Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

He’s only raised the bar with every film in the last few years – be it ‘Rock on!!’, ‘Raajneeti’, ‘D-Day’ or now ‘Daddy’. From being called a model to becoming a national award winning actor, Arjun Rampal has come a long way. His latest release which is Arun Gawli’s biopic, doesn’t just have him as the lead, but Arjun has also conceptualised, written and produced it. His teeth completely sunk into this one for time being, we speak all about ‘Daddy with the actor!

What was the first thing you started working on, for ‘Daddy’?
As an actor I wanted to prepare, so I locked myself up in a hotel room for two months. There isn’t much research material on Arun Gawli, even I didn’t know much about him. The idea was to find the people who knew him and were associated with him. Then to meet the family and go through the process of what they’ve gone through. Meeting the rivals was important for me as well. Then the cops, what did they think about him. So, I started getting so many stories that I put them together and started developing the story and script. I wrote the script and sent it to Ashim if he would like to do something like that. He loved it and felt if we could do this as realistically, then he’ll do it. He told me, if I don’t see Arjun Rampal at all, if I see Arun Gawli, and if you’re willing to do that then I would like to do the film. So from there the process started – I lost weight, I stopped going to the gym. We got these people down from Italy, to do the look test. That poster is actually the look test.

In the teaser itself there was your introductory scene where you just look up and don’t say anything but the whole body language and look says  lot…
Then we got into the depth of it. When you get into the exercise being a character, get a look and go through his life, slowly it all gets into you. And then when I met him, those were the golden moments. I saw how he sits, I realised he doesn’t talk too much, I didn’t want to do this film where we do an item song with the hero jumping over, and a lot of action, it was more about the body-language. To make it entertaining, yet realistic without it getting too dry somewhere, coming from a very natural space and not go over-the-top. When I met him, I realised you can’t read him, until and unless he lets his guard down. So, I wanted to portray it like that, where you can’t tell much about how this person is. We’ve not used anything as a tool, we have to internalise it, feel it and that’s the way it works.

What was the most challenging part of this entire process?
The most challenging part is to live it- it starts from day one and goes on till the release. The challenge is also to get it out there, because I’ve also produced it. So, it’s my responsibility to see how the marketing goes, distribution goes, if it’s released properly. The challenges for this film have continued for a while. It’s not one challenge. Putting together a film in entirety is like a puzzle, you have to keep fitting in every piece and if even one piece comes out, it’s incomplete. To constantly try to make sure that everything is fitting and correctly is a challenge, and there’s a timer going on, a clock which is ticking, you’ve got to get it out there.

As a producer though, you must have grown with time?
In a way, this would be my first production, which I’ve done seriously – in the sense of the scale, magnitude, depth and detailing which this film required. So, it was very important for me to give Ashim the freedom and liberty to make the film which we both had envisioned but what he wanted to do and how he wanted to present it and not to cut down anything there. He’s a very detailed director, he looks into every nook and corner on the set, and he layers it a lot. But when you see the end result, then it’s great. I wanted to give him all the freedom and I knew I would be able to do that only if I did it independently. If I did it with a studio, they would say, put a song here, do this, do that and the minute you go into that space where you start dealing with people who are so used to dealing with a film that’s made with a formulaic route – for them to accept something different is more difficult. The audiences will accept it, but sometimes I wonder why our own people don’t really go out there to do it. So, those are challenges which you face as a producer, but I knew I had to do it in this manner and we did it.

“You’ve got to do your job, and if you come out of that feeling content then you let it go, later you detach completely”

How creatively satisfying has this whole process been though?
The most satisfying work that I’ve done so far. Not just for me as an actor, but the whole production, design, the look, the story, the way it just unfolds – to go into that world, creating of that world, going into that whole space, making people feel the vibe, be it with the music or even the background score. It takes you to a different world. So, it’s been super satisfying.

But when a film’s experience is so gratifying, does it further make you greedy as an actor when choosing other films?
The greed of the actor shouldn’t go away, it’s important. Yes, I mean, it’s not like it’s going to make you complacent, it could definitely make you more vary about whatever you want to do next. That’s always what I wanted to do. When people ask me, are you nervous when the film comes out, yes of course, there’s nervousness and anxiety – that’s the natural reaction but what I’ve learnt over time, is that as an actor, you’ve got to do your job, and if you come out of that feeling content then you let it go, later you detach completely. Now after this, I will detach, take a break, because it is a film which will require me to cleanse myself because I’ve been into it for such a long time. Otherwise the hangover of this guy comes into what you’re going to do next. There are lots of interesting scripts out there, people are doing great stuff and I’m glad it is also coming to me. So, now I’ll decide.

Is that why you did take some time off in between, post which there was some sort of a shift and a great line-up of films?
That was in 2005 when I took some time off – then I did ‘Don’, ‘Om Shanti Om’, ‘The Last Lear’, ‘Rock On!!’, ‘Raajneeti’, ‘D-day’, then ‘Inkaar’, ‘Roy’ and after that I was working on this film. Then there was ‘Rock on 2’, and ‘Kahaani 2’ those just came out of the blue because I just loved the scripts.

What is it that you want people to take back from ‘Daddy’?
There are lots of things in the film that people can take back. Having said that, not every film needs to have a message. For me, the change that I take back is that I would never see a chawl, slum in the same way again. I drive down carter road every day, and then you have this chawl where you see people living in the most unlivable conditions. What are we doing? We put our windows up, switch on the ac and you look at the reclamation and just pass by, without thinking that what’s going on in these places is not justice. There’s going to be crime coming from there, the city is going to get toxic from it. It’s important to realise that.

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