Arjun Kapoor says 'a fake wall' was built between audience and industry; Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar broke it
Arjun Kapoor, in an interview with Hindustan Times, talked about Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar being warmly received by the audience after its OTT release and why it is heartening.
Arjun Kapoor feels that the success of Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar on OTT is proof of the existence of a real audience that appreciates good films and performances. The actor’s portrayal of suspended police officer Satinder Dahiya aka Pinky is being hailed by many as his career-best.
Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, directed by Dibakar Banerjee and also starring Parineeti Chopra, got a compromised release in March owing to the coronavirus pandemic. After its release on Amazon Prime Video, the film witnessed a spike in its IMDb rating, with many taking to social media to shower praise on it.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Arjun said that he is happy that the audience caught on to the subtext and layers of Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar. “Perhaps we all thought that it was one of those opportunities lost where we could have connected with people but because of Covid and lockdown and circumstances, it wouldn’t happen. But the audience is better off today than they were many years back. They have been able to actually carve out this film from oblivion and give it the love and respect that perhaps it always deserved,” he said.
The release of Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar was pushed back a few times before it finally came out in theatres earlier this year. Though the Covid-19 situation played a role in the film’s box office run being cut short, Arjun has no regrets because the world was going through ‘so many bigger things’ and the situation was not in their control.
“So, you move on, you accept and say, ‘Okay, the film will find its course over the next few years.’ When the film came to theatres, again the pandemic was on the verge of happening, or a second wave as we call it. I didn’t regret the timing, I just accepted the fate of the film being such that it is going to be one of those that I will get spoken to or called up over the course of my years. It will be a niche and a certain bunch of people will perhaps enjoy it over the course of it coming on OTT,” he said.
“I never gave up on the film, I accepted the fate being smaller. It just kind of exploded. It is gratifying to know that our audience is pretty open. And this is the real audience. I think, for me, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar just speaks to you about how there is an actual audience to watch our films versus this fake audience that was being built for a year and a fake narrative that was being built about separating the industry from the audience. There was this fake wall that was being built to say that the audience doesn’t like the industry and there are issues and there is negativity. When a film like Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar comes out of oblivion and the film is appreciated for the film that it is and the work is appreciated for the work, devoid of terminologies and disrespect and negativity, you realise that our audience is very decent. The noise and the rubbish around this is noise at the end. And that is very heartening,” he added.
Although it took just 45 days to shoot for Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, the prep took much longer. Arjun said that the first month-and-a-half was just spent ‘talking’ with Dibakar and the dialect coach, and reading Hindi newspapers and school books. He then spent time with police officers in Delhi to understand how they would conduct themselves in certain environments and picked up further nuances of the dialect.
“Working on the backstory came in when we were living in Delhi. Every evening, we used to sit and make Pinky’s entire history, from when he was five years old, his relationship with his father and mother, did he play cricket, did he like to dance, was he academic… All the questions that needed to be answered to create Pinky in my mind, so I could hold on to it. Then we brought in Parineeti because Dibakar wanted us to do only five days of talking, he didn’t want us to meet very often. Just five days before shoot, we met and did readings. The talking about the scenes came in much later, it was more about creating the character first. That took three months,” he said.
Arjun also talked about the commentary on gender in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar. From being a rugged Haryanvi cop who does not flinch before hurting a woman physically, Pinky begins to show compassion and empathy as the film progresses. Talking about the impact this role had on him on a personal level, the actor said, “I would like to believe I am slightly more liberal than most people because I have grown up in an environment where I have had more women around me than men. The empathy and compassion towards the opposite sex was always there but with this film, I also understood why men behave the way they do in our country because of the continuous cultural badgering that is given to a man to believe that he is supposed to be a certain way because he is a man.”
“So, at a human level, and I am not saying that this makes it acceptable for men to do what they do, but there is a lack of education, in the correct manner, of how to be as a man. Being a man is not about when you can make money. For me, being a man is about how you can show emotion, empathy, compassion, understanding, and conduct yourself in a certain way that you treat people equally, that you are open to absorbing and evolving. Being masculine is not about ‘I am the breadwinner of the family’. It is perhaps the opposite, it is about being okay if your wife is the breadwinner. There is masculinity in that also. But we have been told, ‘Tum mard ho, tum jaake kaam karo, aurat khana banayegi (You are the man, go out and earn a living, the woman will cook),’” he added.
Arjun explained the thought that went behind his character, Pinky, being a fan of Salman Khan, with the trademark bracelet and Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai as his ringtone. “I think when you look at it, Salman Khan is such a big phenomenon in mass culture, and he has been for many years, since Maine Pyaar Kiya. Even if you look at his action films, from Wanted to Dabangg, it has just reinstated the fact that he has always had a huge fan following. Bhai’s cinema has been known to be something where there is that sense of entertainment, that 'machoism'. Pinky is a 'bracelet fan' because he likes to feel like this protector. He is a police officer; in his head, he would want to be like Chulbul (Pandey, Salman’s character in Dabangg). But he is nothing like Chulbul, because he is very different,” he said.
“The thought behind that was to show that in reality, you have a lot of Pinkys out there, who would be fans of Akshay Kumar, of Salman Khan, of all the big stars. But they sometimes only look at the visual quality of the star, but when you look at it, there is a human quality that the stars possess that sometimes people don’t lap up as much because they only look at the screen persona. Off screen, the human persona that all of them have is also there but a Pinky gets stuck looking at the physicality. But eventually, you realise that he has a certain compassion towards human beings also, much like these stars. So, I guess, in a cerebral sort way, Pinky starts off by being someone who is a Salman Khan fan on a physical level but there is a side that he has empathy and emotion because cinema also teaches you that from time to time,” he added.
Films could have been a catalyst in Pinky’s character development. “He must have seen enough films and somewhere, the dance, the feminine side, the acceptance, the way he treats women by the end of the film, the way he changes and adapts is also perhaps what his family couldn’t educate him but he learns by watching films. And I am not saying by watching only Salman Khan films or Akshay Kumar films, but films. Cinema also has a part to play in creating a physical perception and it also maybe plays in your internal perception. So, I quite liked how Dibakar sir based it in reality and I think he just wanted to have fun with the fact that the biggest mass hero in the country is Salman Khan, there is no denying that. It’s quite iconic to have that. It’s quite understood, you know, from the bracelet ki yeh toh Bhai ka fan hai (he is a fan of Bhai),” the actor said.
Arjun also reflected on his career, having recently completed nine years in the film industry, and said that there is nothing that he would do differently. “I wouldn’t change anything because these are the choices I made and at that point, I must have been feeling something to do the films that I did. I am a by-product of all those choices, some good and some not-so-good. I learnt a lot out of it, I am very practical that way. I understand where I need to work harder and I also accept that I have done really well for myself to be an independent person and make a career out of it. I know I am good at what I do. I am just glad that the audience accepted me when they did in Ishaqzaade,” he said.