Monday, January 12, 2015

Arjun Kapoor

“Nobody said this profession was easy”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the January 10, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

‘Broody’ might be the first word which comes to mind when one sees Arjun Kapoor. Maybe that has stemmed from the lasting impression of his first film, ‘Ishaqzaade’ or his stubbled-avatar. In reality though, Kapoor is also a lot more, beyond being broody. He is affable and engages you in a deep conversation. 2014 has been an important milestone in his career, with him seamlessly moving into playing a geek in ‘2 States’ from being a 70s gangster in ‘Gunday’. Not to mention, the very unique ‘Finding Fanny’. And now, with him kick-starting 2015 by displaying his ‘Tevar’, here’s a tête-à-tête with Arjun where he talks all about his latest offering and how he functions as an actor…

Photo credit: Zaheer Abbas
You must be really happy with the way last year shaped up for you, in terms of three films from different genres doing well?
I think it was a year where I truly got accepted from the audience. It is one thing to get the acceptance from the industry for signing you for films but last year was when the audience reciprocated the love and affiliation that the industry had felt when they gave me these films. So, I’ll always look back at 2014 as a very important year in my life, because I got to do three films from different genres – ‘Gunday’ which was a two-hero film and it was still celebrated and enjoyed, a ‘2 States’ which every person in India can relate to, and then a slightly niche film like ‘Finding Fanny’ with such great actors. Also, I shot for ‘Tevar’ the entire year, and it was a very important milestone in my life to start that film. So, for me, certainly it’s been a very fulfilling year.

I read somewhere that it took a while for you to say yes to ‘Tevar’. Was it because you wanted to make sure you choose the right script as your first film with your father?
I didn’t take a while to say yes to ‘Tevar’, but yes I just took a while to do a film with dad because I wanted a film to come together with him in the most correct way. I didn’t want it to be like, ‘producer apne bete ke liye picture banaa raha hai.’ I don’t believe in that and that’s why I made my debut outside to sort of create a foundation for my father to make his kind of film with me. That was pretty much the main thing. I just wanted to do it at the right time and when I saw ‘Okkadu’, I said that this is the film we should do. Then of course, we were looking for the correct director and when Amit Sharma came on board, everything just sorted itself out.

What was it that Amit Sharma expected from you, to bring to your character Pintoo?
When Amit and I sat down, we made sure that we didn’t want to pitch my character like a hero. We had to pitch him like a regular boy who becomes a hero because of his journey and obstacles that he faces. We had to make him a boy next-door. We decided that through the whole film he should have a smile and warmth on his face. He needs to be so real that you emphathise with him when he goes through this journey in trying to save this girl.

Was it a difficult film to shoot for it’s been shot in real locations like Mathura?
It was difficult to shoot in Agra, Mathura and all the live locations but it just adds so much to the film that even when we started shooting, we didn’t worry about how difficult it’s going to be; you eventually only care about how the film is looking. Somewhere I think live locations bring a lot of believability to the audience and that for me is very important. The audience must believe in the world they’re watching, so Amit always wanted to shoot in live locations and I was more than game for it.

It must have also been challenging considering you went into shooting it, after moving in-and-out of three other films…
Honestly, at that point going from ‘Gunday’ to ‘Finding Fanny’ to ‘2 States’ to ‘Tevar’ was difficult because it was literally without any breaks. But that’s where you learn. As an actor you rely on your material and on the people you’re working with. You spend enough time with them and they bring out the best in you. I had to do those films back-to-back because I couldn’t dictate my dates at that point. But I think that was a very big learning curve for me, and it has made me a better actor. Playing a gangster from the 70s one day and an IIT student on the other, it’s not easy at all. But, nobody said this profession was easy. Not just the acting bit, but also, getting in and out of characters is difficult. It’s good fun though.

You’ll be completing three years in the industry…have you developed a process to go about your characters yet? How did you function for ‘Tevar’?
Every character and every director have their own way. I’ve realised that, you as an actor only have to be mouldable enough and prepared to be available to the director anytime on the set. Sometimes a film needs you to prepare well-in-advance and some just want you to be in the moment. For instance, ‘Ishaqzaade’ needed preparation because I don’t belong to the world at all. ‘Gunday’ needed a lot more spontaneity because it’s all about living in the moment with the whole heroism angle to it. ‘Tevar’ had a nice balance. I had to learn to play Kabaddi. While I played Kabaddi with the boys, I also understood their body language and stuff. I had to speak to Amit to understand what he expects out of the character. I also had to obviously understand the dialect and make it my own so it doesn’t look forced. So, I had to work on those little aspects.

A lot of actors say that after spending some time in the industry, one of the things they get evolved in, is the technical aspects. But, you’ve been well-versed with that, being an assistant director earlier. So how else have you evolved?
Yes, I was well-versed with the technicalities involved in a film, but what I’ve matured in, is to be able to be patient on the set. Listening to your director and understanding why the director wants so many shots in so many ways. Those things which are not technical, but more about the story telling and how a director works. Every director has a different style. Each director, film, character and co-actor is different, so you cannot be bound by the way you function. You have to be very open and adapt to the film and its people. It’s like getting into a new relationship every time you do a film. It’s not so much about the technicalities, but to be a people’s person on set and adapt to all sorts of people you interact with, while you’re making a film.

And along the way, have you also become less uninhibited with each film in terms of displaying emotions on camera?
It stems purely from how much do you listen to the director, and how much you understand a character. If you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, then the emotions flow. You need to find some sort of co-relation to what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be that Arjun believes in something, but if you understand why Parma (his character in ‘Ishaqzaade’) is doing what he is doing, then you submit yourself to the character and the emotions flow out much more naturally. As far as being uninhibited is concerned, I think every actor has to be uninhibited. If you are inhibited then you are in the wrong profession. Though, the degree of being uninhibited comes from what the director expects from you. It’s purely the material of the film which decides how much you have to explore yourself.  For example, a film like ‘2 States’ requires you to show inhibition and be slightly more controlled. I don’t laugh as I would laugh as Arjun in the film.

Does that mean you don’t really allow Arjun to seep into your characters?
I can theoretically talk about it, but practically there is going to be some residue of me in every character. It’s not possible because it’s eventually me playing it. There will be moments where you feel there’s a bit of me in a character. But then, Parma as character has nothing of me in it, on the other hand, in ‘2 States’ you would find it more. In ‘Gunday’ you cannot find it at all, because the character is from the 70s. In ‘Finding Fanny’, you might feel that this boy is like Arjun because of the body language. There are these small traits, which I cannot really pinpoint but people could. Having said that, I would hope and try that it’s not more than may be a flash or a fraction, because then you’re being dishonest with your character.

Photo credit: Zaheer Abbas
Do you look at your personal growth or learning, as one of the criterion while venturing into a film?
Of course! Because, you want to push yourself and play a character which you’ve not played before. You want to tell a story which is different. For example, in case of ‘Tevar’, I really liked that ‘ordinary boy in an extra-ordinary scenario’ angle. It’s not the typical boy-loves-girl kind of story. There’s no love story from the boy’s side, he’s just doing the right thing and that’s when the girl realises that he’s one of the boys who is just doing something without an agenda. I love that aspect of ‘Tevar’. So yes, as an actor you look for your own reasons to do a film and there can be so many different reasons. Sometimes you relate to a character, sometimes as a viewer you think it will be relatable.

You’ve been appreciated largely, but if there’s any criticism do you take that positively?
Absolutely, and you try and keep improving. Criticism from the paying audiences is more than welcomed because they’re paying money to come and watch your work. If it comes from an unbiased place, I’m more than happy to listen to it, and correct myself. In fact, that for me is very important. If it’s unbiased criticism coming for what I do in front of the camera, then it’s definitely welcomed. But, if it comes from the fact that I’m someone’s son, and I ought to do better because I have a certain surname, then that’s a bit bizarre. But, that thankfully hasn’t happened a lot with me. Criticism happens to the best of actors; you have to face it around, and try and find positives from it because I don’t think people are going to criticise you just for the heck of it. May be something is missing and you have to correct it.

So, wooing the audience is what you strive for?
I don’t ever want the audience to not be entertained. It doesn’t have to be that only I have to entertain them, but a film in its entirety has to be entertaining. The basic rule in India is that you keep the audience engaged only through entertainment, even if it’s a heavy film. Even if it’s a ‘Finding Fanny’, it has to be entertaining. The audience should not feel let down or bored. That would make me really sad.

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