Arjun Rampal: I was born a superstar, I want to be an actor

In a Facebook live with Film Companion, Arjun Rampal discusses how demonetization affected Rock On 2, his role in Kahaani 2 and his prep to play Arun Gawli.

Shah Rukh Khan recently told us that he takes a two hour-long bath to rinse himself off a film. Do you have a strategy like that? You’re diving from Rock On 2 straight into Kahaani 2.

No, my films are deeper than that. I don’t think a shower is going to take it out of my system. There’s a different experience with a Rock On 2, there’s a different experience with a Kahaani 2. Those are the experiences you want to share. I just did Rock On 2, and I thought, “How am I going to play Joe again?” It was 8 years ago. [But] I hung out with Farhan and Purab, we spoke about Rock On!! and in 3 to 4 days, Joe was back. I didn’t even know he was inside somewhere. So they don’t go away.

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By your own admission, Rock On 2 did not fare the way you wanted it to. Of course, demonetization did have a role to play, but in retrospect do you also feel that maybe it didn’t create the kind of magic that the first one did? Was it a forced sequel?

I think we didn’t get a chance to create any magic because a day prior to our release was when the demonetization happened. I couldn’t buy a coffee at the airport. I was flying back to Mumbai with Farhan & Shraddha [Kapoor]. I tried to buy myself a coffee and I couldn’t buy it. The 1000 rupee note was dead. Yes, it did shock us. It shocked the country. Nobody had money. If you had to prioritize and say “What do I go to watch?” “Do I go watch a movie or do I put food on my table?” It doesn’t even come in your top 10 priority list.

Time to move on to Kahaani 2. It’s a franchise film. It’s really popular. It’s got another big star as well. Does that at some level take the pressure off your shoulder? How does it help you as an actor to perform in a scenario like this?

On the contrary, it puts pressure on you. When you have a film which has been such a successful film, which has been loved. Sujoy was telling me that [in terms of] the ROI (Return on Investment), there’s Jai Santoshi Maa. That was number 1 in ROI on the budget compared to the money that it made, and number 2 is Kahaani. So there’s tremendous pressure. That’s great because I love to work under pressure. It keeps me on my toes, it keeps me alive and it keeps me from getting complacent. You don’t take things lightly, and you shouldn’t. As opposed to saying “Ah this is going to be a cake-walk, this is going to be easy”, and you land in the most boring and dull performance of your life.

It has been 15 years. There have been some good times, some not too good times, and a National Award in your kitty as well. What is it that didn’t let you become that larger-than-life superstar? Would you do anything differently?

I don’t want to be that. I want to be an actor. I am a superstar, I was born one. There’s nothing that excites me about that.

Actors always walk around with their entourage. Is that something you consciously stay away from? Why so?

Why would I want to do that? I want to reach out to people, I want to meet them. I play characters, I like to observe. If there’s a big bulky guy standing right in front of me, why block my sight? I want to meet my fans, I want to hug them, I want to touch them. Trust me, I’m strong enough to protect myself.

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You have been off the radar. I know you’ve been busy shooting some interesting projects that are coming up, but as an actor does it make you angsty when people aren’t talking about you? Is it important to be a topic of discussion?

Not at all. I feel relieved. Now it’s his/her turn! When I have something to say, I’m there. When I don’t have something to say, I’m not being rude. I’m not disconnecting or hating. I just don’t have anything to say.

After Kahaani 2 it’s going to be Daddy at the box office for you. You’ve pushed yourself to get the look right. You’re shooting close to 18 hours a day. So Arun Gawli is obviously not known for his looks, but for someone as good-looking as Arjun Rampal, does good looks come in the way? Is it a hazard sometimes?

I have no complaints about the way I look.

Neither do we, Arjun. Not at all.

My parents would be very upset (if I did). However I look, and whatever it is that people like on an external level, you got to thank my parents for it. Characters come from your heart. If you’re honest and real and sincere, then you will touch [people]. That’s the whole idea.

To watch FC’s live conversation with Arjun Rampal, click here.

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