Arjun Kapoor on Sardar Ka Grandson, working with Neena Gupta and why he chooses to play 'soft, vulnerable' roles

Arjun Kapoor on what drew him to Sardar Ka Grandson: 'I am an emotional person, the emotion of the film and the relatability attracted me'

Seema Sinha May 19, 2021 16:00:01 IST
Arjun Kapoor on Sardar Ka Grandson, working with Neena Gupta and why he chooses to play 'soft, vulnerable' roles

After being seen as a Haryanvi cop in crime drama Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, Arjun Kapoor plays a devoted grandson in Sardar Ka Grandson -- a family drama with Kapoor and Neena Gupta in the lead roles. The film that starts streaming on Netflix on 18 May, follows the journey of a US-returned grandson, who will go to any length to fulfil his grandmother’s (portrayed by Gupta) last wish. “When I heard the script I felt I had so much connection with my grandparents but I never really managed to do anything for them because I was too young then. Now I have grown up but unfortunately, they have passed away barring my dadi (paternal grandmother) whose only wish is that she sees her grandchildren. But now that is a process I just can’t deliver (laughs heartily),” says Kapoor.

He furthers, “But my maternal grandmother was a lot like ‘Sardar’. She was feisty and fiery. Then, my grandfather often spoke about Peshawar very fondly because his father came from there and he was very fond of vilayati whisky as they call it. I am an emotional person, the emotion of the film and the relatability attracted me to Sardar Ka Grandson.” says Kapoor. The film has a sizable extended cast, including Rakul Preet Singh, Aditi Rao Hydari, John Abraham, Soni Razdan, and Kanwaljit Singh among others.

However, Kapoor did find the story of the film a bit bizarre initially because his character Amreek is shown moving his grandmother’s ancestral home in Lahore, to Amritsar since he doesn’t get permission to take ‘Sardar’ to Lahore. “When Nikkhil Sir (Advani, Producer) narrated the first line I told him it was like a fairy tale and that nobody would dream to do such a thing, and he said it was that. But in all fairness to the writing, you don’t doubt the logic. So, is it possible to lift a house? Yes, it is. Is it possible to lift it and bring it to another country? If the bureaucracy and government allows, yes. Will a person go to this extent? Well, now that can be called fantasy but it can inspire youngsters because there is a strong message. It doesn’t have to mean that you bring the house for your parents, or grandparents, it could just mean that you bring their favourite mithai, or anything else...It can be as simple as that,” says Kapoor.

Arjun Kapoor on Sardar Ka Grandson working with Neena Gupta and why he chooses to play soft vulnerable roles

Arjun Kapoor, Neena Gupta in a still from Sardar Ka Grandson

It was also the “oversmart” character that attracted Kapoor to this role. “He is this mumbling-jumbling over smart guy. He thinks he is very smart but actually he is quite a buffoon. I have never played this kind of person. It is also like a coming-of-age story of Amreek. I often tell Ranveer that he always comes of age...his characters grow in his films. My character, too, is mischievous, irritating and silly in the beginning but at the end, he stands with a certain amount of maturity in front of those who oppose him. I like the journey of the character,” says Kapoor, who was quite enamoured by Gupta’s performance. “Neenaji is like makhan, she is so relaxed, sweet and giving. I had worked with her in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, so I didn’t have to break the ice. She is very patient working towards making the scene better, helping out, always ready to rehearse, shoot as much as needed. It was a difficult film, we were shooting during winter and she must have faced a lot of obstacles but she was very easy to work with and that is why that warmth and chemistry shows in the film,” he adds.

Kapoor marked his debut in 2012 hit film Ishaqzaade opposite Parineeti Chopra, and followed up with Aurangzeb, Gunday, 2 States, Tevar, Ki & Ka and many more...Besides, he also hosted season seven of the reality show Khatron Ke Khiladi, in 2016. While Kapoor played 'strong' 'tough' characters and has been even seen as a ‘bad boy’ in some of these films, he has also realised that people do like him playing soft, vulnerable parts, and probably that is one of the reasons time to time he willingly shakes off machochism that is expected of a Bollywood hero. “There is this vulnerable side to me and the characters that I choose which seems to go well with the slightly aggressive masculine tone of films which I do from time to time. It is good to be switching from one to the other. It is good that people enjoy me in these kinds of formats because I love doing such films with interesting ensembles and slightly softer roles also,” says Kapoor, who believes in his co-stars playing strong, empowering characters.

“I feel there should be jugalbandi, good taal mel and good roles, good characters lead to good stories. When it comes to slightly realistic and believable subjects we have to respect the time that we are in. Today women are very strong, they are coming on to their own. But Ki & Ka was not done for empowerment alone, I felt the thought was very interesting. It created respect for working women today,” says Kapoor. “But playing these parts is not intentional. Since Ishaqzaade I have felt that regard for my screen partner whether it is male or female. Whether it was Mubarakan with Anil (Kapoor) Chachu, or with Ranveer in Gunday, or with Deepika (Padukone) in Finding Fanny. I feel back and forth creates better chemistry and it is more fun. I am always for fuller and wholesome characters. I really love Radha’s character (Rakulpreet Singh) in Sardar Ka Grandson. She is today’s woman, she gives it back to Amreek and asks him to sort it out if things were not working between them. The film begins with romance breaking up and I found that very new. The girl takes a stand and tells the boy that he was messed up in his head. All this doesn’t come from a conscious place but yes I do get attracted to strong female characters in my films because it makes for better films,” he adds.

Arjun Kapoor on Sardar Ka Grandson working with Neena Gupta and why he chooses to play soft vulnerable roles

Netflix India

For someone who belongs to a film family having seen big mahurats, parties, premieres, does he miss theatrical and big-screen releases in these pandemic times? “Look, there is always a joy to be on the big screen, I won’t deny that. When I was growing up and chose to become an actor, the big screen had a certain charm and excitement. It is community viewing because it creates a certain emotion sitting with people and discussing the film. But you have to adapt, you have to accept, you have to evolve with the times that we are in. I did Khatron Ke Khiladi when young actors were not doing much television. At present we are in a very unique situation. I also see it as a very exciting time because the OTT platforms are now allowing you to showcase and reach a much bigger audience than you can even imagine. So we might even have a big breakout film coming through this position where the world can see our films. Also, I feel with a lot of good content churned out it will push us to make better films that we plan to release in theatres. In two to three years we might see an evolution,” he says.

“Yes, it is very disappointing that our films are not reaching the theatres but safety is more important today. How do I convince you to come to a theatre? It is unfair to create a situation where you put pressure on the audience. But I am happy because now we have one more medium. Whether it is radio, television, films, OTT...whenever you look at different platforms you are actually cultivating more and more audience. Why should you look at it as either/or. But I will never deny the charm of the big screen,” he adds.

Kapoor has often found himself to be an easy target. Many times he has silenced hateful trolls that call him a product of nepotism. But not the one to get affected or discouraged by these attacks, Kapoor believes that he is a commercially successful actor for the most part of his career and that he knows his self-worth. “I have always looked at constructive criticism in the right manner and that is why I have survived because I am constantly looking to improve. But when you talk about general criticism about being somebody’s son, I can’t change that. I can’t change my looks. For me losing or gaining weight is life’s process. We are all vulnerable to it. But my ability to work, my work ethic, my ability to perform in front of the camera, I know how capable I am because I have worked with people who have shown that surety in investing money. I am not forcing anyone to cast me. I never forced my father to make a film for me. I had auditioned for Ishaqzaade. My beginning only gave me that confidence and it is not a fake confidence, or fake sense of belief. There is a certain honesty and sincerity with which I approach my work. The quest was never to be number one when I came in. I am not deterred by hits or flops. The quest was to make good films and eventually become a producer and a director. The quest was always to engage with the audience, connect and entertain them. I will get a few taalis or gaalis. The only way to win people over is through work,” says Kapoor.

Arjun Kapoor on Sardar Ka Grandson working with Neena Gupta and why he chooses to play soft vulnerable roles

And Kapoor has his hands full, he is extremely excited about his future projects -- Ek Villain 2, and Bhoot Police. “I completed Bhoot Police end of January and I am very happy that we could make the film post lockdown. I will watch it when the situation eases. It was quite a unique shooting in Dalhousie and Dharamshala. I have shot Ek Villain only for eight to 10 days and it was nice working with Mohit Suri again, there is a kind of comfort. I have not done a big-budget, a mainstream romantic action film in a long time and I am excited to be back in that space. But it is too early to speak about the film. We had just started shooting in Goa and we had to come back due to covid situation. I have barely shot seven to eight days with Tara. Target is to start shooting when people are in a proper frame of mind to pursue work again,” he says.

During the lockdown last year, Kapoor says he got a lot of free time after a long gap, “which helped me cultivate a lot of my mental realignment”. “But this time I was taken by surprise because I was shooting. I came back from Goa on 1 May and I have been a little fidgety. Now I am occupied with promotion but post 18 May I fear that I will have nothing to do. But yes, life has changed, thinking has changed. You realign certain energies in your mind. Now I don’t want to chase too much material that people tell me. If I am going to say 'yes' to something, I have to be willing to put myself out there, it has to be worth my mental solitude in a time when the virus is real. If I step out, I have to be certain that this story is worth telling. Until two years back all of us were running around. I have done 15 to 16 films so far and that is a lot of work. I am glad that I could take stock, pause and refresh and replan my work and think about my career ahead,” he concludes.

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