On a steamy April morning, I have a short wait for Arjun Kapoor in his customised vanity van. It gives me time to look around and notice the tribute wall with posters of his favourite films including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Rang De Basanti and the mandatory Amitabh Bachchan films.
On a wall in the inner of the two-room van is a Chelsea FC wall hanging. “I am a huge fan and when I was shooting in London recently, I was invited by the Club to watch a football match. It was a dream come true to watch Chelsea play and then to meet the team afterwards,” says the 31-year-old actor as he settles down to chat.
As he removes his dark glasses and orders a cup of coffee he offers: “If I look sleepy, it’s because I am. But that disappears the minute I get on to set.”
After this interview, he’s scheduled to join the rest of the ensemble cast of Mubarakan, his upcoming comedy, on set for a photo shoot.
His next film is Half Girlfriend, an adaptation of the Chetan Bhagat novel, which releases later this month. Excerpts from an interview:
It seems like your ‘I pheeling ki…’ dialogue from ‘Half Girlfriend’ is rapidly becoming your catchphrase.
I guess certain things just resonate with the audience – for the humour and for being unique. In some way you have heard this line before and felt the emotion. This is Madhav Jha’s (his character) way of saying ‘I am like this only’. It’s his way of accepting who he is. The line is said by a boy who decides to be very honest even if he risks screwing up the interview for admission to a prestigious college.
As for the memes, they are a big compliment.
Have you read the Chetan Bhagat books that you have been associated with?
I have not a read a single book by him. I think he is a very intelligent author. He writes stories about education and romance, which are two pillars that the youth connects with. And he captures that in a grassroots, middle class space. But I have only reacted to the two scripts and the two directors who have had the ability to take content from Chetan and present it to a pan-Indian audience.
Because I did well in Two States, I got Half Girlfriend and I have no qualms about accepting that I am the quintessential Bhagat hero, in the sense that I am an everyday looking guy. I have never tried to project that I am hero-hero. My characters have never been above the story.
Do you ever analyse what your appeal is? You seem to be favoured by young women.
I have heard varied comments from the more dismissive ‘We want to take him home and give him a shower’ to ‘You are the kind of guy we can’t take home, but we want to take ‘home’.
Yes, that’s the kind of commentary I am referring to.
I say, whatever appeals! At the end of the day I am a by-product of the characters I have played and one’s image is formed based on those characters. But I also believe I am affable enough, so when you hear me speak, see my interviews or see me on a TV show that also leads to an engagement with the audience.
I never thought Ishaqzaade would get that kind of reaction from audiences. Parma was an anti-hero. And then maybe whosoever you did not win over with Ishaqzaade, you won over with Krish in Two States. But honestly, I don’t have an answer to this. The answer has to come from the people who are fond of me and appreciate me. The day I crack this, I’ll fail because then I will play to only my strengths. So I am happy not knowing the answer.
In the five years since your debut with Ishaqzaade (2012), you have seen peaks (Ishaqzaade, Two States, Gunday) and troughs (Aurangzeb, Tevar). Has growing up in the film world equipped you with the tools to deal with this?
I always say this: nothing can prepare you for this profession. You can have certain things in place but the response to success and failure is unique and an individual reaction. The foundation is there, of course. You have seen your family members go through stuff and you understand the implications. You understand how they have risen above it and you appreciate that you have to keep going.
But when it happens to you, it does take a toll and you do question many things. You introspect. You have days when you don’t want to work anymore. There are days when you want to answer back to all your critics, including those from within the industry. Dealing with failure is a very internal thing. It does bother me but the important thing to remember is that failure will teach you more than success can.
Do you ever feel self-doubt?
I am very confident of my abilities, I know what I bring to the table but I don’t live in a bubble where I feel I am the best. I know I am evolving and learning.
So do you have a public ‘game face’?
I will never let how I am feeling come in the way of how I conduct myself. How I deal with it in my home, in my bedroom, that’s for me to know. But it will not interfere in the way I approach work, people and life. You learn. And the point is you are not invincible. Most actors go through more failures than successes. Handling success is not everybody’s cup of tea, but handling failure is what defines your stardom eventually. What makes a difference is your starting point.
For example if you shoot up too quickly, and don’t have time to process things, and then if you are brought down to earth equally suddenly, then it can feel like a dream. Going from 0-100 km/h and down to 0 again is bound to alter your wiring and have repercussions. If you are from outside the profession you might be confused and wonder does this happen. However if you are from within the profession, you are expecting it to happen but you might still not be able to take it.
Do you feel you have to be switched on all the time?
You are an entertainer, a commercial, mainstream hero – it’s important to reiterate that — so you have to put your best foot forward. Once you are out there then there is no point in behaving like you don’t want to be out there. That reluctant energy transcends to the audience. I learned this while promoting Gunday. I realised I could have fun being myself. I don’t mind being a fool and being an entertainer.
The audience also enjoys it when you are having fun. But these are all thoughts. I might be wrong, I might be right. I don’t really know. I am just happy I am appreciated.
I wouldn’t say I am a reluctant hero, but I would say I am that kind of underdog who has always allowed the audience to decide whether I deserve to be here.
That sounds a lot like leaving things to chance.
It’s not about leaving things to chance. You work hard but you cannot predict success or failure. It cannot be pre-designed. A design with all its pieces might fit perfectly but it might not look perfect after it is completed. You can time everything perfectly from your end, but you cannot time how the world is feeling at that time about the same thing.
Published Date: May 04, 2017 10:34 am | Updated Date: May 04, 2017 10:34 am