Arjun Kapoor on India's Most Wanted, shooting for Panipat, and why questions on impending wedding bug him
'When I had signed the film, he (Raj Kumar Gupta) had categorically said that I don’t want you to play a hero and I found that very fascinating,' says Arjun Kapoor on India's Most Wanted.
Arjun Kapoor has just completed seven years in the film industry. He believes he has earned a lot in these years, when he got opportunities to work with both younger directors and seasoned directors. India’s Most Wanted, which he signed within three hours of reading, marks his entry into a new territory, devoid of the usual song-dance-drama routine. Ahead of the release of the spy thriller this Friday on 24 May, he talks about why he said yes to the film, working with director Raj Kumar Gupta, and why questions related to his marriage irritate him.
When the trailer of India’s Most Wanted was launched, people took an instant liking to its simple and rooted tone. Was this anticipated?
Yes, people have really liked the rooted milieu of the film. When an actor does a film then he has no clue how the film will be received. While some films know of their fate, others wait for audience's reaction. The simplicity of India's Most Wanted comes from its director Rajkumar Gupta. When I had signed the film, he had categorically said that I don’t want you to play a hero and I found that very fascinating. One of the reasons I signed this film was also because it's devoid of any song-dance-drama routine and jingoism. This is not a film that gives speeches and entices public opinion. It’s a film about people who actually do things.
The story is based on the capture of dreaded terrorist Yasin Bhatkal. Please tell us more.
It's intriguing to know that this story actually happened in real life. The man is still alive and is waiting for pardon, and the sad part is that the government is respectful even to the worst terrorist. They will feed him biryani and he will be allowed to keep trying but its these men, who catch such people, are the ones who put their lives on the line without having support back up or ammunition. These guys actually went out there and pulled out something that no one knows about. I enjoyed playing a non-hero and enjoyed the journey where the deeds make him a hero. Espionage and covert operations are not that easy and are unique. They need a certain type of finesse and you are expected to conduct yourself in a certain way.
What more did you learn when you met Intelligence Bureau (IB) officers as part of preparation for your role in the film?
When we met IB officers, we realised that they need to be friends and have to be social with their informers they come across, who have intel for them. You cannot scare your sources otherwise you won’t get your intelligence. You have to be malleable. India's Most Wanted is a real film and it goes against the grain of what I have done in the past but that’s also what I found really fascinating.
With films like India's Most Wanted, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar and Panipat, it only seems that you are somehow trying to maintain a sort of balance between your commercial ventures and these 'real' ventures? Is it true?
Well, Mubarkan was also good cinema where we were trying to make people laugh. There is no better thing than people’s blessings. When I was shooting in Bihar for this film, people over there told me that they really liked Gunday. For them, that’s good cinema. The thing is, some people like Chinese, some prefer Italian while others prefer desi chhole bhature. The profit margin has now increased for every genre of film. Now films like Andhadhun and Simmba — both make money at the box office. I can now take chances and do a film like India's Most Wanted without a lip sync song or without a heroine. I can look at the film for its uniqueness and be relaxed. Honestly, audience these days are happier when you don’t have songs in your films. I have not done this film intentionally. The audience and environment have changed a lot in the past five years.
Giving consent to a film like India's Most Wanted, which is devoid of commercial trappings... does it all happens in the spur of the moment or does it requires deliberation over weeks and months?
Me and Raj sir were supposed to work in a film together soon after Ishaqzaade. The film was called Revolution 2020 and could not happen because of a change in UTV’s ideology. So I knew him since my early days and thus, when the trailer of Raid came out, I called him to say that I loved the trailer. When I called him, he asked me if I am doing anything. When I said nothing, he said that I am sending a script. He had mailed me the script at 2 pm on 14 February and I called him back at 5 pm, informing him that I was doing the film. It was that quick and spontaneous. Maybe five years back, I would have thought a lot before signing this film. Maybe today, I have become more secured as an actor.
You are 10 films old now and just completed seven years in the industry. How has the learning curve been for you?
I have become a bujurg (senior citizen) and now I am in a position to advise newcomers. Jokes aside, it does not feel like that. Seven years is a long time but it’s kind of flown by. In these seven years, you guys have seen me sometime making a complete fool of myself, sometime do good work and sometime learn better with time. It’s been amazing and surreal. Ishaqzaade had released on 7 May, 2012 and had you asked me this question a day before the release that I will be doing close to 13 films in 7 years with some top notch directors, I would have only said – chal jhootha! Because it’s not easy to imagine a career like that. I am not talking about hits and flops. I am only talking about the journey.
How is Panipat shaping up?
Fantastic. Firstly, I had to go into a shell of hiding my looks for six months. It’s not easy living with a cap all the time. It is something that I am doing for the first time, of playing a Peshwa. Ashutosh Gowariker is a stickler for perfection and is extremely particular about things. Panipat is a patriotic film of another kind and it also deals with the strategies involved in a war. The film deals with the journey before the war. It’s a deeply fascinating story.
Finally, what is the status on your marriage?
I feel that I will wait for my hair to grow slightly before I consider marriage. I am in a happy space currently. I don’t blame your editor for ensuring my marriage question is asked as I am public figure. It’s all about the way the question is asked. My answers don’t get the respect they deserve and that is slightly annoying as they are twisted and turned, and made negative to make headlines.
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