I Backed Myself When Nobody Else Did: Arjun Kapoor

Here’s the first part of my interview with Arjun Kapoor on his new release India’s Most Wanted. I asked Arjun about the failure of his last release Namaste England, what drew him to India’s Most Wanted and got a little peek into his upcoming film with Dibakar Bannerjee, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar.

Q: Before I get to India’s Most Wanted I want to talk about your last release (Namaste England), it wasn’t received well, neither by critics nor by the audience.

Arjun Kapoor: I don’t know how it was received by anybody, I just took off from the country, because I was prepared.

Q: Most of the reviews pointed out that that writing was the major problem, the script was the problem.

Arjun Kapoor: I don’t like to blame any one person, we all work together as a collaborative unit. The film succeeds its everybody’s, we get more credit because we are the face. When Ritesh Shah wrote it, I agreed to do it so I have to take blame also, I’m not trying to sound like a martyr here but what happens is, there are certain conversations you have about making it better. Now, unfortunately they don’t transpire the way you imagined, but you can’t leave a film in between also. Now I can’t tell the filmmaker suddenly in the middle of it that I don’t like the script now because I cannot make sense of it. You have to fulfil your commitment. Like I said I don’t want to blame anybody, I am as much part of that film. It is unfortunate, he is a very talented writer Ritesh Shah, he’s written Pink, he’s written Raid and I’ve worked with him when I was an assistant also. So I absolve him alone, if there is blame, it’s all of us. We are all a collaborative force. And you can’t always get it right.

Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra in Namaste England.

Q: Actually, my question is related to that. You made your debut in 2012, you’re 10 films old. By now when you are making a film, when you reach the middle of it, do you get a rough idea of this is going the way I want or this is not going the way I thought it would.

Arjun Kapoor: Vaguely, let’s put it this way, you know if the vision is being fulfilled or if it’s being compromised. Or if some sur has changed from what was offered or narrated to you. The tonality of a film shifting you can sense no on a set, so that you can come to know. But you can’t always tell the success or failure aspect of it.

Q: I saw India’s Most Wanted and first of all it was a good entertainer, it was also a very important film to be made, because it put the spotlight the real heroes and people like Prabhat, who we never would have known of or heard of if a film like this was never made. And also you did a great job of portraying this frustrated but strong headed IB officer. What was it that first drew you to the script of India’s Most Wanted?

Arjun Kapoor: The fact that I felt so small after reading it that being alive in today’s generation and in the digital world and being alive in 2013, I’ve forgotten that there was a man responsible for serial blasts and 400 deaths and the fact that we still don’t know this story. I didn’t know this story, I didn’t know this mission took place, I didn’t know that they’ve captured him this way. It’s almost like it’s been slipped under the rug and people have moved on with their lives. And that is why I felt like you said that this is a story that needed to be told, because it’s not that we are not emotional about it, it’s just that there is so much overload of chaos that you tend to forget even recent history, let alone the past history. They’ve been no serial blasts since this man has been arrested.

Arjun Kapoor with filmmaker Raj Kumar Gupta on the sets of India’s Most Wanted.

Q: In your understanding, how big a catch was Yasin Bhatkal for the Indian intelligence.

Arjun Kapoor: I think it’s one of the biggest victories for the Indian intelligence ever. Primarily, the way they operated. It wasn’t that they had evidence per se, they operated on an understanding that it might be one of India’s most wanted. So when you go in with a hunch and a conviction and there is a fluidity to the information where you have to build your source. You’ve to go and understand, you have to identify, you have to actually figure out because these guys are the masters of disguise, they do penetrate into the world without you even knowing that they are such dastardly people. I think it’s the biggest victory we’ve had in recent times, in terms of capturing a terrorist before he could abscond. We’ve seen Osama Bin Laden’s capture being celebrated by the world, here is a man who has killed 400 people, his capture has not even been celebrated by our people, let alone the world. I am not saying we need to celebrate it by having a party, but you have to take a beat and respect what our grass root level are doing on a daily basis.

Q: Arjun, as an actor what’s the challenge in playing someone like a Bala in Gunday which is like a true blue Bollywood hero, loud music, grand entry and all that and somebody like a Prabhat in India’s Most Wanted which is a very subtle understated performance.

Arjun Kapoor: See as an actor you need to believe that you can do both, which I’ve always had that belief, I did Aurangzeb and Gunday at the same time. Now Aurangzeb didn’t do well so what happens is that people tend to forget that you did that. I’ve done a Finding Fanny along with Tevar so I’ve always believed that I would like to have both these dimensions and that is important in our country, you need to be able to entertain and engage. Today, you’re maybe sensing the performance come through, the maturity seep through into the camera because I’ve also evolved and come of age. Today, playing Prabhat maybe comes a little more naturally to me on screen because I’m way more secure and understanding about the need of a film rather than just trying to focus on my performance I can be  more wholesome in my approach. So it’s come at the right time, Prabhat, I think 5 years back when I did Gunday, that was the right time for Gunday that’s why I chose it impulsively, I think today if I was offered Gunday I would maybe prefer doing a Prabhat to a Gunday even today you know it’s just the mindset that you are in.

Arjun Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh in Gunday.

Q: And you feel you can take on both equally well?

Arjun Kapoor: Yeah, that I do. Listen, I backed myself when nobody else did that’s how I became an actor. And then the audiences agreed with me to a great degree they have appreciated my work and they have given me love, so if I don’t have the confidence in doing different stuff then that’s the most unfortunate part of my success.

Q: All the best for India’s Most Wanted and Sandeep and Pinky, we are waiting for that, I’m a great Dibakar fan.

Arjun Kapoor: We are all Dibakar fans. I did the film because I am a Dibakar fan. Honestly, I have enjoyed that experience. I have spent more time with Dibakar sir before actually shooting that film. So to play a Jaat, ‘thulla’ as we call him... I am playing Satendra Dahiya from Mahipalpur. So a very fascinating character. And I can’t wait to share it with you guys but it has to be put out the right way for the right audience. It is a very centric film for certain people to get into, so we want to pitch it the right way. Like I feel India’s Most Wanted is pitched the right way.

Thank you

(This piece is from The Quint’s archives and is being reposted to mark Arjun Kapoors birthday.)

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