Vijay Arora – Interview
The first thing that upsets one about this particular actor is he actually calls one back. And then to spoil it further he keeps appointments. That, for a start, makes him an incredible specimen of the film world.
In fact, he is so self-effacing it took fifteen minutes to convince him he was actually featuring on the magazine cover.
Made a date for the Taj Mahal Hotel; he was already there reading sheafs of paper. I said, what’s that? He said, I’ve written something for you.
I thanked him for helping me out with my work but regretted my inability to use only his effort. “Have to earn my keep,” I said with tremendous insincerity.
I began questioning him about his past. Pleasant little probes. He fidgeted. Something wrong, I asked. He said, what do you want to go into the past for, ask about now, about where I am going. So we played Jean Dixon.
I said, where were you at one o’clock this afternoon, in a lemon sweater (Bombay summer be damned) with a girl? He denied the sweater. He also denied the girl. And insisted he was not interested as yet in that tribe, no, not one little bit. “I have one goal, that is my profession, and nothing is going to stop me achieving it, which is one reason why I have no friends, no alliances to distract me.”
I have heard this line several times before but I must confess —Vijay Arora, 26 years and 7 films old (with four on the floor) is almost fanatic about being a lone wolf with a noble purpose. “When I decided to join films,” he said, “I made a round of each studio once. Then I sat back to wait for them. Nobody came. It was suggested to me I first groom myself for the profession. So I went to the Film Institute, slogged it out for two years, took the Gold Medal and was signed up even before I’d graduated.”
His films have scarcely been successful. Arora readily admits that. His disarming manner takes the barbs out of my question wires.
Arora orders coffee. “I don’t quite like the atmosphere of the film world,” he says, “I don’t like hangers-on, people who befriend you because you are the hero of the film, if you want to be my friend, fine, but don’t expect anything of me and I won’t of you; this is my idea of a relationship.” He continues in this vein for several minutes, progressively becoming disappointed, bewildered, angry, defiant and passionate.
“I know how good I am. I don’t need anyone to tell me; if somebody needs me he’ll call, until then leave me alone.”
He sounds very nearly claustrophobic. Pulls out his sheafs of paper and asks me to read them out aloud. I consent. Eight pages imploring the world to leave him be.
He is very keen I must use his philosophy in toto; I tell him it’s pretty good as far as philosophy goes, but it doesn’t make for very readable copy. And he says, are you sure I am being featured in the next issue? I offer to write it in blood.
Vijay Arora is an enigma. Average in height, assembly line good looks, a slight hint of a paunch testifying to a Punjabi background and good living, sartorially conservative (very surprising for a film star), a voice that alternates between a lazy drawl, and a hoarse whisper, a puffy hairstyle, slightly greasy, a cultivated shyness, often a lack of confidence in his surroundings and yet evanescent but discernible confidence of a man who knows where he is going and requires no help on the way—that’s him.
This I-am-an-island, attitude of his sounds laughable at first. I laughed, and prodded him around with some verbal fencing. But at the end of two hours he still firmly insisted he needed nobody on his side unless they wanted to team up with him of their own accord.
Of all the actors in filmdom Vijay finds Sanjeev Kumar the most versatile. Among the women he grudgingly concedes may be Zeenat Aman has what it takes.
Having watched him paint himself in glorious colors of virtue I decide to mar the masterpiece. “You’ve just said sincerity is your beacon and honesty to yourself a basic necessity; you also say you look for roles with a certain dimension, a character you can mould yourself into, ..right?”
“Yes. I look for a portrayal that provides me with a challenge.”
“Then how come several of your roles have been the usual run-around-the flora affairs?”
He pours himself more coffee, lights a cigarette and says, “One has to, it becomes necessary.”
So you admit you compromise these values you’ve been talking about.
He says, “No, no, it is different, one is hypocrisy, the other expediency. I am being expedient.”
So what’s new?
Vijay Arora plays no games. “I haven’t the time.” He is very fond of reading. He has read both “Papillon” and “The Fountainhead.” He loves watching films. The finest English film he saw was “Judgement at Nuremberg.” Hindi, he doesn’t remember.
Let us assume he is actually sincere. Stop laughing everybody, this actor is serious. Now, where does he go from here? With seven average films (he admitted the latter bit of “Sab se Bada Sukh” was frightful) to his credit, and a cartonful of “do good”, Vijay Arora looks poignantly unarmed for the celluloid jungle. If, however, like the films this jungle belches, “good” must always triumph over evil then Arora has a glorious future before him. But if reality kicks “good” around, Arora is going to be a very hurt man.
He paid the bill. As we said goodbye, he asked, are you sure it’s coming on the cover. And when, for the umpteenth time I said, yes, yes, he said, I knew one day they’d come to me. (Interviewed by Bikram Vohra for Filmfare in September 1973).