Arjun Rampal is thrilled. "We knew we had made a good film but we hadn’t expected Raajneeti to do so well. It is an unconventional film but the response has been overwhelming," he exults.
Rampal plays Bheem in the modern-day Mahabharata and admits that for the character of Prithvi, he had studied a number of politicians, including Rahul Gandhi who also teams khadi kurtas with Reebok shoes, is super confident and walks at a fast pace.
“I’ve taken tips on how to walk right, stand right in front of an audience, and speak right when addressing them. I may have even picked up certain character traits from some politicians but I have not emulated anyone,” he asserts.
Today, Rampal is an expert on the subject of speeches. “You know why politicians take such long pauses between lines?” he asks. “It’s because they’re waiting for the echo of the loudspeakers and the noise of applause to die down before moving on. Of course, I couldn’t afford to take these long breaks because then the film would have run into four hours.”
Not trained for politics What would he do if he had to deliver a speech some day? Pat comes the answer, “I’d ask Prakash Jha to write it.” Does this mean that he is contemplating moving to real life raajneeti ? “Politics? No way am I interested in it! It’s a difficult and demanding job and I’m not trained for it. Raajneeti was just a role, I’m glad I played it convincingly,” he asserts, adding with a laugh, “After Rock On!! I was asked if I was going to be a rock star next, now it’s politics, thank God after Om Shanti Om they didn’t brand me a murderer.”
Rampal is thrilled by the response he’s been getting to his most recent performance: “It’s a high when in response to a dialogue like “Humen djanta keil se kaise nikaalenge (How can they remove me from the hearts of the people?),” they retort, “Prithvi bhaiyya, hum aapko hamare dil se nahin nikaal sakte. (Brother Prithvi, we can never let you out of our hearts).”
Prithvi has turned out to be the surprise package of the film given that the promos focussed primarily on the Ranbir Kapoor-Katrina Kaif love track? “There were some dialogue promos but the music company likes to promote songs and since most of them were in the background, the one shot on Ranbir and Katrina was played up,” Rampal reasons. “But the film still created enough curiosity about its ensemble cast to bring people to the theatres. The opening was huge, next only to 3 Idiots.”
Kapoor and Rampal bonded well, and the brotherly love has continued post the release. But there have been a lot of media reports about Nana Patekar, Naseeruddin Shah and even Ajay Devgn feeling short-changed by shorter roles and as a result, not being a part of the promotion leading up to the release.
Call to Nana
Rampal rubbishes the rumours saying that every role was justified and turned out to be exactly what had been scripted. Also, every actor and character contributed to the film’s super success.
“When we were in Hong Kong for a charity event, we called up Nana sir who was in Pune. All of us took turns to talk to him and update him on the audience response. And he was really excited. I’ve taken home positive relationships from the Raajneeti experience,” he reiterates. Rampal’s female fan following must have gone up too? With a laugh, he admits that’s true and that a lot of them were disappointed when he died.
He could always come back, in a flashback or in a ghostly guest appearance in the sequel? “I don’t think Raajneeti 2 is on. It took Jha six years to put this film together. It’s not easy getting together such a large cast and also 6,000-7,000 trained actors for the crowd scenes, who were put through workshops for at least six months prior to the shoot,” Rampal points out. “It would be difficult to recreate it. A Raajneeti can happen only once. But Jha and I have discussed another project. More on that next time.”