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Raising The ‘Bar’

Actor Akshay Oberoi talks to Bhavi Gathani about his web show Bar Code, the impact of online platforms and more

From your first film to Bar Code, how do you look at your journey?

Bar Code was one of the early web series that was shot a year and a half back. I have been very interested in this space ever since it kicked off. I have been part of many films that people have liked but didn’t survive at the box office and didn’t get the opening weekend they wanted. In fact, every time I come here, I make it a point to say that aapka magazine kholte hi main padhta hun mere weekend ke opening numbers kya hai. Regardless of the movie it I check the numbers here.

Sometimes, the box-office numbers are not good but, later, people watch a film on TV or on OTT platforms and like it. Suraj Barjatya, who produced my first film, told me that Hum Aapke Hain Koun… was a hit from Wednesday onwards. It didn’t work on Friday, Saturday or Sunday but started doing well from Wednesday. We don’t have that any longer. Now, if you don’t hype it up, don’t set it up correctly, or your audience doesn’t like the trailer, the film will not sustain.

What was it about the character that attracted you?

All my films have a certain bent, and all of them are generally not me. In Gurgaon, my character was a bad guy, while in Laal Rang, he was a small-town boy from Karnal whereas, in reality, I have spent half my life in America and the other half in Bombay. In Bar Code, my character is me. He sits like me, he talks like me, and his body language is like mine. It’s just that I don’t wear suits like him and my family is not as wealthy as Sahil Chopra’s is. I thought it was time to do something that was a little more commercial and play a character, who was closer to me as opposed to a pizza delivery boy which is not commercial. I thought it would be interesting to try something like this.

Is there a specific reason you select characters with shades of grey?

After my first film Isi Life Mein didn’t work, I got very scared. Also, I never end up choosing a romantic film and I have never imagined myself in the romantic space. There are plenty of good-looking men in our industry who play the charming boy very well. I wanted to create something different even though I knew it would take me a lot longer.

Maybe I wouldn’t have the biggest house in Bandra or I won’t drive the fanciest car; my goal was to be respected as an actor. I didn’t care much about money and fame. I want to walk into a room and know that people respect me as an actor. I am getting there slowly but I think I am on my way. I am very happy with my choices. My father may not be but I am (Laughs). Just kidding!

Many young actors say that since the web is a large space, there are a lot of employment opportunities, a variety of options, and they don’t have to submit to something they don’t like to do. What do you think?

The web is the greatest thing that has happened to our industry. In this closed-off industry, it is very difficult for people to gain any access from the outside. I belong to a film family, which not many know about, but those who do know it, also know that whatever I have done, I have done on my own strength. That is very clear from the trajectory of my career.

You know when a family is supporting somebody and when they are not. For somebody like me, to break in, you need to claw your way in, over and over again. Now that the web space has opened up, it is a free-for-all. If you are talented, you will definitely make it. You might take twice as long as somebody with a film background, but you will make it. Today, nepotism is not a conversation to be had any more. Most people are watching my films on one web platform or the other, not in cinemas. If you ask me what I have watched in the last month, I would name ten web series and one film that I didn’t watch in a cinema hall!

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