Despite being the son of a major producer and getting early opportunities to work in the industry, life has not been a smooth sail for Arjun Kapoor.
From weight issues to dynamics with his family, Arjun has overcome all personal and professional tribulations with strength and sincerity.
Regardless, one cannot admire and respect how the actor has matured over time.
As such, it seems as though this maturity could’ve helped him to essay the role of an officer in India’s Most Wanted, his next Bollywood outing.
A film without a female protagonist, it showcases five unlikely heroes who embark on a dangerous covert operation to capture one of India’s deadliest terrorists.
In a special interview with Filme Shilmy, Arjun Kapoor talks about his upcoming film India’s Most Wanted, the rise patriotic cinema and life lessons he has learnt.
The year 2019 sees you playing strong characters in India’s Most Wanted, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar and Panipat. Has this always been the direction you intended your career to take?
Well, I can’t say that I planned it.
However, I’ve always been open enough to accept when things come my way and try different things.
I guess it’s an amalgamation of being fluid and working hard towards achieving a position to when I can ‘choose’ projects and decide when to say yes to them.
We have seen several Zero Dark Thirty-style of films in Bollywood like D-Day and Uri. What sets this apart from the rest?
Firstly, I wouldn’t compare it to Hollywood because the dynamics of chasing a real-time terrorist in India and outside is different for the Indian agencies.
From the starting, it’s a very rooted, middle-class story about Indian officers.
The emotional play is very different for us to be watching it as Indians knowing that these are the people who are unsung heroes and underdogs who protect us, yet we still can’t give them credit.
If you look at Zero Dark Thirty it sort of deals with the army and military combined and everybody coming together.
But this film is about these five people who just go straight in to nab the criminal.
It’s likely more straight, simple and emotionally consuming rather than it being more about the patriotism and the whole holistic angle of terrorism.
It is more human.
You play quite a discreet and regular officer. How did you get into the skin of the character?
I just spent time with Raj sir (the director) to understand what he expects out of me and then he helped me by meeting certain officers.
Subsequently, those officers educated me and I studied them.
Hiding in plain sight is very important for them, so they have to be as regular as possible.
At that point, you realise that they believe in stealth modular, the intelligence bureau is about intelligence. It is not about the physicality, but the mental aspect.
How they investigate and interrogate and interact with their informers, there is a lot of detail and fine-tuning that goes into it.
They also tend to play good cop rather than a bad cop.
Ultimately, the violence is never the first, but the last option.
They have to reach that stage where there is no other choice but to raise their hands.
Director Raj Kumar Gupta has a lot of faith in you as an actor. What was the camaraderie like between you and him?
I had an amazing time working with him, we’ve been wanting to work together for a long time.
It’s been one of those situations where conversations have converted into actions.
I genuinely feel that he is a fantastic director and I wanted to work with someone like him at the right point in my career.
That time is now.
It’s been fun to work with him as he is collaborative. He is like a child on set and enjoys his craft.
He is very clear the way he shoots and is collaborative in all aspects, not just acting.
There is a rise in patriotic movies in Bollywood. How do you feel India’s Most Wanted contributes to this preference of cinema?
In my view, the trend stems from audiences always.
I don’t think it’s a trend that we’ve created it happens through the audience liking certain kind of films.
But when I started this movie, the political environment and the films that released were completely different.
So it sort of just fell into a situation where it seems like many are coming back-to-back but I think it there has just been an under-layer in the lack of patriotic films for a while.
It just seems like they are coming one after the other but ours is slightly more of a grassroots and hands-on film.
It is not about ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ of how we say, but what we do for the country.
In that sense, our film is a bit more non-jingoistic.
You’ve come a long way since Ishaqzaade days. What are the key lessons you’ve learnt not only as an actor but as a person?
As a person, I learn every day so there’s no end to it.
You don’t even realise that each day teaches you something new and extraordinary.
More importantly, I’ve learnt about how to be humble when you’re successful and not to take failure to heart.
This industry is a roller coaster, so as a person you need to be prepared for both sides of the same coin… The good and the bad.
I’ve also learnt to be thick-skinned and enjoy the negativity with a smile and take in the positivity with a pinch of salt – not succumb to the hype all the time.
You even fearlessly respond to trolls on social media…
If I feel a statement is below the belt, I just give it back in the way I best see as fit.
I don’t try and over-analyse it.
I genuinely try and be impulsive for the right reasons.
It’s not about getting attention, but just making sure that other people learn and are able to call others out when they offend you.
You don’t need to be afraid to call out somebody.
When there are millions of silly trolls, you ignore them. When there is someone who hit below the belt, you must protect yourself.
I don’t react to everything, it’s only once in a while.
I feel that you cannot overthink these things. If something bothers you, then you must react to it.
Eventually, you get thick-skinned so you don’t react to most of it.
Listen to our interview with Arjun Kapoor here:
As a public figure, how do you deal with your personal life constantly coming into the limelight?
I’m okay with it as I am not the first and certainly not the last (laughs).
I can’t give myself that much importance and say “why are they doing this to me, why can’t they live me alone?”
They (the media) are not going to leave me alone.
If they do leave me alone, it’s detrimental in fact. That is a sign that they don’t want to see me anymore.
Unfortunately, as it is, you pay a price when you become an actor.
Your personal life is no longer yours anymore.
Do you feel is justifiable for the media to know about what happens in your personal life?
I can’t stop them in this digital age.
They can follow me through the cameras, paparazzi and speculations. It’s a small world today.
It’s not about whether it is ‘justifiable’ or not or whether it is about anybody’s business.
Today, when you’re a public commodity, you will be consumed on a regular basis.
If you don’t wish to have that, then you’re in the wrong profession.
I’d rather just be relaxed about it.
I have kept my dignity intact and the media has been respectful as they’ve kept their distance, to a certain extent which is nice.
Life hasn’t been particularly easy for you. What keeps you motivated in overcoming these hurdles?
I think the fact that I’ve seen so much that nobody can actually affect me anymore.
I can survive everything and that’s what keeps me going.
Generally, I am not scared, worried or bothered.
Having said that, there are of course moments of insecurity, feeling and scared about ‘what will happen’ because ultimately, I am human.
But in the bigger picture, I’m not leading an insecure life.
I’m secure, I believe in myself.
I made it when nobody believed in me and have continued to survive despite people not believing in me.
I know I am decent at my craft.
Also, I know that my Friday is not my life. It is a part of my life and it’s very important to know that.
It is a deciding factor of many things, but it doesn’t dictate my life, per se.
India’s Most Wanted releases in cinemas worldwide on 24th May.