Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

‘India’s Most Wanted’ is garnering some great feedback and we catch up with Arjun Kapoor who’s seen in an all-new avatar in this Rajkumar Gupta film. Articulate and honest as always – Arjun who has a deep know-how of films and cinema gets talking about his latest release and his seven-year old film journey….

You shot the film at real locations, how was the experience?
The beginning of the film was in Patna, that’s where the story and character start from. Then we were in Nepal. Sir asked me, if I would go to shoot in Patna, and I was like, there’s no doubt about that. He was told that I won’t come to shoot there for security reasons but I had already gone there during ‘Tevar’. I knew that for such a film, if we don’t go to the live location – then the audience wouldn’t believe in the film or feel it’s authentic. The Government was very kind to us, and we had a very good security. People there just wanted to see us, take pictures which was normal. And Nepal is a stunningly under-rated place. Pokhara has snow-clad mountains, lake, everything. Kathmandu everyone knows is such a nice place. So, it was a difficult film to shoot but with this team and people with me, it was a lot easier.

Did you research for your role?
When you have a director like Raj sir who is also the writer, and worked on the script for three years, and finally made the film the way it should be made – you don’t have much to research. He did it all. And even when I came on board, the preparation and research for my character was also all done by him. I got a chance to meet certain officers because he wanted I understand the mindset. When I speak about IB officers or agents, we think of James Bond or ‘Mission Impossible’ rather than the reality of these officers in India. They are normal people roaming around with khakhee shirt and jeans but are presented in our cinema in a different way. But they can just blend into the crowd. Even if they’re present in this room, you won’t come to know – that’s their speciality. They look like normal people with a 9-5 job but they have a mental understanding to be able to be a part of the intelligence bureau. Many people think, their job is to hit people and be fit, but their job is to actually collect information. It’s an ‘intelligence’ bureau. Their job is to stop terrorism – not when something happens but to stop it before it happens. You need to conduct yourself a certain way. The mindset is very different. That’s what we’ve tried to portray in the film. The film’s tone is very realistic.

In a way, do you think this zone of cinema is quite a change for you?
I did ‘Aurangzeb’ earlier which I thought was very realistic for me. Today we might have got a better response for it. In the history of Yashraj, it was the first song-less film I feel. I played a double role, but it was not like an Aneez Bazmee comedy of double roles or a ‘Rowdy Rathore’. It was a gritty film. Then I did ‘Finding Fanny’. For me, even ‘Ishaqzaade’ was a very real film. I have always been open about it. I’m a producer’s son, who has done commercial films so I have this image now with ‘Tevar’, ‘Gunday’ and the songs. Even ‘Ki and Ka’ was as high-concept a film. It was a very sensitive subject. In my own way, I’ve always believed that I’ve done films which have that texture. But because I’m an industry kid and I’ve been so unabashedly filmy, and embrace my Bollywood side, there’s this image. But that’s the good thing about today’s generation – that we want the best of both worlds. I want to do all of these kind of films. Genuinely, you wake up thinking of new things but it all depends on the material which is being offered to you. For instance, I didn’t know I was ready to do an espionage film but when this came to me, it excited me so much. I like this zone a lot – of thrillers, drama, sensible, mature subjects. So, this is a new find for me with ‘India’s Most Wanted’ and ‘Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar’. And I would always continue to do commercial films because that’s the way to reach the heartland, people who step out once in a while to watch a film because they want to lighten their day. I guess you have to find that balance.

You’ve completed seven years in the industry!
I feel damn lucky. If you told me seven years ago, before ‘Ishaqzaade’ released – that you will get to do thirteen films in seven years, work with so many fantastic actors, directors – I wouldn’t believe. Because it’s very difficult to have a career like this. Keep aside the hits and flops, but I’m blessed to be one of the few to make an inroad to the industry at a time when the audience was ready to accept changes in every way. I would be thankful to the audience who were so receptive of a man who’s played a negative character in his first film. Seeing at a basic level, Parma was a terrible person who did a terrible deed and normally the commercial audience would not be accepting of this. People would be like, you’re doing a film where you’re getting married to a heroine and leaving her – that would be the end of your career. But the audience gave so much love to me and the film. That itself was a big learning for me that our audience is changing. I guess we all realised it at that point. Now when I look back, I feel just as vulnerable. I’m still as emotional, fun-loving. I have seven years of experience now, yet, people will end up making mistakes when they have to. Not much changes – may be you need a little more time, more experience to feel that you’ve settled here, or there’s this ‘thairaav’ in you.

And how satisfying is the fact that you’re able to fit into Rajkumar Gupta’s vision and then an Ashutosh Gowarikar’s vision – or be Balki’s vulnerable hero?
That’s what you aim for but at the same time I wouldn’t forget the fact that when I started, it was Habib sir’s second film, Ali’s second film. Abhishek Verman was a first time director. With every film, you find something interesting and that’s why you choose to do it, even the ones that don’t do well. I worked with Amit Sharma in his first film, ‘Tevar’ – it was a different thing that it didn’t work but I loved the fact that he could imagine me in that role. Actors always want directors as their first audience. If the directors can think of you in different roles. Raj sir can see me as an IB officer who is mad for the country and just humanly normal. Those are the things which you can’t see for yourself but a director has that kind of vision and clarity. I want to work with more people who see me differently. Even if I feel I won’t be able to certain role, a director should always be able to see me in it. Honestly, I was dying to do a period film but I never knew I would get to play a Maratha King or a Peshwa because I didn’t know how much of a Peshwa I can look. I had never imagined myself without hair or in those costumes. But Ashu sir saw me and could imagine me in that role. I had never kept my moustache that way in life. That’s the importance of someone else’s vision who think of some beautiful facets which you can bring to their character. That’s why you rely on directors. Can I ever cook food? (Laughs). But Balki sir just thought I’ll look amazing in the kitchen cooking food and running the house.

Is that one of your biggest take-away in these seven years?
My biggest take-away in these seven years is that the audience is very fair. They are not coming with pre-conceived notions. They are genuinely not interested in anything else except the film anymore. There’s been a beautiful evolution. Now that whole phase of ‘paisa-vasool’ has gone. Now people want to be entertained, intrigued, questioned and they want to live the film, be so involved. If they want timepass, then they have their phones and the internet. The concept of entertainment has ended and its beautiful. Digital has become so cheap that you’re competing with quality – because digital is giving such good quality for that much money. Now I want a family to come out and watch my film then I have to give something more than what digital has to offer, otherwise you have no right to expect that the audience will spend Rs. 600 on your film, waste time in driving their cars and coming to the theatre. That’s what I realised – the audience has become fair. They will come to watch your film on Saturday or Monday-Tuesday also if they have heard good things about your film.

How do you see success and failure?
That’s something you have to be aware of before you become an actor. After the bad, comes the good and after the good, you might again face failure. It’s a journey. It’s the honesty and integrity of accepting that you’ve made a mistake and the audience is right. It’s about seeing in retrospect that what was wrong with your film if the audience didn’t like it and you can’t disown the film. A lot of actors tend to do that – they blame others, but we’re all a part of it. When a film works, it’s everyone’s success. I see it differently because I’ve grown up in a film culture, so somewhere, I feel team effort counts for a lot. ‘2 States’ is not my film alone. Even when a film works, it’s not that universally everyone likes the film. You still get bad reviews. Today, ‘2 States’ is a much more loved film than what it was when it released. The audience has given it a certain respect. Some just do well beyond the expectations but some films don’t just pan out – ‘Tevar’ just didn’t work.

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