Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

Arjun Rampal who won a national award for ‘Rock On!!’ obviously has taken his character Joe a notch higher, in the recently released sequel of the film. Not to mention, he’s evolved as an actor and how! From his choices to discussing what’s worse for a film and what he takes back from his 15-year journey in this industry – here’s Arjun Rampal in a brief chat!

“I’m just very grateful that I’m still here after 15 years. It’s not an easy industry to survive in, so I guess my stars must be good”

‘Rock On!!’ got you a national award, and of course, the film overall got such a great response. How do you look at the sequel and expectations from it?
If there were no expectations then there would never be a sequel, so it’s good that there are expectations. But that also brings pressure on you. If you do a film which is very different, unique, and still it does well, it’s great. It gave me a national award, opened up a lot of pre-conceived notions of people that they carry of actors, it gave a big boost to everyone’s career, not just mine. To Farhan, it was his first film as an actor, to Abhishek Kapoor as a director, to Purab, Shahana, Luke and Prachi as well. It got us a national award as a film, to me as a supporting actor. It was a dream run for a film. Can we recreate the same is the pressure we have? I think we did because we so loved the characters, the backdrop of the film, go out there to give one more shot to live music, rock band with human stories. I thought the film would have a sequel much earlier, we tried to do that but we just weren’t very comfortable with the script and story. It took 8 years to get that story. The plot of ‘Rock On 2’ truly begins with 8 years later. Joe, Adi, Debie, KD – all of them and then there are new people who join us like Jiah who is Shraddha’s character, and Shashank. The story of ‘Rock On 2’, for me, is about Gen X and Gen Y. And how there is so much technology and all of that come into the world and how the generations are so different from the generation we came from. The challenge was that how do we make it a new story and different story and where are these people in their lives now? It’s been a challenging film, it’s not an easy film to do, but I think we’ve got some wonderful moments in the film. We hope we’ve justified it.

Was it easy to get into that zone after a few years?
I thought it’s going to be really difficult but the minute I met them, I was on it. I’m glad we did our first schedule in Shillong which is a beautiful, relaxed place to catch up with each other. After 3 days, it came back to me like a wave. Joe was back into me, but I had to be a different kind of Joe. So the core of him was wonderful to have within me, but at the same time to play Joe in a different way, keeping him in mind was the unique and interesting part of it. Even if you saw me eight years back, I was a different person. My experiences have changed, each experience changes you, how I look has changed. 20 years ago I was completely different but has the core of me changed? I don’t think so. And I don’t think the core of you should ever change. Somewhere down the line, you should rattle that up again and find that emotion within you.

There’s been a lot of appreciation since ‘Rock On!!’ followed by many other films. Despite that, the number of films you’ve been doing is less. Has it been conscious?
It is conscious of course, otherwise, I’d be working every single day and doing five films a year that I’m not happy with. I think quality control was important for me. I got through a point in my life where I could make those decisions, sometimes you cannot and that is unfortunate for any artist – where you just have to do it to make a living as opposed to being able thinking which one you want to do and approach it in an honest manner. I’m very happy with it. I realised that long time ago. In the fifteen years that I’ve spent in the industry, I must have done about 35-38 films. I haven’t done those many films, if you compare it with other actors who’ve done so many films in 15 years. But through ‘Rock On!!’, through that whole phase that I was going through, through the mistakes that you do when you choose films more with your head than heart, and those films turn out to bite you, you learn. At least I have to choose a film with the heart now, not the mind.

“I’ve realised that, it’s a place where you have to internalise a lot, keep up to yourself, rather than look outside for refueling your energy or happ iness”

Is that the same when you think like a producer?
Any film I think has to be chosen with the heart because it’s a creative process. And that film will only be something that you will gain from. Mind comes in after that, when you take decisions about the budget and all. But at the end of the day, each film has its destiny and you do not know what will happen when Friday comes.

But does appreciation further help in making those choices or motivate you to take risks?
I keep asking myself that question. In fact tell myself, ‘come on, do more films and get yourself into that comfortable zone.’ I don’t go around looking for films or ask people. There are a lot of films that I read, buy, keep for myself, and think that I’ll make it when the time is right. The worse situation that anyone can be in is when you make a film and it does nothing at the box-office and nothing even from a critical point of view or giving you any appreciation. Because then you’ve really gone wrong. A lot of films do really well at the box-office and don’t get critical acclaim, so you kind of make peace with it. It’s very rare that you get both. At the end of it, you have to make a film with your heart, get satisfied with the kind of choice you’ve made. Whatever is going to happen on a Friday, you have no idea, either it would be loved or hated, or it would just come and go. Just so that it is not one of those, you kind of consciously make that decision with a film and say, I know somewhere it has to connect – either from the business point of view or from an appreciation point of view.

Is it important for you to get joy from other things apart from movies? For instance, you recently trekked to Siachen, as a tribute to the Indian army.
Siachen was a life-changing experience, especially because we didn’t just land there through a chopper. We actually went how soldiers go there. Just to see how they live there is such an experience. And you have to keep doing other things and every experience you can bring into a movie. If you do not find new experiences, then how are you going to know what’s going on around the world. Also, it further helps you in your movies too. For instance, I could see ten movies being made in Siachen, I don’t know how the crew would survive though. But it does inspire you and motivate you, especially nature.

Fifteen years in the industry, how has your equation with people here changed?
Your relationship also changes with your near and dear ones, but obviously within the industry, with different barometers and equations, things do change. Finally we are all mature people and it’s a small industry, it’s a close-knit industry and I’m just very grateful that I’m still here after 15 years. It’s not an easy industry to survive in, so I guess my stars must be good and I thank God for me being alive and doing what I love to do. I’ve got great scripts. Also, I don’t think anyone can be anyone’s enemy forever. We are all creative and artistic people. Also I don’t think you can rely on complete friendships – the simple reason being, when you get too close in friendships, there’s a lot of expectation which comes out of it. Suddenly, you start expecting things. In our industry, most of the time, you do not get time to spend with your kids. You are always on the move, always going out, you are somewhere else. How are you going to spend time on friendships? In these 15 years I’ve realised that, it’s a place where you have to internalise a lot, keep up to yourself, rather than look outside for refueling your energy or happiness.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.
Kahaani 2’releases on December 2 and then there is ‘Daddy’, which Arun Gawli’s biopic and then ‘Aankhein 2’ which I’m going to start shooting in January.

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