Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

Post essaying Arun Gawli on screen, Arjun Rampal is playing yet another real-life character, a heroic army officer in JP Dutta’s ‘Paltan’. The actor talks about this latest release amidst more…

In the last few years, we’ve seen that you’ve been pretty careful about the scripts you choose, in terms of them being creatively satisfying. So, what about ‘Paltan’ appealed to you?

Again, it came down to what you would like to do. I was very fortunate to come across this script. JP sir and I always wanted to work together. Much earlier, we were supposed to do one film together but that didn’t work out. So, he called me, he wants to do this war-based film and wanted me in it. And I always wanted to do a hardcore war film, not just a fictionalised one. When he came to me with the script, I was amazed, I had goosebumps and I realised, this is such an important part of Indian history, which has gone missing somewhere, and it’s not been highlighted. I wondered why it’s not in our history textbooks because it’s such an important part of why India’s map is the way it is. Because the film is about the 1967 skirmish that happened on the border between Sikkim and China, and that time, Sikkim was not a part of India. The King of Sikkim had asked for our help and that time a battalion was pushed to help them. What happened out there was historical. Post that incident, Sikkim became a part of India. So, that’s what the film is about. So, when someone comes and tells you, this is the story and you are playing Col. Rai Singh Yadav who is the commanding officer of his battalion, a man who is real, I thought it would be amazing.

Tell us more about this character.

I came to know a lot about him from JP sir, and I realised that he was the man who was trained under the British army, before independence. Post-independence, we had an understanding with the British Government wherein a lot of our officers were sent there for a special training and they would still be in the Indian army. Ironically, my naanaji was also from the Indian army. He was a strategist, very smart. He had fought the second world war, he was under the British army – he had gone to England to train and had come back. So, there was some similarity as well. And each character is amazing.

JP Dutta has the knack of creating a certain world be it ‘Border’ or ‘LOC’ or any of his films So, how was it getting into his style?

It was different from a point of view. He said,‘ look, I don’t want you to come prepared. I know what I want from you. I know these characters better than anyone. I am giving you information but just keep that as the back story. The film is not about you. It is about this ‘Paltan’. Just be submissive and I will develop each of the characters.’ So, we kind of discovered these characters through the film, while keeping this back story in mind, which helped in our body language and all. Also, I think I had to compare this with ‘Border’ and ‘LOC’, and I’m not saying this because it’s my film. ‘Border’ was in a different time. ‘LOC’ again, was a while back. It’s been 10-12 years since he did a war film. But the difference between them and this one, is that, this is far more real. Because the story and the incidents are also completely focused on that. So, I think it’s his best one so far, and I hope so. It’s like a fast-paced thriller.

“I also want to explore this certain space of web-series in terms of also creating it. It’s a great platform to tell stories”

Also, you must be really happy about having this film, as a contrast, post ‘Daddy’ and ‘Kahaani 2’?

Just wearing the uniform was a feeling of pride,since my naanaji, dadaji both were in the army. I have grown up in a cantonment area. So, the memory of emotion which comes back as an actor was great. I had a lot to pull from. I have seen so many army people. It was amazing to wear that uniform, to shoot with real guns, real bullets. That was insane! You feel you are in that world, and JP sir really knows how to create it. Also, from a framing point of view There are film-makers who are so classic, they can make each frame look larger-than-life and how it should be.

Were you happy with how ‘Daddy’ panned out? You were really appreciated and people thought you were Arun Gawli for real…

So, that was a big achievement. That was one of the reasons I did it. Not just because it was a great story to tell but because it’s a great opportunity for an actor to really go into a different world and become this person who is still living. So, I am proud of it. It’s a film which in that genre will always be on the top. That’s what we try to do. I wish it had made more money, but besides that. Every department has benefi tted from the film, and they’ve all gotten a lot of work after that.

What’s next after ‘Paltan’? 

There are 4-5 scripts and I’ve signed all of them.But I don’t know which one will go on floors first. Most probably it would be a horror film. It’s a genre which I think is untapped. Then, I want to do a big fantasy film. Then there’s a thriller, another biopic. I also want to explore this certain space of web-series in terms of also creating it. It’s a great platform to tell stories.

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