In a profession like ours, how you survive failure defines you: Arjun Kapoor
Actor Arjun Kapoor says regardless of success and failure, one has to still follow his/her instincts; adds he is happy that he can “wait, watch and choose” now.bollywood Updated: Sep 11, 2017 18:30 IST
It has just been five years since he made his big Bollywood debut (with Ishaqzaade), and Arjun Kapoor’s professional as well as personal life (when he lost his mother Mona Kapoor) has seen a few ups-and-downs but the actor is ready for a fight. “Sometimes, success and failure aren’t the only things that can teach you in life,” says Arjun, who is on a high after three back-to-back successful films – Ki & Ka, Half Girlfriend and Mubarakan.
At this point, are you more relieved, happy, content or feeling pressured to deliver more?
Of course, I feel happy and more so because I am used to taking up one film at a time. And that’s most important as you can’t be like, ‘I want to give 5-6 hits together.’ You have to take each film on its merit; and try and do your best as an actor to make sure – to whatever degree you can – that it’s a successful film. Also, at a young career level like mine, with each film, you want to build your fan base. So I feel happy that I am connecting with new audiences and reaching more people with every film. I am not just doing a particular kind of film and catering to one sensibility. I don’t feel pressured because each film is unique and you need to have realistic expectations for every film. So, pressure nahi hai, excitement hai.
You have also been experimenting intelligently but subtly with your film choices?
In the beginning, everything seems exciting because you haven’t that many films, so everything is new. But slowly, you also start looking for the excitement in the material as what you have done in the past that doesn’t excite you. For instance, with Ki & Ka, the excitement was to do a slightly different rom-com because 2 States had a very real take. As for Mubarakan, I wanted to do a film in my filmography that I have grown up watching; all those Govinda, Anees Bazmee and David Dhawan films. So, while there are some internal and personal choices, you also want to push yourself and do different stuff but you need to keep your audience in mind. So, the awareness has come with every passing film.
When films like Aurangzeb or Tevar don’t do well, is there a temptation to go for tried-and-tested things?
I feel your failures teach you more than your success. In a profession like ours, how you survive failure defines you. And you can’t let your conviction shake. Regardless of how much money films make, the way you select material can’t change just because you have seen success or failure. You have to still follow your instinct. If I get excited reading something, then I don’t look at how safe and unsafe it is. I still try and retain that simple thought so I have not let success or failure change the way I agree to do films. And I don’t think you should let that happen because film-making is like gambling. There are a lot of external factors that contribute to success and failures so, you can’t control the fate always but your excitement should be consistent.
You have been a part of this industry for a while, so can we say that you are in a good space now?
When I started off, I had no idea what I was doing. So, in that sense, my best foot did not come forward even during my interactions. Back then, I was still figuring myself out again as it was a rebirth of sorts for me, and I had to sort myself out. I was going through the worst phase of my life. So, I had to reassess myself, and learn how to put myself across, and that took me some time. I think I was always a sorted kid. Now too, I am pretty much the same person but I am able to articulate better, am more relaxed and calm.
Being a producer’s (Boney Kapoor) son, do you feel happy that with the last three films you got the producers’ money back?
Absolutely! I feel immensely proud because I feel business and art go hand-in-hand as far as film-making in concerned. A lot of people invest [their money] into your vision, perspective and faith with the belief that an actor, director and the team will make a good film which will at least recover [their money]. My simple belief is that if a producer has invested Rs 10, even in the worst case, they should get at least Rs 11 back and the journey should be enjoyable. I am very happy that in my last three films, makers got their money’s worth and more because I have seen my father fulfil people’s visions. An actor owes that to his producer; they should safeguard the producer. A lot of people tend to forget that amid creative indulgence. I believe you must indulge as creatively as possible but also keep at the back of your mind that you are indulging in somebody else’s money.
You went through a rough patch after Tevar. How difficult was it to pull yourself out of it?
I think the best thing that you can always do is to just work. At the point when I was finishing Tevar, I had done six back-to-back films. So, I didn’t sign another film immediately and that gave me too much time to procrastinate. Finally, when I did Ki & Ka, I was happy being on the set so, I realised that at the end of the day, I want to keep working. I don’t want to sit idle and think [a lot]. Though you dwell on and understand certain things [when not working], but you don’t want to go into a shell. I don’t want to become a person, who tries and find out each and every reason why a film did or didn’t work. But then I became a little bullish again as I was like, ‘Picture chali ya nahi, aage badho.’ So, the mistake that happened during Tevar was that I wasn’t working on another film so I had too much time to think about what people are saying and feeling. It might work for others but for me, it’s best to be on your toes. Otherwise, my mind can be my biggest enemy.
Would you call that period the most challenging one?
Not really. In retrospect, that was also important for me to learn whatever I had to learn. I look at that as a positive in my life because I feel I have experienced far more than what a lot of people have in their [entire] careers. In the last five years, I have experienced highs-and-lows very drastically and sharply. So, I have understood my highs and lows and I don’t live in denial. I have been through far worse situations in my life. I am not comparing my journey to others but I have seen enough highs and lows in life – personally so professionally – to be capable enough to handle things. What can be more worse than having your debut film readying for release and then losing your parent at that point. To see that kind of success in your first film but still feel a vacuum, so nothing can ever touch that. In comparison, hits and flops; and highs-and-lows happen but that emotion is like having your backbone broken but being asked to stand up immediately. Kuch cheezein aisi hoti hai that teach you far more in life than just the success and failure of a film.
You and your contemporaries are just around five years old in the industry. In that sense, do you feel that the criticism is a bit harsh on all of you?
Not only me, there has been a lot of pressure on our entire generation to consistently deliver with the new benchmark of success being Rs 100 crore, which has become a big burden on films. For films to make Rs 100 crore is not easy, and it can’t be expected from you all the time. There is an unnecessary pressure nowadays because nowadays ghar ghar mein log box office figures jaante hai. Within five years [of our careers], to start a comparative study and a race akin to horses makes it difficult for us to explain that we are not competing with everybody and are only trying to create our own place. If anyone is coming into this profession to try and outdo others, he is going to fail. Nobody, who is successful, is trying to outdo others. Give us some time to generate our own foundations; unnecessary comparisons create misconception.
Talking of contemporaries, do you keep a track of what they are up to?
Of course, I am fully aware. I am an industry kid. So, I get excited about every film being made and every script being written, I like to be in the know-how and that’s my personality. But that doesn’t mean I look at it from a negative point of view. I try and see it as an observer and someone who loves the film industry. I love the process of making films so I got excited to know that Varun Dhawan is working with Shoojit Sircar and that it will be so interesting to see a Sharat Katariya do a film with Varun and Anushka Sharma. For me, what’s very relevant is that we should all be excited for each other. Eventually though, I have a simple philosophy, ‘sabki chale apni thodi zyada chale (smiles)’ but excitement honi chaiye. If better films are made and they do well, it will benefit everybody as it will create more directors, more content, more studios, more actors, and everything else.
You will work with Dibakar Banerjee for the first time in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar. You must be kicked?
I am very kicked about it. Honestly, Dibakar was always on my wish-list of directors. When I signed with Aditya Chopra’s company, he asked me to make a list of ten directors I would want to work with and Dibakar was one of those names. I feel he is a supremely talented film maker when it comes to performances, the craft and pushing the envelope. Working with Parineeti (Chopra) again is also exciting, and the title itself got me so much reaction. It will be a difficult journey but that’s the beauty of it. I knew I will push myself beyond my limitations but it’s a challenge I was looking forward to.
Are you a bit more careful about your film choices now?
There is no such thought in my head; so, if I get offered an action film today, I might jump at it as I have not done it for a while. It depends on what gets offered to me. Everybody is picky and choosy, but it depends upon what phase of your life you are in. I don’t want to stick to just one genre. For me, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is exciting and so is Namastey Canada. I feel happy about the fact that I can wait, watch, choose and go ahead but only if I am 100 percent excited and not even 99 percent.
You are officially single. Don’t you want to change that status?
Whenever I say anything, something completely opposite happens. This time, let’s wait and see what happens. In the next interview, I can hopefully give you an answer. At that time (during the last interview), I wanted to be in a relationship but not now. There are days where I feel I am ready and there are days where I feel I am not. I don’t know how ready I am as it keeps fluctuating. I give my professional life too much importance and base everything around it. I have got used to living that way, so I don’t know, but I would like to believe there are good things in store for me. I have to be patient.
But you keep getting linked to a few names?
By now, I know that name-droppings are part and parcel of the game. Everything is speculated but sometimes, things are worth clarifying and sometimes not. When I find somebody, you will be able to see it on my face. I am that kind of a person (smiles).
In 2010, Varun Dhawan directed you in a short film, White Mountain. When are you working again under his direction?
Never. I have tried to delete a few things from my system but unfortunately, this is one thing that doesn’t get deleted. Habib Faisal is my first director and not Varun and I don’t want to change that (laughs). I think Varun and I should do a film together and that will be far more exciting but [we shouldn’t work] as an actor-director.
What about your performance in that film?
I am as good as my director (laughs). On top of that Varun conned me and took all the limelight. So, from my first film itself, I was not insecure. I let Varun direct me and look what he did to me (laughs). I am still not insecure, I am Mr Dependable.
You two can actually make a series starting with Black Mountain…
Let him first get a script and then we will see (laughs). Now, we should start with hills. Actually, forget hills, we should start with flat lines (laughs).
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