Gaurav Chopra is best known for his roles in TV shows like Left Right Left, Uttaran and Doli Armaano Ki among others. The actor has also given his voice to the character of Thor in the Hindi versions of the previous three Marvel movies. Most recently, Chopra has worked on digital platforms like Alt Balaji and Viu for their web shows Fourplay and Love,Lust & Confusion.
In conversation with Guardian 20, he talks about the start of his acting career and his upcoming projects.
Q. How did you get into acting? Did you have any other career plans, considering you have completed your graduation from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT)?
A. A lot of actors say acting happened to them by chance and it seems like a cool thing to say, but in my case that’s exactly what happened. When I was studying at the NIFT, someone came at the institute looking for stylists and they had put up posters around the campus for auditions. They were making a couple of music videos with a rock band and they were also doing a separate musical theatrical production, which was being made by the WHO. It involved travelling to 3-4 cities in the country. I went there thinking that I will get to work as a stylist, but they thought that I was there for an acting audition… I gave the audition and, surprisingly, got the lead part. Everybody praised my performance. There was a lot of encouragement from my friends as well. Friends at college helped me a lot. They would write my assignments and complete my projects so that I could act… That’s how acting happened to me, by chance. And I came down to Bombay in 2002.
Q. How do you look back on your early days as an actor? What according to you has been the turning point in your acting career and why?
A. I’d grown up watching a lot of Western films and TV shows and have been influenced by them. However, if you don’t understand your country’s cinema or culture as reflected in them, you will not be able to represent it well in your work. With that understanding, when I first came to Mumbai I started out studying Indian cinema. I watched and re-watched a lot of old films and studied the acting journey of old stars. This way, I developed my own understanding of the cinematic history of India and its cultural heritage… The first break that I got was in 2003, when I was selected for an international project that was to be shot in Mauritius.
Television happened a year later, when I met Habib Faizal, who had also come from Delhi and with his fresh writing signed me for a television show. The show was called Lavanya on Zee… The turning point came in 2005, when I took a break from television and went down to South Africa to be a part of a big Broadway theatrical production called Bombay Crush, where I played the lead and danced and enacted a 2-hour-10-minute show. We did 100 shows and created many records. That changed me, as a person and as an actor. Of course, Blood Diamond [Chopra’s Hollywood debut alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in 2006] happened because of Bombay Crush when I was in South Africa.
Q. Talk to us about your character, Rahil Khan, in the web series Love, Lust & Confusion 2.
A. In Love, Lust & Confusion Rahil Khan is both a beautiful and a challenging character to play. He is a very complex character and has a particular philosophy that reflects through his conversations and reactions. But this has to be subtle. So, it’s tough when there is so much to say and so much to do. But I am happy that the audience has accepted him and has fallen in love with him… The show has been out for not more than 20 days and the kind of appreciation I’m getting is unbelievable. I have not played a role like Rahil in my previous projects. My sense of style, look, demeanour, voice and body language—all are very subtle and subdued. Rahil is more sensitive than my past characters; he has no aggression.
Q. Is there any major difference between acting for TV and acting for a digital platform?
A. The difference between these two is immense. Firstly, you know the entire story in a web show but in television you don’t know what will happen next. It is being written while you are shooting it and its being telecast daily. Secondly, both mediums have their own audience.
But as far as acting is concerned, there is not much of a difference for me. I begin by understanding the story and the world this story creates. Once I understand that, I try and place my character there.
Q. How was your experience dubbing for the character of Thor in the Hindi versions of the last three Marvel movies—Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers Infinity Wars and Avengers: Endgame?
A. Dubbing for Thor has been a marvellous experience. It was a great adventure. I hadn’t done voice-overs before so when I was approached I was told that people like my voice and diction… I feel that Thor as a character has a particular feel and that’s determined by the fact that he has a larger-than-life persona because he is the God of Thunder. There is a particular way he speaks, he has a particular body language and I had to complement that through my voice in the Hindi translation of the films…
It’s extremely challenging to live up to that larger-than-life persona. So I actually enact the whole process in the studio—punching in the air, having imaginary romantic conversations, holding someone’s face and throwing my hammer—which is quite funny. This is the kind of stuff that I do in the recording studio. Chris [Hemsworth] gets to do it throughout the entire schedule of the shoot, and I did it in my six days in the studio. So I am not just giving my voice, I am enacting the whole process. If feel that I am Thor. I am the Indian Thor.
Q. When you are doing a voiceover, does your job become slightly easier because you are an actor?
A. Of course, it does. Like I said, I am not just giving my voice, I am acting it out. I am feeling what this character is feeling… But because I am doing it within the limitations or boundaries set by another actor who played it in the film, the challenge is to bring your flavour and signature to this performance.
Q. What are your upcoming projects?
A. I am just about to start with a new web show called Fazeel. Then, I will be back on television for a show. This is not a superhero show but has got a fantasy element to it. It’s called Aghori. It’s about a child who is raised by a group of Aghoris and his life journey.