There are stars who are chatty, voluble, love the camera and the sound of their own voice. There are also stars who prefer to be snooty, reserved and indifferent. And then there is Prabhu Deva, a man who is the most down-to-earth celebrity you can meet but also the most difficult to interview!
Prabhu is a man of few words. So few that you have to concentrate hard to make out what he says and he doesn’t say much! In a conversation with the dancer-choreographer and super-hit director, he barely reveals anything, preferring to substitute lengthy chats with shy monosyllables and a disarming smile. But unlike other stars, who may be plain inarticulate or annoyingly pretentious, Prabhu’s ‘don’t speak much’ act isn’t a put on. He is just painfully shy even as he lights up the stage and screen when he dances.
From the time he showed off his mindboggling moves in Urvasi Urvasi and Chik Puk Raile way back in the 90s, Prabhu’s legend has grown. He is also the man behind blockbuster films like Wanted and Rowdy Rathore, bringing that same masala earthiness to his films as he does to his media interactions. Critics may scoff at his cinematic sensibilities but there is no denying he is a box office force to reckon with. Now, Prabhu returns to his first love – dancing - and the UAE audience will be able to watch him live on April 13 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium at the Mathrubhoomi ‘Live with Legends’ show that will have him perform along with Shankar Mahadevan, Sivamani and Tollywood actress Isha Talwar. Ahead of the show, we managed to pin down Prabhu for a few words. And mind it, the words are really few! So here it is, the short sweet celebrity interview where the questions are way more wordy than the answers!
The concert title is ‘Mathrubhoomi Live with the Legends’. You are known to be very shy when it comes to hogging the limelight. What do you feel about being called a ‘legend’?
Yes, I feel odd. (Breaking into a goofy grin)… But somewhere I am happy too, it’s only human. But as you say… it’s a little bit…strange.
You are modest about your achievements. In the film industry, given your talent and stature, don’t you believe in publicity?
Each person is different.
But you haven’t changed in all these years. What keeps you so grounded?
That’s the way I have been brought up by my mother and father, that’s why I am like this (smiles).
Coming to the concert, what can we expect? Have you performed in Dubai before?
I have come to Dubai before but not for an exclusive performance. This is the first time.
The expectations are really high.
Expectations are always high (laughs). We need to fulfil all of them… that’s what we are trying to do.
There is a lot of nostalgia associated with your songs. A few months ago during the AR Rahman concert in Dubai, your songs with the maestro were the most popular with the crowd. Is it possible to replicate those numbers now?
See, sometimes magic happens. But to make it happen again is tough. It might happen or (it might) not. We need to work hard. On stage toh it’s tougher as it’s live. But it will be fun, I think.
This has a unique combination with Shankar Mahadevan.
Which was your last performance on stage that you really enjoyed and have fond memories of?
Dabangg 2 is happening with Salman sir. That is good…
Do you plan to bring it to Dubai?
If it happens, will you come with Salman?
If it happens, we will see.
Talking of Dabangg, the third part is being made with you as director. How challenging is it to stretch a franchise?
Any film is challenging. And this (the Dabangg series) is a big film. I do the same what other directors do – sit on the script, discuss with technicians, actors and producers. Once they all agree on it, we go to the next stage. Right now, it’s in the scripting stage.
Do you get deeply involved at every stage?
Yeah, yeah, that is what any director would do.
How do you ensure everyone is on the same page as you are?
Somebody has to take a call. That’s why they call the director the captain of the ship.
Your choreography and dance movements are still awe-inspiring. How do you reinvent yourself in dance? What tips would you give to young dancers?
I don’t give advice. The kids are too good and brilliant, they know what they want. The competition is intense but they know exactly where they are going. They don’t need my advice.
But don’t you think audiences are spoilt for choice?
Yes but that’s how the scene grows. These challenges and expectations are normal.
But you appeal to everyone – from the 90s generation to the millennials. How do you strike a chord with such a wide spectrum of movie buffs?
Work hard. Whether it’s a song or film you direct, give 200 per cent. That’s the only thing we (artistes) can do. By god’s grace it will reach you (the audience).
Is the audience today more difficult to please than that of the previous generation?
Yes! It’s very difficult to please them.
But you are up for the challenge…
Not a challenge; life has to go on.
Finally, if given a choice, who would you like to perform with on stage?
Anybody who loves to dance! I never choose. I never give names.