‘I was scared and sceptical because I was not brought up to raise my hand on a woman.’
‘So I didn’t think I would look convincing in a hand-to-hand combat with a woman.’
He is one of the best looking actors in Hindi cinema.
But to his credit, Arjun Rampal has moved beyond his looks, even his hero image, to surprise us in film after film.
He started his tryst with villainy 15 years ago, with Om Shanti Om in 2007. One has still not forgotten Mukesh Mehra, who nonchalantly walks away from a pregnant Shanti, leaving her to burn to death.
Evil has a new name now: Rudraveer.
Arjun’s character in Dhaakad is far more dangerous and cold-blooded, ruthlessly crushing every man, woman, child and animal who comes in his way, the arms and human trafficker taking him into depths he had never plumbed before.
Arjun tells Rediff.Com Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya, “I don’t want to be pinned down to an image. No actor would like to lose his gift of surprise. If he does, it will be a difficult place to crawl out from, you would end up getting stuck with an image more than being a character.”
It’s been a while since we saw such a dashing and eye-catching bad man in a Hindi film, one who made an immediate impact. So let’s start with the look in Dhaakad.
Yeah, that required quite a bit of work, but Razy (Razneesh Ghai) is a very visual director, and was clear about his characterisations, everyone’s looks, which made our life easier.
He wanted Rudraveer to look unique, so the tattoos were inspired by a tribe in the North-East, maybe Nagaland.
These men are warriors and every time they kill, they draw one little line on their neck, the lines increasing with every kill, till sometimes their entire body is a web of tattooed lines.
Since Rudraveer is a vicious man, worshipped by his followers as God, we decided to imbibe this tradition of deadly tattoos in my look to signify how many people this man had killed.
Actually, I have three distinct looks in the film, one is from Rudraveer’s youth, and two in the present day.
The platinum blonde look is very distinctive.
Full credit to Alim (hair stylist Alim Hakim) who has styled all the looks.
While discussing this, Razy asked me what we could do and I told him to leave it to me. I rushed over to Alim, who I think was quite fed up with me by then.
He asked me what I wanted, and I told him, ‘Let’s go blonde!’ to which he added, ‘Let’s go platinum blonde!’
The paps caught you as you stepped out of Alim’s salon and from that moment, the look went viral.
(Laughs) Yeah, many copied it and tagged me on Instagram; some looked cool, I’m sorry for the ones who went wrong.
Honestly, I didn’t anticipate such an overwhelming response and I had no idea the paps were out there or I would have worn a cap.
Unwittingly, I revealed my look and everyone was in shock.
One notices how comfortable you are with a gun in your hand. Does that have something to do with your army background?
Yes, my nanaji (maternal grandfather, Brigadier Gurdayal Singh) was in the army and designed the first artillery gun for the Indian Army post Independence, one that is still used.
But I didn’t grow up around guns.
Still, growing up, I did watch a lot of spaghetti Westerns and my friends and I would copy the way Clint Eastwood twirled the revolver while playing with our toy guns.
I’ve never gone on a shikar, but I have gone to shooting ranges for target practice because in my teens, my dad bought me an air gun.
I don’t own a gun now and I’m not necessarily fond of them.
But yeah, if there’s a gun around to play with, it’s still fascinating.
Holding a gun comes naturally, it feels like an extension of me, and that could be because of genetics, given that both my grandparents were in the army.
One Hindi film khalnayak which remains unforgettable is Om Shanti Om‘s Mukesh Mehra. Let’s flashback to that award-winning performance…
I was petrified and remember telling Shah Rukh (producer and lead actor Shah Rukh Khan) when I was offered the role, ‘Bro, I love the script, but I don’t know if I can play this character.’
When he asked me why not, I pointed out that everyone was going to go watch this movie, take their kids along, and I would be the only guy who couldn’t go with my children.
And what did Shah Rukh say?
He laughed and said, ‘Tu yeh picture khud ke liye kar le, there will be many more movies that you can do for your children.’
I’m glad for his advice because I eventually did the film despite being very scared and not knowing how it would turn out because this was the first time I was stepping into this zone.
The response was shocking and though the character was so not lovable, Mukesh Mehra got so much love.
And what was your first reaction to Rudraveer 15 years later?
Once again I was scared and sceptical because I was not brought up to raise my hand on a woman.
So I didn’t think I would look convincing in a hand-to-hand combat with a woman.
But there is this scene that Razy had written which sums up what Rudraveer is and when I read it, I realised that given how ruthless he is, he will crush anybody who came in his way, uncaring of whether it is a a man, woman, child or animal, the role would be a huge challenge for me as an actor.
One should not be scared of going against one’s image because then you compromise on your choice of characters.
Over the last decade, one has seen you in such a variety of roles — Chakravyuh, Inkaar, D-Day, Daddy, The Rapist and now Dhaakad that it’s getting almost impossible to pin you down to an image.
I’m really glad you are saying this because I don’t want to be pinned down to an image.
No actor would like to lose his gift of surprise.
If he does, it will be a difficult place to crawl out from, you would end up getting stuck with an image more than being a character.
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