Arjun Kapoor isn’t new to trolling. The actor, over the years, has been trolled for his choice of films, acting, the fate of his films and his personal life too. Currently, he is being trolled for being cast as the Peshwa warrior Sadashivrao bhau in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Panipat. But the actor believes that trolls aren’t real. “They are people who are trying to make you laugh, score over others. It’s a game about who can make the funniest video, meme or joke. For them, we are all weapons that they use to get reactions,” Arjun says.
Before social media, things were far more even but now it’s become ‘us against them’ (Bollywood kids vs those making on their own), he believes. “But it doesn’t bother me because today, you might not like my acting and tomorrow I might end up doing something which you would like. How much can you not like? If you do not like me as a person, I cannot help. I cannot do anything about my personality but as far as my acting is concerned, till the time people are offering me work, it means I know some amount of acting. There are people who are still interested in my work. If the criticism or trolling is happening because of my family, there is nothing that I can do because I cannot disown my family. I have made it on my own more than people realise,” he says.
Trolling has made social media a negative place, which Arjun says is because the world has generally become a negative place. “People find it difficult to be nice to each other and it’s not just about me.
Everyone is in the same boat. I see Virat Kohli getting trolled and I do not understand why? That man is cricketer of the highest order. Various people are being trolled for various reasons and there is nothing we can do about it except ignore. This is a new timepass for people and something new will come up after a couple of years,” he shares.
As for the film business getting affected by negative publicity, Arjun says that it’s no big deal because not all the audience checks Twitter or Facebook before watching a film. “Social media toucheds a small part of this country. Those who live in big cities are caught up with it. If you go to the heart of our country, there are hardly any people who are checking social media. They take feedback from others and go by word-of-mouth. They watch a film and then decide if they liked it or not,” says the actor.
He adds that this year’s two biggest films have been ‘social media potboilers’. “Kabir Singh and Housefull 4 were criticised on social media and both went on to do a combined business of Rs 500 crore. Audience will ultimately watch the film they want to watch,” he further adds.
Portraying Sadashivrao Bhau
As the discussion moves towards Panipat and his character, Arjun says that there were various challenges while playing Sadashivrao bhau who is an integral part of our history and fought with such valour in the battle. “There was pressure to do justice to the character. I had to be honest and sincere. The other pressure was the period for which there isn’t much reference; we have to imagine it through folklores and films,” the actor points out.
He adds that he had to go bald for the character, which wasn’t exactly a pressure for him. “But I had to learn horse riding because Sadashivrao bhau travelled a lot on the horse and there are many riding scenes in the film. I also had to master sword fighting and javelin throw, and work on my Marathi language,” he recalls.
All through the film, Arjun had to completely surrender himself to the character. “Sadashivrao bhau was a leader, and a warrior. He was stubborn about the greater good, selfless and ready to die at any point.
“I am none of these. But every time, I walked on the set, I was bhau in front of the people and not Arjun. It’s difficult to think of yourself as a leader when you are not. But I submitted to the leader completely on the set and it was enjoyable,” Arjun says.
Learning with Ashutosh Gowariker
Arjun says that Ashutosh’s extensive research made matters uncomplicated for him. “Because I had a one point contact for any information I wanted. That helps because you are going on the set knowing that this man knows more about your character than you do. Everyday you get to learn, perform and enjoy learning about your own character along with the director,” he says.
Controversies and ‘Panipat’
The film, which also stars Sanjay Dutt, Mohnish Behl, Padmini Kolhapure and others, has been embroiled in controversies. But Arjun isn’t letting it affect the excitement he’s feeling for its release. “As Ashu sir rightly said, you cannot live in fear or think about the controversies you may or may not face. There are people who are concerned and worried and we understand that because we are dealing with history and real people. But we have only put out three minutes of the film in the trailer. People will get a better understanding of the film only after watching it. All their concerns will be answered,” he assures.
Their agenda, says Arjun, is not to put down anyone and they haven’t taken any sides. “We have told the story from the point of view of the Peshwas and Marathas and they were integral in the third battle of Panipat.”
Dealing with failure
Arjun has experienced both success and failure. His last film India’s Most Wanted did not fare well at the box-office. Does failure scare him? “No, because that’s part of growing up. There is no one who has not failed. Failure is what teaches you how to succeed, how to be yourself when the world wants you to change. It also shows you who your true friends are. It’s about how you rise after that,” the actor says.
He adds that he is open to criticism, provided it’s authentic and not personalised. “A lot of times, criticism in reviews is to evoke laughter; it does not talk about the performance. I am interested by authentic conversations,” Arjun points out.
As for India’s Most Wanted, he says he is disappointed with the fate of the film at BO. “I want to believe that we made a decent enough film for people to watch. But I guess, we went wrong somewhere because the audience is always right. A lot of people did not realise that the film had released. I also felt that it was far too real and could have been packaged well. We did not put in any big action scenes or item numbers that would attract more attention. But I enjoyed being part of the film,” he
says before signing off.