Gaurav Chopraa is quite the Renaissance man, what with conquering telly, the South African stage, and hobnobbing with Leonardo Di Caprio in a Hollywood project, writes MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER
Gaurav Chopraa is a known face to all soap addicts from Dil Kya Chahta Hai, Lavanya, Piya Ka Ghar and Yeh Meri Life Hai among others. His pedigree is impeccable. "I went to school at St. Columbus," says the drop-dead gorgeous Gaurav. The name rings many bells, being the alma mater of luminaries like Rahul Dev, Mukul Dev and a certain Shah Rukh Khan."I think it is something in the water," Gaurav says with a smile. The water must be magical because Gaurav, apart from being the king of the small screen, has wowed audiences in Durban with the musical Bombay Crush; won rave reviews for the U.K. production Break Water which was the toast at Cannes in 2003; appeared with Arjun and Simran in the Tamil film Ottran and has just returned from Sierra Leone after shooting for The Blood Diamond with Leonardo Di Caprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou.Phew!In town to promote Ghoom, the spoof of biker movie Dhoom, Gaurav was charm personified as he fielded questions, posed with babies and floored the squealing teenagers at INOX where the film was screened. Gaurav, who studied fashion at NIFT, moved into showbiz after being adjudged the "third runner up at Grasim Mr. India in 1999. I did Breakwater and Ottran and then television happened. I did Saara Akash in March 2004 and by November I was hosting an awards show! After a point the frantic pace got to me. I was doing four shows at a time and had no clue if I was coming or going. I thought I would like to take a break and Bombay Crush was a blessing."Directed by Juned Ahmed, Crush "is a Broadway style musical with all Bollywood elements - song, dance, melodrama, rich girl, poor guy, angry parents and what-have-you. I play Salman who goes from India to South Africa. The show is a huge success. We did 102 shows in two months and had an 89 per cent audience. Crush is a destiny thing for me. I am not kidding when I say I have seen the auditorium I was ten and to be performing to a live audience who are so appreciative is something else."Gaurav admits that performing on stage is taxing. "It has been my biggest physical effort till date. All that singing and dancing on the split-level stage required enormous stamina. The show called for me to be away from India for four months, which is a long spell in the life of an actor. There are 1,000 actors waiting in the wings every day. But I thought I had to do it and I am glad because now I am getting much better roles and it is a value addition on my resume as an actor."
Crush also caught Edward Zwick's eye. "My agent called and said Zwick was casting for Blood Diamond and saw an interview of mine on telly in Durban. He loved me but he thought I was too goodlooking! I was blown away. The man behind masterpieces like The Last Samurai and Legends of the Fall noticed me? I asked my agent to fix a meeting and the upshot was the role of a French journalist was recast as an Indian journalist: yours truly! And I was not asked to do a Peter Sellers-style Indian accent."Shooting was an "interesting and humbling experience. All the actors are super professional. Working with actors like Leo (Di Caprio) who is a mega star and Jennifer (Connolly) who is an Academy Award winner was wonderful. There was a lot of camaraderie on the sets and I got along very well with Jennifer." Next stop for Gaurav is "Bollywood. After Bombay Crush and Blood Diamond I cannot do silly stuff. I am not turning my back on telly either." Gaurav has plans to put his degree in fashion to good use as well. "I would launch my label. I want to work in menswear which is not very well represented in India." Describing himself as a power dresser, Gaurav insists: "I hate the concept of pretending to be cool by being inappropriately dressed." No worries on that score for Gaurav, as he is the epitome of an appropriately dressed cool dude.