Arjun Kapoor: the actors are insecure; we constantly look for validation
Arjun Kapoor It has a great launch lined up - Ashutosh Gowariker Epic era Panipat - in which he plays Sadashivrao Bhau , the valiant sardar senapati (commander-in-chief) who led the Marathas in the Third Battle of Panipat, which took place in 1761. In a chat with BT, the actor spoke about the challenges that came along with this role, comparisons with Ranveer singh of Bajirao Mastani, facing Sanjay Dutt on screen and more. Excerpts
In his last interview with BT, he said he might not be as handsome as Hrithik Roshan or have a body like Tiger Shroff, but he is here to stay, as there is room for everyone, which is great. Are you happy with the space you've carved for yourself?
I am an unlikely hero; Not one of the pack. Bahut hoti hai comparative studies, but individuality is rarely accepted. The uniqueness is what made people accept me in the first place, because it wasn't like the other guys when I debuted with a movie like Ishaqzaade (2012). I played a role that a debuting actor is unlikely to play and I have worked hard for my place in the industry. Although the acting happened by chance, I love being an actor and I have never been disrespectful to my profession. Successes and failures are an integral part of the life of each actor. I can try to fit in and fail or be myself and eventually succeed. I prefer to be myself. Yeh profession aisa hai ke log kho jaate hai. Maine dekha hai logon ko badalte huey. I am happy to have survived eight years in the industry. I want to survive for 80 more years.
After Panipat’s trailer was launched, many wondered if you were an unconventional choice to play a Maharashtrian warrior. When Ashutosh Gowariker approached you, did you have any apprehensions?
I never doubted my ability to play the character, but Ashu sir wanted me to be bald for this role, and I was worried about that. I asked him if he was sure, since it was a great risk. Ek baar baal nikaldiye toh vapas jaldi ugney nahi wale (laughs). He suggested that we do an aspect test to relieve my discomfort. The actors are insecure; We constantly look for validation. Once we understand that, we forget about negativity and it helps us to do better. Ashu sir gave me that validation. Performance emotions are banta hai, and I knew I could deliver that, but a vintage movie is also based on the look. It has to seem authentic. Looking like a Maharashtrian is an aspect, but it looks like a Peshwa remove another. They looked and dressed a certain way and had a certain demeanour. I wasn't worried about getting the language right as I am from Mumbai and school mein main Marathi padh chuka hoon. The heavy costumes didn’t concern me either, but then Ashu sir told me, ‘You have to go bald for this one.’ I was like,! Oh! So, you are convinced that I can look like a Peshwa? ’He had done enough research and was convinced that I could play Sadashivrao Bhau. I was thrilled to play this part.
Was it intimidating to face Sanjay Dutt in the film? He has this larger-than-life persona on screen ...
Yes, the thought of facing Sanjay Dutt in the film was intimidating. I was nervous and excited. Sanju sir disarms you with his charm and normalcy. He has a larger-than-life personality, but he is a chilled-out guy. He is a man and a child at the same time. We spoke about so many things during the shoot. He called me home once to have a meal and told me he was happy that I was doing action films. Both Sanju sir and I lost our mothers before the release of our first film. Tragedy connects you in a unique way. We never spoke about it, but I have seen his biopic, Sanju, and I cried while watching it. When Kar Har Maidaan Fateh was playing, I realized that I am not the only one in this world who has had to deal with things. There is someone who has gone through worse.
Portraying a historical figure can be a difficult task for several reasons. What challenged you the most?
The armor he wore in the action sequences weighed around 18-20 kg. It took four people to help me use it and I had to ride a horse with that. In the movie, I really rode a horse and was trained by professionals for two months at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. I even learned to fight with swords. My experience in the film is the launch of spheres, so I learned the javelin throw. I woke up at 5.30 in the morning and rode on horseback at the Mahalaxmi racecourse at 6 in the morning. That was the most beautiful moment of my life. Never before have I felt so calm with an animal to the point of being able to connect and feel comfortable with it. I started to enjoy horse riding and we have used it extensively in the movie.
Comparison with Bajirao Mastani (2015) is inevitable as that too revolved around the Maratha Empire and the Peshwa s. People have drawn parallels between the two films even before the release of Panipat. We're anticipating this?
Aap apney kaam ko rok nahi sakte kyunki log compare karenge. Both the films are about the Maratha Empire and Peshwa s, so what are we supposed to do? We thought about the comparison, but how else will you retain authenticity? Should we not tell this story because Bajirao Mastani has already been made? It's unfair, right? Ranveer have done Bajirao Mastani, so I shouldn’t do Panipat? It’s like saying if Ranveer has played a cop in Simmba (2018), I shouldn’t play one in another film. Bajirao Mastani was a very well-made film, but Panipat is a different story, and it deserves to be told.
Ranveer set the high benchmark after Bajirao Mastani with the way he achieved that role. Did that play in your mind somewhere?
Ranveer playing Bajirao had no relationship with Ashu, sir, who chose me for this movie. In fact, after watching the trailer, Ranveer sent me a voice note that said: Sadashivrao bhauuuuuu (imitates Ranveer). He came and jumped on me the other day when he was bending; That is our camaraderie as friends. We are happy for each other. We don't compare ke isney yeh kiya toh main woh karunga. It is not as if he had played a student in 2 States (2014), he cannot do it later. That is our choice. We had a biographical film about Dhoni. Now, if we want to make a movie about Yuvraj Singh, it will be set in the same period of time, right? I donate ki story alag hai, but Yuvraj bhi ussi samay cricket khel raha tha. We can't do anything about it. If the cast of Yuvraj's movie is dressed the same way, you can't say woh Dhoni ke picture ko copy kar rahe hai.
There were memes about how in Panipat, Arjun plays Ranveer from Bajirao Mastani and Sanjay Dutt plays Ranveer of Padmaavat . Since you are active on social media, do you find these things fun?
We all crack jokes, but let's not forget the bigger picture. I am the first one to laugh at myself. I have done a roast, so nothing can beat that. But in Panipat, we are paying a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for our country. It’s fine to laugh as long as you don’t disrespect the sentiment behind the movie. While pitting one actor against the other, or to be the first one to crack a joke on a film, we tend to forget why a story is being told. It's important that we smile, but not make a mockery of the people this film is dedicated to.
A historical is obliged to be examined closely as it is based on real events. We have also been witnesses in the past, where the controversy surrounding a period drama made headlines and became national news. Did you have any fear for those reasons?
Ashu sir goes by the book. So far, no questions on authenticity have been raised. As far as the finer details are concerned, I trust my director and his research completely. Should the film hurt anyone’s sentiments, we would be the first ones to raise our hands and say that’s not our intention. In Panipat, we have depicted history as it was. Even if you see the song Mard Maratha, I am not dancing in it. Ashu sir has even measured the ghera shendi that I have sported in the film. He was in the van when I shaved my head and the ghera shendi was marked by him. The intent behind this film is honest.