He’s Mr Glow. The year has seen a reversal in his fortunes, he’s been saluted as a market-strong star and as a sensitive actor who’ll be up for awards for his performances as an Eric Clapton-like guitarist on the skids in
and as the retentive film director in
The Last Lear.
Often described as Bollywood’s most classically good-looking actor, he turns 36 today. And so here’s a chocolate cake, freshly brewed coffee and some laughs with Arjun Rampal.. salgirah bumps given by
He’s neither an interviewer’s delight or a nightmare. He’s real, to the point and at the end of the speedy q and a, you actually return wearing a broad grin. The cab driver thinks you’re nuts, smiling to yourself, but then they always do.
A fact that no one knows about him is that endearingly he’s called Arjuna (I try that but he pretends not to hear).
Another fact that no one knows about him is that he once offered me crocodile meat from South Africa to eat for dinner. The effect of that Crocoburger on my taste buds lingers.. with mixed tingles.
And one more fact that no one knows about him is that he’s manically punctual. At shoots, he’ll knock hard on the director’s hotel suite and scream, “Room service!,” to get the unit to the location at the appointed hour. A helpful actor on the sets, any director will tell you, is as rare as snowfall in Mumbai. Anyway, I’m meeting Arjun Rampal after the Rock On!! exclamations made it big, and so there I am wondering:
You feeling older and um.. wiser today?
I’m wiser for SURE. I’m fitter, I’m going to quit smoking for sure any day now. I play a lot with my kids.. they’re getting to be quite a handful. I’m into yoga, gymming, tennis..
Pardon. Like everyone says it’s a necessity.
So if you were on a deserted island you’d kill yourself?
Hey man, those days have gone.. there are no deserted islands in the world any more..where’s the space?
Alright, alright. Are you glowing because of success?
(Laughs) Hey, you glow after you cross 35 anyway. But yeah, commercial acceptance does make a world of a difference. I’m less stressed, happier. Om Shanti Om was the turning point.. before that Don helped me to an extent. But OSO was the big one.
You weren’t queasy about playing a bad guy?
Queasy weasy, I don’t know.. but yes I was a bit apprehensive, I thought it was a career risk. But then Shah Rukh (Khan) and Farah (Khan) spoke to me about the role in detail. Shah Rukh pointed out that the role had a tremendous amount of scope for an actor. It was up to me to make the most of it.
Hadn’t Vivek Oberoi been offered the role?
No, that’s not true. I was the first choice. I asked Farah about this and she said that no other actor had been offered the role.
For Rock On!!, were you offered the part of Joe Mascarenhas.. or was it another role?
I read the script for the role of Joe Mascarenhas. He’s an artiste whom an actor can identify with because both are in the creative field..both go through the ups and downs of emotions..
You have become wiser Arjuna!
Quiet! Let me finish. The Joe Mascarenhas part was an instant grabber. It was like the Bono quote, Bono of U2 you know..I know. In fact, Bono wanted a Hindi translation from me for the quote which goes, “Empty rooms with broken hearts and windows are how artistes end up.”
Now, how did you get connected to Bono?
Through his website.. he wanted me to be part of it and I am. He wants to attract talent from all over the world.. in music, cinema, theatre and painting.
I got connected to Bono through Nelly Hooper, he’s a music producer, he did Baz Luhrmann’s soundtrack for Romeo and Juliet.
And.. er.. how did you get connected with Nelly?
You ask too many questions baba.. like my daughters. Okay, it was through another person. I met him at Vikram Chatwal’s wedding in Jodhpur. We hit it off right away.
Funny! I hit it off, I said. Off as in off.
Could you have done a Dostana?
Which role would you have chosen?
Priyanka Chopra’s for sure. Haaaaaaa!
Haaaaaa! If you were to look at any other woman would your wife (Mehr Jessia) kill you?
Yeah, she would.. with just one deadly look. But naaah, she’s a sweetheart.
Now tell, ages ago weren’t you planning to get married to Malini Ramani?
In any relationship, I instantly think of marriage. And this didn’t work out.
I guess you can say that. But please, why ask me such questions?
Because no one else does. Okay, you’ve been partying on and off..who are the friends you like to hang out with? That’s a list.
So tell me.
Shah Rukh and Gauri (Khan), Farhan Akhtar, Farah Khan, Karan Johar, Hrithik and Sussanne Roshan, Chunky and Bhavna Panday, Putlu (Kajal Anand), Sangeeta Chopra, Ashok Mehta, Rajiv Rai.
Of course, of course, always, don’t want you sulking yaaa.
Thanks. Okay, at parties you seem to be really good at handling the music console.
You bet! I’m a closet deejay.
And yikes.. what did you think of your new film EMI?
Remember, it’s my birthday today.
Arjuna.. tell me..
Arjuna! Familiar, familiar you’re getting.
Okay Mr Rampal, tell me any plans up your sleeve?
Right now, I’m gearing up to open my restaurant-cum-club lounge in Delhi’s Malcha Marg. Depending on my interior decorator’s speed, it should open in February.
Hmm.. where were you on your 26th birthday?
I got married when I was 25. On my 26th birthday, Mehr threw a party for me at Indigo. It rocked.
On your 16th birthday?
Oh that’s when I was sweet 16! I felt all grown-up, I was passing out of school then, a bunch of us friends must have got together that day.
On your sixth birthday?
In Deolali. Mom would organise these treasure hunts for the kids, cakes and sweets. My friends Ruzbeh and Sonu were there.. we’re still in touch though Ruzbeh is migrating to Canada and Sonu’s in Orlando.
What’s happening on your 36th?
It’ll be a very quiet, simple dinner. And let me tell you, that has nothing to do with the recession.