Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar
I was once chatting with actor Ronit Bose Roy and he called Arjun Kapoor, ‘an encyclopedia of films’. Anyone who speaks to Kapoor about cinema can affirm that. It’s not just the experience as an actor, but perhaps his industry background and pure love for movies which has got to do with that. He’s in the middle of some costume trials at YRF while we catch up with the actor for a chat. Here’s Arjun Kapoor, in his usual, easy-going mode!
“Principally, you become an actor to entertain people so if they give you love; that is irreplaceable”
How do you think this year has been for you, considering you had a very unconventional film in the form of ‘Ki and Ka’ which also got appreciated?
It’s been a good year. I’ve had a release which was liked by the audiences. It was, like you said, a little different and quirky, but I’m glad the audience has reacted positively to something which was slightly off. It was in the commercial space, but in modern-day India, it could have back-fired also to have a househusband and a working woman. So I’m happy the audiences are progressing and they reacted very positively to it. Other than that, I’m shooting for, by far my most important film, ‘Half Girlfriend’ which I’m very excited about. And then I found ‘Mubaraka’ which I’ll start by the end of the year. It’s been nice so far I think (smiles).
What do you have to say about the other coming-off age films that we’ve seen this year? Do you see a shift in the mindset of the audiences?
Not just this year but in the last couple of years we have seen many such films. Since my debut actually, there’s been a transitional phase. ‘Vicky Donor’ and ‘Ishaqzaade’ did well, along with a ‘Rowdy Rathore’ and ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ in the same year. We’ve had ‘Badlapur’ doing well, with so many masala films. There are so many examples. There was ‘Piku’ last year which was amazing, along with a ‘Bajirao Mastani’ and ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ also getting such a response. So every year we’ve seen a transition and coming-off age behavior from our audiences. This year, especially, if you see the films that have come – ‘Kapoor & Sons’, ‘Airlift’, ‘Ki & Ka’ for that matter, and even small films like ‘Happy Bhaag Jayegi’. They have all been content-driven films. Even a film like ‘Pink’ – it is so relevant. Maybe a few years back, nobody would have dared to make a film like ‘Pink’. More than the packaging, it’s become more about the story, and that does excite people to come to the theatre. So definitely it is a coming-off age time for our audience. More importantly, the makers are also thinking ahead, that’s a good part.
You’ve somehow struck a balance between the commercial and off-beat space. Is that what you wanted for yourself when you started out?
When I started out, I wasn’t sure about where I belong. Even today, I don’t look at it as, what is my image. If a script comes and excites you, then you go with the flow. It happened in an organic way, I’ve not planned it, but obviously I’m aware of it. So today, when I do a ‘Ki and Ka’, I’m aware that it’s slightly off, and my follow-up is going to be ‘Half Girlfriend’, which is a more quintessential Hindi film. The awareness for me is there. But I don’t ever look at a script and say, this film is for this kind of audience, or that film is for the other kind of audience. I just go into a film with absolute honesty and say that the film will find its own audience. My intent to sign a film isn’t that let’s do a multiplex kind of film or let’s do a single screen kind of film. The idea is, ‘let’s do this film because it’s exciting or something I’ve not done before, or I’d like to do.’ And then you can hope the film finds its own audience. That’s what happens with films – you cannot plan or strategise it. You just have to go with your own conviction and some pan out, some don’t.
Having said that, somewhere do you think it’s also essential to keep that Hindi cinema essence intact? For instance, now there are films that are wanting to do away with the quintessential Hindi film element – song and dance.
To each its own! Though, I don’t think Hindi cinema will ever be without song-and-dance. The audience in itself has an expectation of song, dance and entertainment in its format. They like it. But obviously, if it’s forced in for no reason then it’s silly. ‘Ki and Ka’ didn’t blend itself to having many lip-sync songs but we had high heels which blended into the story so we kept it in the end. It was still done in a fun way with a music video. I can only speak about the films which I’ve worked on. I’ve done a non-song film in the form of ‘Aurangzeb’. I have done a ‘Finding Fanny’ which just had a promotional song, no song throughout the film. At the same time I had a ‘2 States’ which had songs relevant to the film which moved the story forward. It wasn’t so much about the lip-sync, it was about the emotion. And at the same time I’ve done ‘Gunday’ and ‘Tevar’ where the celebration of Hindi cinema was there – we had the quintessential song-and-dance, hero-heroine kind of thing. So, it all depends on the story.
“I don’t ever look at a script and say, this film is for this kind of audience, or that film is for the other kind of audience. I just go into a film with absolute honesty and say that the film will find its own audience”
The youth today is at the forefront when it comes to every department of film-making. At the same time, the older generation just continues to get better. Experience v/s younger ideas – how do you think is the give and take?
The age factor is relevant because the audience has become younger. So obviously people who are aware of the audience will be able to connect to them, in terms of the work that they do. That does help. But the people that have come before us, the experience that they have, you can never take that away from them. As long as they stay aware of the audience and what works, they will always be relevant. I don’t think it’s about young or old. It’s about being intelligent. Even the generation before us, they’re doing very well. It’s just that the youth has a certain voice which is interesting and fascinating – so it’s up to the older generation to learn and adapt from it. The way we learn from them, they are also learning from us. The ideologies are being exchanged and we are coming up with better stuff together. The best example would be Mr. Bachchan. He has done ‘Piku’ and ‘Pink’ in the last two years. His knack of knowing what will connect with the audience is tremendous. He’s picked up two of the best films in the last two years. He is an inspiration to our generation, not just because of work he has done, but the work that he continues to do.
As an actor what is it that gives you a high – the appreciation or just being able to work in the kind of films you wish to?
Principally, you become an actor to entertain people so if they give you love, or feedback, if they connect with you; that is irreplaceable. Of course, then at a personal level, you want to do well on a day-to-day basis and feel you’ve given it your all. When you do go through those good days when you’ve feel you’ve given it your all; that gives you a high. And of course, when people offer you interesting films, you feel you are doing something right. I think all these three things are inter-related. But primarily, you have to look at the audience. As long as they’re giving you love, you will always get opportunities.
Are you still scared or nervous before a film?
I still don’t consider myself as someone who has created a perfect foundation. I’ve achieved nothing and there’s a long way to go. When you’ve grown up in the film-industry, you know you can never afford to be complacent. And, at the end of the day, each film brings in its own challenge so you can never be sure that I can do this and do that. Every time you do film, you are still going through those emotions and butterflies.
What’s next for you?
I’m still shooting for ‘Half Girlfriend’, some portions are left. I’ll be starting ‘Mubaraka’ now in November, and I think it would be fun. I look forward to that.