A DATE WITH DADDY
Dashing, debonair and drool-worthy, this Daddy of Bollywood has had a terrific filmi career. From being the baddie to the Daddy of Bollywood, ARJUN RAMPAL has scaled new heights of success. A terrific screen presence and a charming persona have undoubtedl
What appeals to you when you give a nod to a movie. You have been an intense actor and your performances have packed a punch. Now you have co-written a film. How was the whole process like? For me, nothing is bigger than the story. That kind of draws me. What the story is about and what am I doing in it? How is it going to be made? Am I going to be in tune with these people? Can I live with them for six months? Will that work? And if the story isn’t good or not something that my heart really wants to do, then I don’t do it. How important do you think is a director in the whole process? What do you look for in a director before you start working with them? I always look for a rhythm in a director. Every director has their own rhythm. An idea about how things will be unfolding. So you know the way it works. You try to see what is new the director can pull out from me. First I ask the person who wants to cast me, why me? How do you see the character as me? Do you think Indian cinema has evolved? What do you think has caused the change if it has? There is a definite evolution. There are a lot of talented people around. In the evolution, a big part of it is your audience. As at the end of the day, it is them you are making the film for. They are the one’s who will decide the fate. It is a very amazing space. They are exposed these days to the best of the world on their mobile phones. You can’t do things like ripping off a Hollywood film, like they did in the ‘80s and ‘90s. We have got to find new and original things. It is going to be difficult for a lot of people and amazing for a lot of people. We are on a really good threshold.
What is your take on the whole system of reviewing a film? Do you think it affects the work of an actor?
I believe one shouldn’t read everyone’s reviews and take them seriously. You read the one’s who have credibility. Today everybody is a reviewer. There’s an audience review and a chaiwala’s review and a panwala’s review. But that’s just an opinion. On the other hand, a film critic is a person who understands cinema. A critic is a closet filmmaker who hasn’t gone out to make a film. And then there is a Box office critique who may say that this film would work in the multiplex, but may not work on single screens.
Biopics are the newest flavour. How is Arun Gawli’s biopic, different from the others?
I think it depends on how one approaches a biopic. Our approach is very unconventional. I wrote the script and sent it to Ashim Ahluwalia. We had worked earlier and wanted to work together but it wasn’t materializing. So when Ashim agreed, we started cowriting the movie. We decided the story wouldn’t be about this one guy. It would be about what Arun Gawli was doing when all of this was happening around him. You have a very non-biased film and you really don’t know who this man is and have to make your own opinion. And trust me, Gawli had a simply amazing life!
How do you manage to balance your professional and personal life?
When you do a film of this magnitude with this level of intensity, it definitely sucks you
I didn’t feel like being Arjun and wanted to be Arun Gawli.”
out of everything and gets you isolated. You don’t feel like going out and meeting anybody as you don’t feel like being Arjun and want to be Arun Gawli. My director Ashim was very clear that to do justice to the role, I had to be Gawli. I was meeting people from that world to get the elements right. Then I got the opportunity to meet the man himself. It was a golden moment when you have to absorb and observe.
You’ve been a part of B-town for quite some time. Do you still get the jitters before the release of a film?
Yes, of course, there is always anxiety. When you’ve spent so much time, effort and energy, you want the film to reach the people. You want it to be noticed and packaged in a way which is attractive for the audience to come and see. But that’s your Friday. After Friday, it’s your film. I think for me as an actor, for the last 16
years after Friday, whatever the outcome is, you just have to take it. There is no point in then getting too emotional about something. You should just let it go. As an actor, producer or writer, I’ve done my job. And whatever comes out of it is how the audience accepts it and their verdict is finally final. If you get 5 stars for the film, but the film doesn’t work at the Box office, it means nothing.
Tell us more about your experience of working in this film.
I feel a sense of real satisfaction after completing this film. Every department has excelled. Everyone has been pushed to the ‘t’. Thanks to my director Ashim and even me somewhere. The DoP is a young girl from Canada. She shot the whole film and Pankaj did some of it as well. Both of them were pushed to get the optimum result. Sajid-Wajid who have done the background score or the guys who do the effects. The VFX people have come to me and said stuff like you know how many layers of just muzzle fire the director wanted in a particular way. That level of detailing is incredible. 80% credit is to Ashim Ahluwalia and 20% to everybody else. His conviction to get into that level of detailing is really phenomenal. I haven’t worked with any filmmaker or director who has worked on that level of detailing. That’s what brings a huge satisfaction. That somewhere translates into your film as well.
The trailer of Daddy is really interesting. How did you prepare yourself for the biopic?
We had to research well. You don’t have much information about Arun Gawli and whatever is there, it isnt enough to make a movie. So I locked myself up in a hotel room for three months. And we started meeting people from Dagdi Chawl. People who were associated with him at some point in time, the ones who live there, I would pen them down. I not only spoke to the family but also the rivals. The process was to convince the family. It was a hard film for him and his family. And he said, ‘ Tu bata de na kya sachchai hai’. We also got the point of view of the police. And the incidences which matched, I knew they were the truth.
How has your journey and transition in Bollywood been?
It has been a great journey, something I wouldn’t trade for anything in this world. It has had ups and downs and taught me that you cannot take anything for granted and brings to you a sense of growth. This industry teaches you a lot about your own craft. You are never good enough. You should feel very grateful.
You have had your own share of hits and misses at the Box office. How do you deal with the criticism?
Criticism is inevitable. It is an opinion. When people criticize you, you kind of know that what you have delivered is not what they wanted. Also, when there is a massive disconnect between people working together, you know things are going to go wrong. If a film is made honestly, it can never go wrong. People might not go gaga over it but will always think that it was an honest effort. In the last eight or nine years, I think I’ve been quite lucky with my reviews. When you sometimes read the reviews, you take the positives from it.
Let’s rewind a bit, which has been your most memorable film or moment?
When I really started enjoying acting I think it would be Don. I am fond of Farhan Akhtar as we are very like-minded in different ways. I love the way he works. There was a shot when I was in the coffin and he was shooting it himself on camera. As I finished the shot, he had tears in his eyes. And for a fact, it is very difficult to make him cry. He said ‘wow’. It was a big thing for me. Also, when I did Om Shanti Om, there was the dialogue with Deepika ekchutkisindoor… and I was whispering to her. Farah said we don’t want Drango on the set! Make it loud. I thought, My God, she is going to make me overact. She just said, ‘Trust me’. There will be a lot more added to the scene. And when I saw the whole thing in totality, It was all looking good.
What is your day like when you aren’t working?
I usually watch something on TV or Amazon or spend as much time as I can with my kids. Or if I can afford it, I travel.
It been a great journey, something I wouldn’t trade for anything in this world.”
Glimpses from the movie Daddy