A tired Arjun Rampal walks into Prakash Jha’s office after a hard night’s work for Shah Rukh Khan’s superhero film, Ra.One, but makes sure he gets into the skin of a smart and witty politician, before he starts talking about his June 4 release, Raajneeti. In half an hour of animated conversation, the model-turned-actor talks about his character in the film, the Katrina Kaif – Sonia Gandhi controversy, life after the National Award and his other projects.
How did you get on board ‘Raajneeti’?
When director Prakash Jha came to me 4-5 years ago with the script of Raajneeti, he discussed the idea of making a modern day Mahabharata, by taking certain characters from the epic and putting them into the political backdrop of a film.
I found the idea very interesting, as especially because he wanted me to play the character of Bheem. We wondered what Bheem would be like if he had to be in a modern day situation?
What is your character in the film, Prithvi, like?
He’s a guy who has a really large heart; he’s super ambitious and aggressive. If he likes something, he loves it; if he dislikes something, he hates it completely. He’s also got a really good sense of politics. His only drawback is that he takes everything to heart.
Does your character have grey shades?
I don’t think any of the characters in Raajneeti have been defined as heroes or villains, as we see them in films. Prithvi does a lot of good things, a lot of bad things and some extremely noble things as well. So there’s no good and bad.
The nicest part of the whole film is that it is actually a campaign that is happening between two parties, which have been formed out of a split in a family. Who do you root for? The audience will be with one party and with another party at another time in the film. Hopefully they’ll go for Ranbir and my party!
Is there politics within the family?
The film is about what happens (in politics) behind closed doors. It has a very interesting screenplay and the way the film flows, it just keeps you on the edge of the seat. I would call the film a political – family – drama thriller.
Did you model your character on any real life politicians?
I observed young educated politicians like Sachin Pilot, Rahul Gandhi, the young Rajiv Gandhi and young Sanjay Gandhi. You see them (the politicians) to see how they move, and not to copy or emulate them.
It was nice to see that when politicians go campaigning, under the customary kurta pajama they wear Nike or Reebok sneakers!
What’s your take on the Katrina Kaif-Sonia Gandhi controversy?
Katrina Kaif’s character in the film is of an Indian girl from Bhopal who’s got nothing to do with politics but is inadvertently drawn into the plot. As far as mine and Katrina’s relationship in the film is concerned, we share a subtle but special relationship.
Are you happy with the way your career has shaped up over the past few years?
Yes. With films like Om Shanti Om, Don 2, The Last Lear, Rock On! and now Housefull, I have been able to do the kind of work that I would like to do and fortunately, the choices have been working.
Any particular type of characters you would like to play?
I am playing one currently in Ra.One. I don’t like safe roles; they are very boring and give you three expressions!
I am sporting a very different look (for Ra.One). It’s a very ambitious film and we are keeping our fingers crossed, as the film is huge in scale yet experimental. Shah Rukh Khan is very clear about his vision, and we all are working hard towards its. If it works out, it will be a path breaking film.
Any other films besides Ra.One?
There is the Stepmom remake with Kareena Kapoor and Kajol, where I play a husband, a lover and a father, who is torn between something sad that happens in the family.
After the National Award for ‘Rock On!’ has your thought process as an actor changed?
You do feel more confident and proud. But you don’t make films thinking awards, you make them because you love them and you are trying to do something different.
Any plans for a home production after ‘I See You’?
I want to do a film. Hopefully it will go to floors in December.