of course.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
But things slowly started to unravel. Vivek’s personal life began to get entangled in his professional life. His relationship with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan did not go down well with her ex-boyfriend Salman Khan. Vivek threw caution to the winds and called a press conference in 2003, accusing Salman of calling him 41 times at night and threatening to kill him.
Vivek took his dialogue from Company a little too seriously.
Unfortunately, the truth and veracity of those statements was set aside, and Vivek’s career took a nosedive soon after. By 2003, his relationship with Aishwarya was over, and he had picked a massive fight with the one person all of Bollywood did not want to get into any trouble with: Salman Khan.
RARE MOMENTS IN THE SUN
Vivek might have had desperate moments in the sun with films like Yuva (2004) Omkara (2006) and Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007) after that. But that’s all that comes to mind when you look through Vivek’s filmography today, 15 years later, and look for films that actually were worth writing home about. The films might have done well, but nothing grand was said about Vivek.
We don’t talk about the Masti series, because that was quite the abomination in itself.
Yet, there was a little pity for Vivek. Some did feel sorry for the actor, who could have been the next big thing in Bollywood had it not been for his run-in with the film industry’s enfant terrible.
COMING BACK WITH THE PM MODI BIOPIC
But after years of silence and drudgery, Vivek made noise again with his film PM Narendra Modi biopic, where he is essaying the role of the Indian Prime Minister. Yet like Vivek’s life, the film got caught in controversies for a while. It missed its date with the theatres in April after the model code of conduct came into action and the Election Commission put a stay on the release of the film. The wait seemed torturous for Vivek, but that came to an end too. The film is now releasing on May 24, a day after the Lok Sabha election results are declared.
Vivek could heave a sigh of relief.
But only for a while. Because he made another decision that brought him back in the limelight and not for the best of reasons.
CUTTING YOUR NOSE TO SPITE YOUR FACE
He brought up the buried Salman Khan-Aishwarya Rai Bachchan 2002 affair in the form of a meme and compared it to the ongoing elections. It was distasteful to say the least, and netizens and celebrities openly thrashed him on social media this time.
Vivek’s initial reaction was not apologetic either. He even took on Sonam Kapoor, who had called him out for his tweet.
He coolly said, “Is there anything wrong in it? Is there some abuse in it? Is there any obscene picture in it? It is just a creative meme made at the time of elections. I saw it and laughed. I have no problem in saying sorry as I am an expert in saying sorry. But, please, tell me what wrong have I said?”
Speaking about Sonam Kapoor’s tweet, he said, “I personally feel that she should less overact in her films and should not overreact on social media.” He maintained that he has always looked out for women and can’t disrespect them.
This brazenness was astounding. It is sad that it actually had to be spelt out to Vivek, what exactly was wrong with the meme.
How do you claim to “empower” women when you make derogatory remarks about them in your own personal life? It seems to be a difficult matter to drive home, that you might do all the good work in the eyes of the public, but what matters is your basic behaviour and demeanour and attitude towards others. And unfortunately, Vivek’s statements spoke volumes.
If he thought that a controversy would increase interest in his film, he couldn’t be more wrong.
When the backlash became too strong, Vivek came out with a rather half-hearted apology (with a dash of bragging about women empowerment thrown in) saying, “Sometimes what appears to be funny and harmless at first glance to one, may not be so to others. I have spent the last 10 years empowering more than 2000 underprivileged girls, I cant even think of being disrespectful to any woman ever.”
He then added as an afterthought, “Even if one woman is offended by my reply to the meme, it calls for remedial action. Apologies, tweet deleted.”
But the damage was already done.
To put it in very blunt terms, the apology is rather bizarre and undermines all the work that he might have done for underprivileged women in the past. It’s a strange thought that many people subscribe to – that doing good work automatically absolves you of all responsibility if you were to ever go against what you stand for.
The last time, it was a press conference and this time, it is a tweet. Platforms have changed, but Vivek certainly hasn’t. Yet, back in 2003, there was still pity for him because people saw some truth in his accusations. Now, the pity has given way to disdain.
In all probability, Vivek just sabotaged the chances of his film, as well as a resurrection of his career in Bollywood.
For starters, the PM Narendra Modi biopic has anyway come under heavy fire from several quarters for being unabashed propaganda and catering to the government. Yet, considering the wave of politically inclined biopics, it was assumed that the film might just strike a chord with the right audience. Also, it is a biopic on the Prime Minister no less, who has an astounding following anyway.
Yet, Vivek went ahead and recreated a 2003-like scenario for himself. He doesn’t need Salman Khan to dig a grave for his career this time around.