All in the family

Bollywood buzz

All in the family

The year 2014 was extraordinary for Arjun Kapoor — a 100 crore blockbuster in 2 States, a hit in Gunday, and another memorable turn in Finding Fanny.

All these led to great expectations from his uncle Sanjay Kapoor’s production, Tevar, 2015’s first big release.

He’s an hour late for this film’s media meet and apologises in what he later tells us is in the “tradition of Salman Khan”. Arjun, a roly-poly production assistant and assistant director on many films like Salaam-E-Ishq and Wanted, he was encouraged by Salman Khan, the leading man of both the films, to become an actor. Today, Arjun likes the approval of the senior actor for every personal and professional move he makes, and tries to emulate his great qualities.

The Salman effect
All this comes out a bit later when we ask him if the “Main hoon Superman, Salman ka fan” song is a deliberate tribute to his icon. Says Arjun, “Salman ka fan is an introduction of my character — a boy from Agra, his friends and his world and his free-flowing nature. Let me tell you that when I was told that there would be an introductory song, I had thought that it would be a cool track without lip-sync, as my director Amit Sharma was a cool, young guy with 600 ads behind him. But when I heard the first line, ‘Ek baat bataa doon aap se / Nahin darta kisike baap se’, I was zapped, and then came the hook on Salman-sir! So I was immediately excited and asked, ‘When are we shooting?’”

Arjun adds that every galli (lane) in India is influenced by Salman. “My director too has done two ads with him,” he ruminates. “So I guess this line was organic, as even Sajid-Wajid, our composers, are close to Salman-sir. But I am happy that I did the song, because anything I do is my way of giving back for his belief in me.”

A related query: many heroes have tried to do the Salman kind of film, and now Arjun too tries it. His take on that? “I think Salman-sir or Shah Rukh Khan are way above their films. We can only be as good as our characters. But that does not mean that I will do one film like this every year. I do films that excite me, so after Tevar, I have still not signed any film, although I have done a lot of work since I started out in 2012 with Ishaqzaade.”
How does he see his extraordinarily good run in 2014? “Can I be absolutely honest? There is a lot of relief,” laughs Arjun. “If these films had flopped, Tevar would have been a problem for us.

I am often asked why I did not work earlier with my father (Boney Kapoor), who was also around for Tevar with my uncle Sanjay. That is because I wanted to work with dad only when I was an asset to him, not a liability. I know that dad is a hands-on yet flamboyant filmmaker and makes a certain lavish kind of cinema. Ask him for an Ambassador and he gives you a Mercedes. I knew the kind of money he will spend on Tevar and I did not want my standing in the market to be a burden and make him compromise on the product.”

Lessons learnt
One vital lesson Arjun learnt last year was to follow his heart and not go by people’s perception of him. “Everyone said that I was best suited for action after Ishaqzaade and Gunday, but my biggest hit is 2 States,” he smiles. “In fact, I am thrilled that people of all ages loved the film in these days of movies that are said to be only for the youth, only for the masses and so on!”

How was work on the sets in the familial atmosphere? “It was for the first time ever that I spent so much time with my father,” he reflects. “I was just 10 or 12 when my parents separated, so waking up early, having a meal with him before going on the sets and his being there all day was a phenomenal experience. From dad’s side too, though he had watched and liked me in my films, he had only seen the final product, but never seen me actually acting in front of him.”

With his father’s mainstream sensibility and his director’s claim that Tevar is not the standard masala film, how would he describe his film? “My father always makes entertaining cinema. What our director meant was this is not a frivolous film but has a certain graph. So, though the songs, comedy and other entertaining items may be there, as in, say, a Dabangg, there is also a definite story and real characters. It is not a dark drama, but not illogical either. It is not brainless, but has some brain and some heart.”

The film is a remake of the Telugu hit Okkadu. Have they made any changes for the pan-Indian audience? Arjun replies, “Yes, the principal one was that in the original, Mahesh Babu was the classic hero. Here, my character has been modified to an ordinary lad from Agra who is faced with an extraordinary situation — pitted against a huge don. But since he is a kabaddi player, there is a certain fighting spirit in him, though he first runs away from trouble.”

On screen chemistry
And why Sonakshi, who usually works with an older generation of actors? Smiles Arjun, “Do you know that she is younger than me? But she is already a major star with the kind of movies she has chosen. Sonakshi was my father’s and my unanimous choice when we decided to make the film. She has the vulnerability and the Indianness needed for a girl from Mathura, and our pairing too is fresh.”

In a raving mode, he carries on, “With the undemanding roles she has chosen till now, I had erroneously assumed that Sonakshi was not a hungry actor and was content with mere stardom. I could not be more wrong — she is a one-take natural actor who can cry on cue among other things. There are only a handful of such brilliant talents around, like Alia and her. Sonakshi is non-fussy and does not carry her stardom on her sleeve.”

Finally, since Tevar is a home production, has he been involved in any other aspect? “Yes, in the marketing decisions, like keeping the media interactions sufficiently early instead of the normal breakneck interviews just a week before release,” he smiles. “Also, though Binny and Ravi Padda have cut our trailers, I am thankful to them for letting me butt in and contribute my two bits worth. This way, my father and uncle could remain in the loop but take it easy because that load was being handled by me.”

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