|Acting is no rocket science: Arjun Rampal|
08 September 2012
In 1998, at the very outset of his career, Arjun Rampal, in an interview to a website, had decalred that he would only be part of movies that made sense to him with roles that were exciting. And that we would prefer to create a niche for himself as an actor, than a star and leave the rest to destiny. Rampal, at the time was making a difficult transition from modelling to films with late cinematographer Ashok Mehta’s Moksh and Shantanu Sheorey’s Jadh.
About 14 years later, it would appear that the then aspiring actor has wisely chosen to stick to his guns. Or that he is destiny’s favoured child. With 20 plus films, a National Award for his performance in Rock On! and a reasonably good collection of movies in his kitty, Rampal once again reckons for the litmus test with a lead in Prakash Jha’s Chakravyuh. He plays Adil Khan, an upright cop who believes in the system in this action drama about two friends who find themselves on opposite sides in the government’s war against Naxals. There is also Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine, Sudhir Mishra’s Inkaar, where he plays the head of an ad agency who is accused of sexual harrassment by a colleague, besides Prakash Jha’s Satyagraha and Nikhil Advani’s D-Day.
Says Madhur Bhandarkar of the actor, “With Heroine, Arjun’s image will change as much as Kareena Kapoor’s. He has done a fabulous job of playing a superstar who is in relationship with Kareena’s character.”
Prakash Jha, who first worked with him in Raajneeti, endorses Rampal’s performance. “He has completely broken away from the wooden expression that people criticised him for.”
We met the actor at his plush suburban pad in Mumbai, where he spoke about his forthcoming projects. Excerpts.
What convinced you to sign a film with a subject as complex as the Naxal issue in the interiors of India?
Well, primarily because I like Prakash Jha as a director. He does not preach and is not going to make a docu-drama on Naxals. It has a lot of action and drama and I think that is the right way of telling a story and giving a message. I just hope people go out there and enjoy it for what it is.
Nobody wants to give a gun in their child’s hand, but there must be a desperate situation which is why it happens. My character Adil is an idealist who believes everything should be done by the book. He still has faith in the system. His point to people who support Naxals is, that anybody who gets power at gun-point, is also going to rule them with a gun-point. He understands that the system is not working but according to Adil, in such a scenario, you repair the damage, not destroy the system altogether. It’s his idealism that creates a dilemma for him, of choosing between his duty, loyalty to his friend and wife.
It’s been a while since you played the lead, so are you nervous?
What is a main lead? It’s the guy who has the easiest part (laughs), but the colourful ones that have some real meat are the others, so I enjoy doing those as well. But even when it is author backed, the lead has to be complex, unique, not contrived. He should still be a character not a hero doing heroism because cinema is a form of entertainment with a sense of realism.
The character I play (Adil) is a good-hearted guy. He’s more complex than any of the characters I have played before. I always wanted to play a cop and I said, if I have to play one I will do it with Prakash. We have a great tuning.
Even when I am doing an ensemble cast, I don’t think of what others are doing. I look at the part I have to play and the film in totality. If you try to make it centred around you, it’s bland and seldom works. It may work once or twice and then you get stuck because you are not being creative. And I don’t want to get stuck.
Was there any scene which was particularly tricky?
In Chakravyuh there was this one scene, really beautifully written in which I am explaining to the villagers why the government wants them to come together against the Naxalites. We had a window of just 15 minutes to finish that speech because Prakash wanted the light falling on the village in a certain way which could be done only during that particular time. I was a little stressed because of that thinking, I am going to f*** it up and sure enough, I messed up. We finished the scene but I was really depressed. I went to my room, feeling very low, thinking how I would request Prakash to re-shoot the scene.
Just then there was a knock on my door and Prakash came in. “Beta, kaisa hai tu?” he asked me. I requested him to give me another chance. And he did. Four days later, he told me to be ready. We were going to the village again. The second time we got it right and in time too.
Was there anything you changed about yourself to get into the skin of the character?
The joy of acting is when you can change completely. People talk so much about losing and gaining weight etc; I believe that you should just do it! Do whatever is necessary to get into character — grow your hair, a moustache, whatever it takes. Don’t harp about it. Let people come and experience it when watching the film. For me when I see Adil, I see him for the person he is, not as Arjun though it is me doing it, harnessing the emotions which I have felt in situations or using memories of emotions that I have seen in others to convey the character of Adil.
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