With Dibakar Banerjee‘s Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar now being available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, Arjun Kapoor discussed the deeper nuances of the film, what went into the making of his character, Pinky, and his experience of working with the critically-acclaimed director.
Anupama Chopra (AC): I want to talk about Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, which is a film that I really loved. I don’t think, Arjun, you got enough applause for taking on the role of this Haryanvi cop, who in the climax is in drag. He is named Pinky, and is showing us what the possibilities of color pink are. We spoke to Dibakar, and he said that you just wanted to put yourself through the process. You had no illusions about how well or how badly that film would do. Did that film change you as an actor?
Arjun Kapoor: Of course. I chose it, and I did it knowing that the parameters or the barometers of success for that film might not be what the external forces might want. But for me, internally, that film is a huge success, because I got to work with a director, who [when entered this industry] was on my list to work with. He chose me, he broke me, he rebuilt me to become Pinky. The prep and the process to become Pinky was so fascinating. Dibakar spent so much time with me. We spent three months for the prep and only 45 days for shooting. To do the film with that climax — and he wrote the climax, and narrated it to me, and he still gave me a chance to walk away. And I took that as a challenge. I was like, you know what, my masculinity has been so extrovertedly put out there all the time that I felt that it was important to show, for myself also, that I don’t need to be insecure about being a man. You don’t always have to be a certain way. And I think Sandeep Aur Pinky dealt with that. It exactly deals with how masculinity is looked at in India, and how being a woman is looked at in a man’s world in India.
I know that the film will live on with a lot more people than I imagine, even though it had a fractured release, sadly due to covid, and the theatrical release being compromised. But I am still proud of it because I learnt a lot. I feel that it is a very layered film and it is a film that will stand the test of times. He is a fantastic filmmaker, and I love the fact that it is Sandeep’s story, and Pinky is just flowing in it. I don’t know why it attracted me. Pinky is not the emotional crust. But there was something very unique about playing a character that is subdued and calm with a storm-brooding-within.
AC: And also very sensitive. I mean the whole scene when Sandeep loses her baby and what you do… I mean, you don’t see that too often in Hindi cinema. So it was just wonderful.
AK: It was fantastic, because even Pinky does not know he is that sensitive until that happens. Dibakar and I built a whole backstory to this guy — why is he suspended, who his mother is, who his father was, what happened between him and the Jaydeep’s character… There is a beautiful story me and him created sitting down and talking for hours in that dialect. Dibakar is such a linguist, he can talk exactly like Pinky. Pinky is a reference point to how Dibakar talks to me in real. He built this character from ground up with me. So in that moment [during the scene], if you can see that vulnerability, it is not because he wants to be. It is because at some point as a child, he was. And it comes through in that moment because he sees the reflection of his father, who has told him to not to be this way. Eventually, when he is in front of a woman, that rawness of feeling vulnerable comes through.
[It was a] Very fascinating time to learn from Dibakar and to spend time doing a film completely off the expected. It gave me joy. At one point, you do feel down about the fact that should you be [doing what clicks for you], or should you just stick to going out there and doing the ‘entertainers,’ as they call it. But there is a big part of me that gets excited by these kinds of films, whether it is Finding Fanny, or it is Aurangzeb. There is a keeda inside me to do off. I like going off. It is very exciting to me, and I keep being told ‘No no, you go this way, you go this way’ but it is like suno sabki karo apni (Listen to everyone, but do your own thing). Dibakar’s film is karo apni film waali film.