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Arjun Rampal: Film industry is not easy, grateful I am still here

In an interview to Cinestaan.com, the actor speaks about his upcoming release and surviving in the film industry for 15 years.

Keyur Seta

Arjun Rampal possesses something quite a few big names of mainstream Hindi cinema don’t. The actor won the National Award for his act in Rock On!! (2008). He would be reliving the memorable character of Joe in the film’s sequel, Rock On!! 2. In a friendly chat with Cinestaan.com, Rampal speaks out about the film and shares interesting info related to his choice of films. 

Rock On!! earned you a National Award. It gave you an identity as an artist. Do you feel more expectations from Rock On!! 2?
If there were no expectations, there would never be a sequel. It’s good that there are expectations. But expectations also bring pressure because it is a film which was very unique, different and the one that gave me a National Award. It opened up a lot of pre-conceived notions people carry about actors. It gave a big boost to everybody’s career. Also the film got a National Award. If a film had to have a dream run, Rock On!! had it. So the question is whether we can do it again. You can because you so loved the characters and backdrop of the film.  You go out there and give one more shot to live music, rock band and human stories. I thought Rock On!! would have a sequel much earlier. We tried doing that but we were not comfortable with the script and the story. It took eight years to get that story. The story for me in Rock On!! 2 is about gen X and gen y. 

How was it getting into the zone after eight years?
I thought it would be really, really difficult. But the minute I met them and after spending three days in Shillong with them, the zone just came to me like a wave. It’s a beautiful place to chill out. It’s the Rock capital of India. We went for an NH 7 concert while we were shooting. Joe was back into me but I had to be a different kind of a Joe. To play Joe differently while keeping him still in mind was the unique part of it. From what I am today, I would have been a different person eight years ago. Each experience changes you. How I look has changed. How I looked 20 years ago was completely different. 

What is Rock On!! 2 exactly about? Is it more about the band or something else?
Rock On!! 2 is more about a mission that needs to be done. Everybody must find their salvation, peace and themselves. It is about the gap that is in between gen X and gen Y. There is something that has transpired between these guys, which I cannot tell you. It kind of puts your demons to rest. It’s more linear. It’s not that each one has a different track. But each member has its own struggles. It’s a strong story with a good message. 

Rock On!! was directed by Abhishek Kapoor. The sequel is helmed by Shujaat Saudagar. Different directors do have different techniques. 
Shujaat has been a big fan of Rock On!! He loved it himself. When I had my first discussion with him, he just spoke about Joe and how much he loved my character in the movie. He was very hands on with each person as a character. Rock On!! 2 is a very different film. A wave comes over you when you play any character. You don’t realise it’s been living inside you. It’s like another kind of a creature that comes over you. It happened with me. But finally at the end of the day, it’s a different film. It’s a new film with a new mindset and director. Shujaat had to make sure he didn’t lose the characters from the first film but at the same time ensuring that they aren’t the same either. 

Has it been a conscious decision on your part to do lesser number of films?
Yes, it is conscious of course. Otherwise I would be working every single day and doing five films a year I am not happy with. I think quality control was very important for me. I got to a position in life where I could make those decisions; sometimes you cannot. I’s very unfortunate for any artist to just do films for a living as opposed to being able to sit and decide which films I would like to do and approach it in an honest and sincere manner. 

When did the realisation come across?
Oh, long time ago. In the 15 years that I have spent in the industry, I must have done around 35-38 films. These are not many films, as opposed to other actors. There are films where you heart is saying no but your mind is saying yes. And you choose films with your head, than your heart. Those films then turn out to bite you (laughs). It happens all the time. At least I choose my films with my heart and not with my head. 

But when you are producing a film, do you feel the need to choose it with your mind due to the box-office aspect?
I think any film has to be chosen from the heart’s perspective because it’s a creative process. A film chosen through heart will always be the one you would gain from it. Mind comes in after that. But at the end of the day, each film has its own destiny. 

You recently visited Siachen Glacier. How was the experience?
It was a life-changing experience. It was the first time I trekked. It was for a really good cause. I had to go and salute the soldiers. And what I really liked was that we were not going by a chopper and giving laddoos, garlands and taking selfies. We had to go how the soldiers go. It required climbing different summits and peaks before we could even start our journey towards Siachen. It was really, really fantastic. I would like to do it every year in Ladakh. I can’t go to Siachen every year because you need the permission from the army. We decided whatever money the show (in association with Eros Now) made would go to the war widows. The army said that it was very nice of us but the government takes good care of them. They said that since you have come, go and see how our jawans live and encourage them. 

You have been in the industry for 15 years. Has your relation with fellow artists changed with time?
They change by the weekend (laughs). Every Friday your relationship changes with the industry. No no, I am just joking (laughs). I think relationships change with your near and dear ones. So, obviously within the industry, different barometers and equations do happen. But finally we all are matured people. We all have to live. It’s a small industry. I am just grateful that I am still here after 15 years. It’s not an easy industry to survive in. I guess my stars must be good. 

What are your forthcoming films?
I have Kahaani 2, which is coming up soon. Then there is Daddy, based on Arun Gawli. And there is Aankhen 2, which I start shooting from January.