Arjun Kapoor you talk a lot...
Remember that scene from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, when Rachel writes a letter to Ross? It’s 18 pages. Front and back! The transcript of my interview with Arjun Kapoor, is 19 pages long. And we talked for under an hour. Maybe I went armed with a lot of questions. Maybe we digressed, a lot. However, unlike Rachel, Arjun hadn’t rambled on. Most actors mumble two words in reply to a question, Arjun, refreshingly, can talk, and sense at that. Perhaps it has something to do with coming from a film family, he understands the business a lot. He understands himself even better. He knows he has to work harder than his contemporaries because he is not a chocolate hero. He has had to work harder than others in the sense because he didn’t want to be boxed in a very short period of time. They said he looked like a rogue, he couldn’t dance, he was too big... He didn’t say anything back. He just worked. He has juggled small films, unknown directors, an English film and a TV show host alongwith his big budget commercial dramas. All that is (365x4) days. He has managed to change the perception about him in very short period of time. Today, any director big or small will approach him for any kind of role. Because he has proved he is versatile. Read on as he talks about his journey and more...
How many years has it been now? Six?
What since I became an actor?
Four! What six!? You have turned me into an old hag. Six is too much. It’s been four years, exactly four years. You probably feel I am around because I have been around maybe a year before the shooting, the announcement had come that I have signed the YRF film.
Found your comfort zone?
In terms of professional work?
Yes, I definitely feel I have... A lot depends on your audience feedback also. You know, in the beginning, you’re still finding yourself. You are wondering if the films are working because the films are good or even because you have that acceptance from the audiences. Are they coming to see you in a particular film or they’re coming to see a film and you happen to be in it? You need to solve that jigsaw puzzle on your own and connect with your audience when you interact with the audience. When you travel, you to get a sense that nahi yaar, you don’t know what it is, but they are liking something about you and you need to embrace that. You don’t need to fight it, you don’t need to doubt yourself, you need to say okay to whatever it is. Out of 1 billion people, there are about 10-12 people who get this opportunity and I happen to be one of them. There is plausible enough reason to believe the audience likes you. So don’t let any negativity or any confusion hold you back from that. So the first two three years go in figuring that out. I won’t say actors kaan ke kacche hote hai but there are lot of influencing factors when you are starting out, there are lot of people saying a lot of things. So you have to kind of take a step back, put things into perspective.
And actors live in a bubble, without interacting with the audience directly, so they don’t know their perspective.
Correct. I think the one good part about promoting films is that you get to meet audiences. That’s one advantage of going out to promote a film across the country. You get to see the country and the audience and you get to see what they react to. So like the audience in a Delhi reacts to a different film of yours that they’ve liked. The UP audience will react more to a Gunday. Gujarat, you’ll have people talking about 2 States. Every state has a different reaction...so you get a sense. So yes, you need to take a step back in the first one or two years, figure yourself out, enjoy the attention and then kind of... Now, I feel chaar saal is a good enough time for me to accept I’m here to stay. I think also the last film Ki & Ka doing the kind of business it did, kind of consolidated the fact that the audience is interested to watch me as an actor which is important. In the bigger picture, producers are putting their money on me. The kind of film it was, the number that it started with on the first day, was a pretty nice feeling as an actor to do a niche multiplex film and have `7 crore-plus on the first day.
You’ve done so many different kinds of films. What is your comfort space in terms of genre?
I don’t have a comfort space in terms of genre. That’s one thing that no actor should ever find. You should be comfortable being an actor but you should not be comfortable ki main uss type ya iss type ki kar sakta hoon. I want to discover it all...
But for actors some things comes easier.. Be it, action, drama...
I am dying to do a comedy but nobody is offering me one. So I don’t know. Everybody said action is Arjun’s go-to, but my biggest success is 2 States, which has no action. I loved doing Ki & Ka and 2 States and Finding Fanny. Everybody says I’m intense but my sense of humour actually is one of my biggest assets. If you interact with me, you will find that it is one of my saving graces of my personality. I can make a person laugh or smile and cut the tension in the room. It’s just that I come across as a very serious person on face value. As an actor I can be funny, I can be charming, I can be serious, I have all the facets, it’s all about how a director sees me. And I never want to feel that this is my groove and I will stick to it. The fact that I did Ki & Ka because I wanted to again re-emphasises the fact that I don’t live in a groove. Even Half Girlfriend for that matter.
Two choices of yours Ki & Ka as well as Finding Fanny I don’t see any of the boys of your generation taking up a film like that.
What gives you the confidence to say yes to a film like that? Isn’t there that insecurity that will this be accepted?
You don’t think so deeply about not being accepted. You kind of believe that if the film is good, it will be accepted but yes thank you for appreciating the different choices that I’ve made. Finding Fanny was more about, yaar I think not enough ensemble films are made, not enough quirky experimental films are made with enough face value to get attention. My reason for doing Finding Fanny was if I don’t do this now when will I do this? Take chances, I was still young, I didn’t have to think about the consequences. Because the bigger you get, the harder it gets to experiment...
I would say that it’s easier to experiment when you are bigger because by then you know you have your fan base. So intially actors should aim for really safe films.
What is safe today? Ishaqzaade was not a safe debut and it did well. My first film kind of made me realise pushing the envelope is more exciting for the audience today than sticking to conventional films. My reason for doing Ki & Ka was it seemed like a risky film. I liked the fact that we were taking a risk, in terms of that a mainstream commercial Hindi film hero who is so macho in his perception is going to play a home maker. I think the film worked because Balki cast me in that role. I think if it was anybody else from my contemporaries it would have seemed a bit generic. It added a fun twist to it was to see this big burly guy who is like a giant taking care of the house and taking care of a woman and cooking and cleaning and playing house husband. I found that visual exciting. I found that story very relatable, so I went with the emotion of the film.
Having directors like Balki and Homi must have the big driving factor, right?
100 per cent. I think if it was somebody else coming with an idea about a me playing a home maker, I wouldn’t have done it. And of course to do a Finding Fanny you need somebody as out there as Homi. He was the main reason for me to jump in because you got to work with all kinds of people. You cannot always do films for the monetary reasons. You cannot always do it for box-office especially when you are starting out because you really don’t know what’s going to work. Like I said, you know once you keep working then you become even more serious about “no, I don’t want to do this because this will become my positioning’. When I was starting out, I was doing Finding Fanny along with Gunday and 2 States, so if you look at it as a spectrum they were three very different films. I didn’t know which one is going to work and which one isn’t.
A lot of your contemporaries in the same position are not experimenting. Where do you get the inspiration?
The thing is, I never wanted to be an actor. I am not competitive to a point where I want to outdo others and I don’t want to get into that rat race. I want to be a part of this turnaround that has happened in these last two to three years. I feel very proud that we have all kind of survived that wave and we are doing well. There is no sense of out positioning each other because we all have enough going on for us. We have allowed more films to be made, we have allowed more directors to dream, We have allowed more writers to make choices of writing extreme stuff like a Finding Fanny or a Badlapur.
You have always said that ‘I’m limited in a way the roles that I can do because people see me in a certain way because of the way I look.’ But you’ve played the most diverse characters. I don’t see any of your contemporaries doing a Fanny, or a Ki & Ka.
I think that’s primarily because I have made those choices before them so you’ll always think of me first.
I don’t see it.
I do believe I can do action better than all my contemporaries also because I just have the backdrop now with the kind of films that I have done so I’ll always be convincing in an action film. I do see Ranveer being able to do action well. I think we all are finding our grooves. What I said was that people see me in certain kind of roles. I don’t see myself that way. Not even the audience does. It’s the people making films, who are casting you, who always see you in one dimension or in a stereotypical or a way that. ‘oh iski pichli action chali toh...’ I am sure even Varun faces that, when he’s offered those teenybopper films all the time. I’m sure even Tiger would want to do other kind of genres but he’ll always be the go-to guy for masala action films. He’ll also have to find his groove. That’s a constant battle for young actors. But you should take chances I think that’s what I have learnt by doing a Ki & Ka, 2 States and Finding Fanny or even by doing television. You just have to keep working, you never know what’s going to work and you don’t have answers. Like Gunday was supposed to be the sure shot film eventually 2 States did better than Gunday.
How much of divide is there in the kind of films the older guys are doing and the kind of films that younger heroes are doing?
I think there is a divide because the appetite of the audience is a certain way for certain actors. I do believe that they have been moulded into a certain pattern. Because the audience diktat says that when they go to see films of Khans, Akshay, Ajay, even a Hrithik for that matter, he has to play the star. So all of them have to play to their audience, their fan base — and their fan bases are huge — so they have to appease them before anybody else, so their choices are dictated by...log kyu aate hai paisa kharch karne? There is a lot of money riding on them, they would love to take risks I’m sure.
Like Shah Rukh did with Fan.
Which I think is commendable. I think they all take risks. I do believe even a Bajrangi was a risk in that sense. It was not a typical action Eid kind of film. It was an emotional tale of a man and a child. Even for like Aamir doing a Talaash, and Ajay did a Drishyam. Nobody speaks about those films because they all think about Action Jackson first unfortunately. So they all attempt different films but we tend to remember the bigger, flashier, commercial, pot boilers more. So I think the senior stars don’t get their due enough. Look at Akshay, he has done Airlift, and Baby last year.
They are limited because their audiences don’t want to see that.
But the audience has seen them in different films. But there are certain limitations. They cannot make song less films with superstars. You can’t suddenly go dry. The films have to have enough to appease the masses also because the masses do come out to watch them. So they will have that extra song maybe they’ll have that one action sequence or little more dialogue baazi but the material is still getting more relevant and more young.
None of the Gen Next actors don’t really fit into the kind of films that the older guys do...
Except for Tiger, you all have the multiplex audience on your side and Tiger has — because of the kind of films that the single screen audience.
Correct. He has done two films that played to the gallery. Yes, I have done my Tevar and Gunday. I have enjoyed that side of performing also, and I will never shy away from them. But yes, to the multiplex audience, our films have appealed more to their sensibility. Which I think will change over a course of the next couple of years I might do a massy film and I might discover that even I want to do more of that.
I think those kind of films are dying.
Yes, because now they have become like junk food. Once every six months you get a film like that you’ll enjoy it. Earlier it used to be staple and the multiplex film used to do be once in a while you saw an interesting unique film. Now the interesting unique films are every month.
Multiplex audiences is still essentially the cities right? While single screens are everywhere. So which audience would you rather woo?
Yes, it’s still the cities. But the money in cities is much more. Today four cities can allow you to do `70-80 crores. Between Pune, Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, little bit of Gujarat. Look at Neerja, Kapoor and Sons, Ki & Ka these are multiplex dominated areas where these films have done very good numbers. At the same time, a single screen film like Baaghi can do `70 crores because it’s appealing to the rest of the country. So the numbers on both sides. But single screen films are becoming little obsolete now because the audience is now watching Hollywood films all the time. They have the internet and they are aware of what’s happening around the world. Now filmmakers know they are making films for an intelligent mindset and they want to see everything new. They want to see a Neerja and an Airlift and a Kapoor and Sons to discover a family drama of a different kind rather than the song dance routine one. They want to see a macho hero play a typically female oriented character and pull it off. These are the kinds of things that have worked along with a Baaghi, I’m not denying that. But I think Baaghi worked because it is the exception this year. I think because it came at the right time also. There is a certain enjoyment about watching a commercial masala film once in a while. So I think if he is the go-to guy for that then I am very happy for Tiger, I think everybody should have their groove and everybody should appeal to all kind of audiences. I have always believed that an actor should be able to appeal to every audience member eventually. You cannot be like ki yaar main multiplex...
Yes, but sometimes audience slots you. They decide what they like you in best.
I have been very lucky. I have a lot of decent goodwill in the mass thought process also. When I have interacted with people the younger boys, the men... they have enjoyed Gunday, Ishaqzaade, and Tevar. So I feel maybe I just need a correct film to kind of reconnect with them and take it to that level. Sometimes you just need the correct film. You might have the potency, you might have a connect, but to really see the volume of numbers you need a correct film also. But it’s going to be I think once a year you’ll see a Baaghi doing well, once or twice a year you’ll see that kind of a film doing well more than the Neerja’s and Kapoor and Sons and all.
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