MUMBAI May 16 It's been just over a year since Arjun Kapoor made his acting debut in Bollywood and the star kid who impressed critics in "Ishaqzaade" is working doubly hard in his new film.
The 27-year-old actor, nephew of Bollywood star Anil Kapoor, plays a double role in "Aurangzeb" - a crime thriller that opens in cinemas on Friday.
Kapoor spoke to Reuters on being compared to Amitabh Bachchan's son, how Bollywood has changed his life in a year and why he doesn't think cinema promotes rape.
Q: How was it playing a double role so early in your career?
A: It was the coolest thing to get it so early in you career, when you don't even know what your capabilities are. You grow up watching films like these and wonder when you'll get to play a role like that. It's the eternal (Martin) Scorsese, old-school Yash Raj (Chopra) with Ram Gopal Varma. It has so many elements to it. I jumped at the chance. It's the coolest thing to get to slap yourself when there is nobody in front of you. The double role is there for a reason - it's not frivolous or there for a commercial reason.
Q: You mentioned Yash Raj and Scorsese. Is the film inspired by these film-makers and their work?
A: What happens with us is that we always look for referencing, when we see a film or a promo or even a human being. I was constantly being told that you look like Abhishek Bachchan.
Q: Was it annoying to be constantly compared to him?
A: No, it was not, because it was a very myopic view. Because he had worn a ganji (vest) in "Yuva" and I wore something similar in "Ishaqzaade". When you see Aurangzeb's trailer, you want to co-relate it to "The Departed" or "Infernal Affairs" or "Don" because that's what comes to our mind when we think of identical faces. It's a very myopic way of looking at a film or a person. Thankfully today, a year later, nobody asks me how it feels to look like Abhishek Bachchan.
I don't find it as a bad thing that people are referencing "Aurangzeb" to something - that means we have made something that people already have an awareness for and are connecting with. The intrigue is created … it's a very modern-day interpretation of that world. We believe that the underworld has evolved into having a political nexus in Gurgaon. If you read the papers, you will see that there is land-grabbing and that farmers are being robbed of their land at a pittance, which is sold to corporates for big money.
Q: What has changed in the last one year since "Ishaqzaade" released?
A: Wow, it'll be a year. A lot has changed around me. I have not changed so much, if that makes any kind of sense.
Q: What's changed?
A: People, perceptions, understanding. You lose a bit of privacy, which is fair. I am happier, I am more stable - there is an equilibrium in my mind which exists now, which might not have existed then, because I was dealing with a lot more than just my film's release. I have found my true calling and people have told me by seeing my film and saying that yes, this is your true calling.
I would like to hold on to what I was … you are called a star and people roam around you to make sure everything is sorted. Life is much more convenient. But mostly, people who didn't believe in you are suddenly your best friends. That's the most honest change you see. If you are successful, people around you change. Success allows you (to) suss out who your true friends are.
Q: Do you feel like a star then?
A: I don't think we are stars, this new young generation. We are one film old and are being given this pedestal only because there has been a lack of new actors for a while. So now the hunger that the media has had, has been quenched. We've all been accepted, that's a given. The value of stardom is something else. You cannot get out of your house - that is the level of stardom I have seen with someone like a Salman Khan, hanging out with him. With Anil Kapoor, you cannot get off stage because the whole stage has been surrounded by people. We don't have that level of stardom for sure. We are also more accessible to people, they know too much about us, so there is no star quality … I don't live in this fantasy that I'm a star because I'm not. I'm a good actor and if I sustain this, then I'll become a star. But that is up to me and my work.
Q: There was a bit of criticism about "Ishaqzaade" that it promotes rape. Do you agree?
A: Films are a mirror to reality. I don't think films are the only thing that influences people. There is also an upbringing involved. There is a thought process, a society you grow up in. I wouldn't dwell on films leading to a person raping somebody. There is a lot more to it, psychologically. The fact remains that we have honour killings in our country. In "Ishaqzaade", he marries her and sleeps with her with her consent and they are killed in the end for that. The fact is that cinema is not the be-all and end-all of existence.
(Edited by Tony Tharakan)
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The film, made on a stated budget of 800 million rupees ($12.5 million), made around 160 million rupees ($2.5 million) in its opening weekend, a dismal figure for a film that had A-list stars like Ranbir Kapoor, Karan Johar and Anushka Sharma in lead roles and a huge publicity campaign behind it. Read