He’s got the looks. and the acting chops. After his mint-cool turn as a sharpie in Om Shanti Om, he has busied himself in a variety of movies, be it a thriller or a rockudrama. A family man, he’s wary of private-speak, and usually avoids journos the way you’d avoid rasta food in the monsoon.
Yeah, it’s a job to get him started on a repartee spree.. but at long last he does. Arjun Rampal rocks on the charts with Khalid Mohamed.
Hello hello, dude, where have you been hiding?
You heard me, dude.
I was in Goa for quite a while, I’d almost become Goan.
Were you there for vindaloo and feni?
Oof, such typical images you have of Goa. I was there shooting for Fox, a thriller in which I’m playing a lawyer disillusioned by the legal system.
Are there any other kind? Are you disillusioned with the legal system yourself?
Yes, it’s in some state of shambles.. it takes too long to get justice, there are too many loopholes. You can’t sue anyone because you’re scared that you’ll be going up and down the courts for years and years.
Aha, whom would you like to sue?
You.. ha ha.
Innocent moi? Why?
Okay, okay, just kidding. A legal battle just isn’t worth one’s time and energy. I’ve seen this, up close and personal. My uncles and then my cousins have been criminal lawyers in the High Court in Jabalpur.
Ever seen a good-looking spiffy lawyer?
My cousins are very good-looking.
Do you think you’re good-looking?
That’s what I’ve been told.. and not only by my wife (Mehr Jessia)! In any case, I don’t hang around the mirror for hours.
Okay, so what are you doing in Rock On!!?
I’m Joe Mascarenhas, He’s very passionate about his band.. Magic. Farhan (Akhtar) is the lead singer and I’m the lead guitarist.
Why aren’t you the lead singer?
Because I can’t sing for peanuts even in the shower.
Can Farhan Akhtar?
Don’t be stingy, buy the CD, he sounds pretty good. Oof, now you’re just plugging the movie.
What made you sprout a moustache?
When I did, you threw a fit. That’s because it doesn’t suit you, it suits me. I think I’m looking quite Mexican with the mouche. Rock On!! spans two different phases. In the flashbacks, I don’t have one. I didn’t cut my hair, let the mouche grow for a couple of months, walked around the alleys of Bandra to see guys there hanging around in bermudas and Tees.
Does Mehr approve of the Mexican accessory?
Let’s say, she likes me better without a moustache.
This conversation is getting very moustachy. Now, tell me how much were you into or are into rock anyway. I’m a purist rock buff.. so be careful.
Aah, you trying to trip me or what? For me rock started with the king.. Elvis Presley. Pa (Amarjeet) was a huge Presley fan. There’d be much jiving to his songs at our home in Deolali.
Which is the first song you ever heard?
Hmmmm, hmmmm, is this a mental test?… hmmm, it must have been Blue suede shoes. And there was the King Creole album which Pa was especially fanatical about. Then with the teenage years, I moved on to the Beatles, the Doors, the Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zep and Bob Marley.
All very normal and safe rock. You never did Blue Oyster Cult, Grand Funk, Doobie Brothers, Two Quid Deal or Hawkwind?
Stop showing off. I’m as much into rock as you, dude. And bet you can’t play the guitar. For nearly two months, I learnt it from Chandresh of the group Dream Out Loud. Before this I’d wanted to learn drums at school in Kodaikanal, but I just got a leather pad to thwack two sticks on.. and believe I was playing Hotel California. Every rock lover has that turning point when he senses that rock equals freedom and life.
You sounding heavy duty, bro.
(Laughs) Need a tranquiliser or something? I guess mine was when I was in the 10th standard in school. I went for the Human Rights Concert in Delhi to see such rock stars as Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel and Sting. I jumped on to the stage and was nearly thrown out. I wanted to be like one of them out there.
Like Tracy Chapman?
She was there, too. No, that you could be. I wanted to be Sting who was so cool in kurta pajamas.
When you were modelling, did your taste in music change?
I suppose it started leaning towards alternative music.. deep house, progressive house. I was into deejaying, I loved that. Of late, with Rock On!! happening, my taste has turned to hearing Coldplay and Radiohead in my car. And I was blown by the videos of Rihanna.
Do you like hip hop?
I hate it. But I like Jay Z and some tracks by the Black Eyed Peas.
You were hanging out with Puff Diddy in New York.. so do-wah-dideefidee-yah-maan-daa-daa.
Shall I call the ambulance or what?Okay, so he’s cool man, he’s like a walking-talking jewellery store.
Buddy, you know what? Do you know what it means to have high-class rock taste?
The classics, yeah.. the ’70s stuff brilliant. (Laughs) Eric Clapton, tussi guitar god ho! I’ve not been into heavy metal though. I was into Guns N’ Roses big time but I couldn’t get into Metallica at all.
Does your rock movie blend any of these rock elements?
Absolutely. You’ll find a bit of Axl Rose in Farhan.. and there are tributes to Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Steve Vai.
Plugged into Indian rock bands ever?
Yup. Pentagram, Rock Machine and Dream Out Loud. But like it or not Bollywood music still rules. With Internet, the iPod culture and downloading though, I think our rock is on the verge of international recognition.
Is the audience ready for this kind of music and movie?
They’d better be. It’s cool stuff, different, and it connects with the young.
What after rocking?
Arre, I play a politician in Prakash Jha’s Rajniti.
Ever seen a good-looking politician?
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. You haven’t asked me anything about The Last Lear but let me tell you it really satisfied me as an actor.
How do you look back on Om Shanti Om now?
It opened up hazaar new avenues for me. Directors sat up and took notice of me. It got me sufficient mileage.. I’m not the sort to scream and shout about it.
How do I end this interview?
Hey genius, that’s easy. Just don’t ask me any more questions.