MUMBAI—He has been barraged by flops but remains cool and in a factual space. Arjun Kapoor, set to hit the screens with “India’s Most Wanted” this week, is optimistic about the future – both his and that of Indian cinema. We caught up with the star in a short but no-holds-barred chat.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Before we talk on your latest release, what is the situation regarding the injury you had on the “Panipat” sets?
A (Smiles): Oh, that’s nothing but a scratch. Since I was shooting for “Panipat,” a little real blood was perhaps needed!
Q: Buzz is that the unit of “India’s Most Wanted” was apprehensive about shooting in Bihar due to the law and order situation and the theme of the film.
A: We shot first in and around Patna, and then in Kathmandu. We had to shoot in real locations like Golghar in Bihar because a part of the story also happened there. I do not think that the onlookers were very different from anywhere. They, like fans elsewhere, just wanted me to wave to them, talk with them. The government had also cooperated with us fully. As for Nepal, it is a stunningly underrated place. All I will say is that the people and the governments helped us shoot a difficult film and made it much, much easier.
Q: What about researching your own character?
A: My director, Rajkumar Gupta, had done it in an unhurried way by himself over three years! My research of sorts was restricted to meeting Intelligence Bureau officers, in general, to understand how they look, talk and walk. We only think of James Bond or MI when we talk about intelligence officers, but they actually look like anyone else, and you will never know when one is among us. Their special feature is their mental astuteness. As the word suggests, they use their intelligence, not brawn, to get work done. They have infinite patience and must win the trust of crucial informers and whoever they seek information from, for their work. It’s a cat-and-mouse game. Our brief was only that all six of us in the film must look realistic and not intimidating. Such officers are not action heroes!
Q: You have done many genres of cinema. What kind is closest to you?
A: If you ask this question more routinely as how I look back on my journey of seven years and 13 films, I would say that I am blessed that the audience was so receptive, because, essentially, I was a negative person in “Ishaqzaade,” my first film. To work with some of the best setups after that was something I had never imagined.
I like to balance my films. Like “Aurangzeb,” in which I had a double role, was underrated both as a film and for my character. It was Yash Raj Films’ first song-less thriller and a very different kind of dual role that was very gritty.
I loved “Finding Fanny,” and even “Ishaqzaade” was very real. “Ki & Ka” was a very sensitive subject. “2 States” was real but entertaining. “Tevar” and “Gunday” were both mass-oriented entertainers. I have always believed I am doing films that have that edge, and I am nonchalant about it. We must embrace our “Bollywood” side, but I must also have the best of both.
Q: What do you want to say about the actual man on whose story the film is made, Yasin Bhatkal?
A: Why are we giving this evil man that respect by talking about him? My blood boils when I realize that he is still alive, and eats biryani that the taxpayers are paying for, after killing 400 people. And he is still allowed to question if he is guilty. I am just happy that he is not a part of our social environment in the last six years. God knows how many more people would have been killed otherwise, and I can imagine what the family of those 400 people must be thinking. There are more people like him around, and unfortunately, the law of the land wants a fair trial!
These people are propelled by pure hatred and negativity. It is a mental change, and that is the scary part. While doing the film, I was re-living those moments, though I never knew about him before doing the film. I am hoping the way that the way I reacted, everyone will too.
Q: How do you choose your films now?
A: I choose from the material available. Like I never knew I would do espionage films, though I like thrillers, drama and action films, until “India’s Most Wanted” came to me. Look, I am a self-made man. I have seen personal and professional ups and downs. I do not like to blame anyone for my downs, which is why I listen to all but do what I think is right.
Raj-sir (Raj Kumar Gupta) saw me as a IB officer. I like to work with people who see me differently. I was dying to do period film, but I never knew I would play a Peshwa! Ashutosh-sir (Ashutosh Gowariker) offered me “Panipat” as he saw me that way. I do not know how to cook, but R. Balki said that I would look
amazing in the kitchen.
Q: What about the audience?
A: My biggest takeaway is that the audience is fair. They want paisa-vasool (value for money) entertainment, but they also like to be educated and intrigued and to live the film. Today every kind of pastime is there at home, including some quality fare, and we are competing with that. The concept is no longer about enjoying the beautiful ambiance of a multiplex. They come out as a family to watch a film, so we have to be better than that. If they like my film, fine, otherwise, they will just sit at home and watch something else.