Interview By: Amul Vikas Mohan
He’s making all the right moves it seems – with different films connecting to different types of audiences. Riding high on the success of his last release, ‘Mubarakan’, we catch up with Arjun Kapoor for an exclusive chat! Exerpts:
Firstly it’s been almost two weeks since ‘Mubarakan’ has released so what’s the ﬁrst reaction you have been getting ?
The ﬁrst reaction being a producer’s son is; I have always kept at the forefront that people should be happy making the ﬁlm even at the end of the ﬁlm. When they look back and check their accounts also they should be happy because journey is always good but eventually you need to have accountability for it. So I’m very happy about the fact that the ﬁlm has made the studio happy, the producers are happy, the director is happy, the team is happy in general with the reaction and the feedback, because this kid of universal love is very rare for a ﬁlm.
And for a genre like this since it’s more or less an off genre now…
It’s a genre which has not given any regard or respect, it’s a genre which is supposed to be for a particular type of audience but now the lines are blurring when we see the years go by. And if one will see the ﬁlm, it’s not only talking about the comedy genre, it is well scripted, well-performed, well-shot, well-made ﬁlm and its come together as a proper unit, it’s not a project. So to put all those fears to rest and get common man’s love is something that you cannot buy. Like when I’m roaming around in the car and people knock and say thank you – what a ﬁlm has been made and that they will take their families for it, so you can’t quantify that into anything else. Of course we want to make the maximum money, nobody makes ﬁlms in an intention that it just goes well; everyone wants it to work out well. But the one thing you also cannot plan is how much love you will get for a ﬁlm. Some ﬁlms do well and still get mixed emotions but this ﬁlm has got unanimous appreciation, that I think is post ‘Ishaqzaade’ and ‘2 states’, this is my universal loved ﬁlm and that for me is what I cherish a lot. And I’m very happy because the content collection feels is going right, in the end the execution is not in your hand but you select content that appeals to pan India and then to pull that off and you get connected with new audiences and that is very important for a young actor which people don’t realise. If ‘Ki & Ka’ got me the urban female audience and the women took interest in the ﬁlm because of the thought process of the ﬁlm. ‘Half Girlfriend’ got me the masses because to get masses from a romantic ﬁlm is not an easy task. It’s the northern belt where it’s difficult to get people into the theaters.
And especially for a young actor to break into that belt…
Yes, so to do a ‘Gunday’ and get masses is an easier thing because it’s a action ﬁlm, do a ‘Tevar’ and you get masses, but to do a romantic ﬁlm and get masses appreciation and playing a character from heartland, then to do a ‘Mubarakan’ and get family audience’s love. A family will not come and see a ﬁlm until the quality of material is there or the quality of appreciation is there. The family audience is a very big rarity where you see kids and older generation coming together under one roof. So I’m happiest about the variation of audience that I’m connecting to, so I think, all and all, with every ﬁlm I’m growing. And I’m still repaying the investment which is most important in the bigger picture.
As you said earlier, you are a producer’s son and you understand the dynamics since you come from the industry, so is that why you want to stretch yourself further?
Constantly there is excitement to grow as an actor, to take roles which scared you or that push you. Whether it’s Karan – Charan or Madhav Jha, or Kabir from ‘Ki and Ka’, or any of my ﬁlms, like ‘2 States’ or ‘Gunday’in every ﬁlm the aspiration has been as an actor I want to grow. But art cannot alone withhold itself for a long period of time if you ignore the business element of it. That’s very important to have that balance if you want to push the envelope and experiment and try new things, you have to keep in mind the amount of money that has been spent in for you to do it, you cannot just blind fold yourself and do it. That is the basic thing I have kept in mind even if I’m doing off thecuff ﬁlms or going off my collections, I have to safeguard it so ‘Ki &Ka’ was safeguarded number wise. It was made economically I never made it over loaded nor did Balki sir. Same thing for ‘Mubarakan’ we made sure that the ﬁlm had enough leverage for the producers to recover so whether it was ocular right which is always important. Since it’s a trade magazine it’s easier to explain because you know how important satellite music, overseas, digital today is, and all those revenue schemes are important. If you want to make a big budget entertainer so one needs to make sure that you are worthy of that big budget ﬁlm. So I always selected ﬁlms which have recovery on the table, at least 70-80 percent is safeguarded as much as possible. At least then you know the producers are not going to have sleepless nights on the day of release because I know how it feels like to see my father to go all out and invest and put completely bet on the ﬁlm and that’s not always going to happen since the profession is not 100 percent successful. And I would love to have a producer who goes beyond but in my means I would love to safeguard my producers. I wish I could do that for distributers and exhibitors also personally, but that’s not in my hands all the time sometimes you cannot control a ﬁlm doing well in a particular place and not doing well in some other state. Its ﬁlm squiring, its audience squiring, and the regional ﬁlms plays hands on sometimes. But honestly the idea is that your art, your craft, you push the envelope but don’t do it on someone else expense and burning someone’s pocket.
So do you think that gives you an edge over these younger actors today, who are your contemporaries; an edge so that you can experiment things in a different way?
I don’t know about the edge but everybody has a different style of working and for every ﬁlm you need to mould yourself and what the ﬁlm needs are. You need to come as an actor and do your job and leave as an actor and leave the rest to others. Sometimes you need to contribute in your own way to put in together in a way where you can make a team effort and if you can help and schedule your ﬁlm, make it tighter and work for more 2 hours to crunch a day and save that money and use that money in a particular song if one needs to invest extra. Like “Hawa Hawa”, was an expensive song so we did that song in 4 days and we didn’t take 5 days. So I worked hard for that and I had to come and make that effort. I don’t know if it gives me an edge in front of the audience because I don’t think they will ever see all this. I would like to believe that it gives me an edge in terms of longevity, it allows me to always be in touch with reality and work with the business pint of view along with the art and I’m nobody to say one should always think about the art as an actor you need to think about it ﬁrst and foremost. But to survive and do the kinds of ﬁlms you crave to do artistically you have to have a commercial sensibility also. And that balance will always allow me to take bigger risk in future because after sometime you will also get bored from the same kind of ﬁlms and want to push the envelope to a ﬁlm which may be everyone else will say not to do. It’s a easy example to give but today Aamir Khan is able to do a ﬁlm like ‘Dangal’ because the way he has worked in his career and made sure that his ﬁlms a have been safeguarded commercially all the time, there have been enough to safeguard it. He has done a ‘Ghajini’ along with a ‘Rang De Basanti’ so to have both those audience you have to make sure that your ﬁlms are constantly going plus. Sometimes you save the cost, sometimes you be the part of the team, sometimes you think the ﬁlm’s selling goes right, there are various ways and have a full proof plan. And I don’t think it gives me an edge with the audience may be it gives me an edge in seeing a script and say that the budget is more but the recovery won’t be great. I shouldn’t burn somebody’s pocket even though I’m excited about the ﬁlm, which is the way I look at it; I cannot gamble to that extent. If there is a buffer between 10 to 12 core and if the producers are willing to and even I’m willing to, then we can take that risk, you have to be aware on the numbers that you are putting on a gamble because ﬁlm making is gambling and rather you play it safely because what will happen is that if it’s a major loss then next time the person will twice to put money in it.
“There are positive sides and negative sides in a film and we have more positive ones. I always focus on positive one and learn from negatives and move ahead”
Now that we see all double roles stories are back in action so do you like this genre and do you like doing it? Since it’s with new technology which is slightly easier I believe…
Which is very tiring and very exhausting, it is much easier for the audience to watch because of the technology but the process is not east at all.
It was seamless and in ‘Mubarakan’ there were lot of scenes together of the character. It didn’t feel like it was cheated.
Yes I worked really hard on that with Anees sir that it should be fun while watching it, it shouldn’t seen like two Arjun’s are playing it should be seen as Karan and Charan. So that validation is the love of the ﬁlm and people say that Charan was mind-blowing in the ﬁlm, when you’re coming out and loving one character but you’re seen the contrast in one character that’s why your loving that character. That’s the trick, if Charan would be alone in a ﬁlm it wouldn’t be appreciated but since there’s a Karan and Charan that’s why people love it. I love doing double roles, and I’ll continue doing it. I think I learnt it in ‘Aurangzeb’ and I had a blast in ‘Mubarakan’ and until unless you are doing it seamlessly it’s the best thing. And in ‘Mubarakan’ the best part for me is not the double role which had a mistaken identify it s that they are co-existing in the same world and all other characters are aware of them. If you give me a new hook on a double role I’ll be more than happy and I think this is the most unique double role in coming time.
Exactly in recent time you can’t think of anyone who did it, and even in ‘Aurangzeb’
And in ‘Dhoom 3’ it’s hidden and here all the characters know about it and them talking about it. If it’s unique as this I would love to do, but it’s very hard to write double roles which are unique and to play the cliché of the mistaken identify and brothers who are separated at birth or father – son look alike but this kind of double role hasn’t happened.
Are you happy in a way this year is going for you, be it with ‘Half Girlfriend’ and ‘Mubarakan’ now?
Genuinely I’m really happy now because end of the day you cannot control everything but what you can control is people are coming out to see your ﬁlms, by doing the right kind of ﬁlms that connect with the audience. How many people can come, is something no one can control. So if you ask me that was I satisﬁed with ‘Ki & Ka’ box office to I will say no it could have earned more that happens with all of your ﬁlms. But if you ask me in terms of hard work I have put on and the journey of working with Mohit, Aneez and the music of ‘Half Girlfriend’ or also during shooting the kind of places I travelled, to do a romantic genre and to do a comedy genre, I think that kind of contrast I got to do these kind of ﬁlms, I am really happy. Nowadays it takes three days to decide whether a ﬁlm is doing well or not and my both ﬁlm received good response. There are positive sides and negative sides in a ﬁlm and we more have positive ones and I always focus on positive one and learn from negatives and move ahead. I believe that I had a positive year.
After ‘Mubarakan’ immediately it was SRK’s ﬁlm to be released followed by Akshay’s ﬁlm too, but it had a good response even on the second week, do you feel that was a good time to release ﬁlm?
To ask me honestly we didn’t think anything in ﬁrst beyond the days. Also people think that if it’s a good ﬁlm it will sustain, that is the believe people have in them; it’s very rare to see this kind of love to sustain a ﬁlm, it genuinely feels people wanted ‘Mubarakan’ to do well. People are actually not bothering that weather it’s a ﬁrst Friday or second Friday or a Sunday they are just ready to watch the ﬁlm and some are watching it again to have fun, it’s heartening to see that. If you ask me did I hope to happen this? Then I would say yes, but to see miracles happen and it’s surprising. You see such mini miracles in plexus kind of ﬁlm which are word of mouth ﬁlms, but to have a Pan India ﬁlm to continue this journey is I think ‘Mubarakan’ is a reference point and an example for people.
You are coming up with two more new ﬁlms which has same lead actress which whom you started off your acting career, so how special it is and how tricky it can get, tell us about that?
I am right now doing Dibakar’s ﬁlm; other ﬁlms are yet to be sorted. The thing is, as exciting it is to be working back with person with that you started your journey with as it’s been ﬁve years, you don’t know how the working way has changed for both of us. We both would be nervous, and the main thing is, doing a ﬁlm and Dibakar is an exceptional director in terms of craft, performance. When we were at YRF we both wanted to work with him and we had joked about it with Adi, and now it’s actually happening. It’s a very intimate ﬁlm and I think it will be far more intimate than ‘Ishaqzade’. Now being known to each other from ﬁve years and again acting unknown, creating that chemistry would be fun. Genuinely Parineeti and I got a great response that people were actually waiting for us to work together after ‘Ishqzaade’. It’s going to be different than ‘Ishaqzade’ and then later ‘Namaste Canada’ also will be drastically different from Sandeep and Pinky.
So are you taking off from work for some time?
I am going to start prepping for Dibakar’s ﬁlm by the end of the month and start shooting post Diwali, so I will be done by December with that. And I am ﬁguring other things like which scripts to take up further as I didn’t had enough time.
You have been working with prominent directors in industry, how do you pick them, it’s your luck or your call?
In the ﬁrst few years I was honestly picking up all the good work I was getting. After ‘Ishaqzade’ I got great scripts I feel, earlier I was working with all new directors who were great too. I think it would be luck and the phase; then I started working with big directors like Mohit, Balki and more, as I felt that will improve me more. At start I could choose the material and as the time passed I could choose material along with the directors whom I felt can do justice to the material. I have said in the past also if the script of ‘Ki and Ka’ would come with other director I wouldn’t do it. Balki making that ﬁlm I felt can handle it well. With ‘Mubarakan’ I felt I want to do comedy from the space where the command is there from the director well. I am happy Dibakar chose me, it’s not luck it’s been a journey and sometimes you have to keep your head down and your eyes open and easy open and keep working. I always say that keep your head down and chin up.