Arjun Rampal gets chatting with Harshikaa Udasi about his just-released film Inkaar, which explores how men and women relate to each other in an urban office environment

Ask anyone. Having to answer questions is a pain. Having to answer too many of them, especially regarding his relationship with the two-at-loggerheads-Khans, is positively annoying for Arjun Rampal. The year began with him having to field a variety of questions when he should have been busy promoting his Sudhir Mishra film on urban office politics and relationships — Inkaar. But besides such tiny irritants, the man is on a high when it comes to films. He has been a dozen years into the industry of which the last couple have been richly rewarding, and 2013 promises to be so too.

Arjun’s 2006 release Don marked a turnaround in his otherwise chequered career that began in 2001 with Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat. He followed that up with interesting roles in Om Shanti Om (2007) and Rock On!! (2008). It was the Prakash Jha film Raajneeti (2010) that established him once again as an actor to reckon with. Ra.One, Heroine and Chakravyuh are the other highpoints on his work graph.

We met up with the actor on a sleepy weekday afternoon to discuss men and their insecurities (NO, no reference to the Khans, only to Inkaar!), ambiguities about sexual harassment and handling crazy characters.

At a time when you were promoting Inkaar, should the Khans’ loyalty controversy have to come up?

It was extremely annoying. I had to give answers about such stuff and it really upset me. I thought this journalist was calling to wish me for the New Year but he splashed this in the newspapers instead. But readers can understand these tactics well, now. I have worked with the best in the industry and tell me, why would someone in their right mind swear not to work with A because of B? I don’t belong to any camp; in fact, the only camp I belong to is Deolali camp! (Breaks into a guffaw alluding to his native place near Nasik, 180 km from Mumbai, where his mom still stays and he frequents.)

No Khans then, let’s talk about Inkaar! Weren’t you apprehensive about the character you’d be playing?

Sudhir Mishra is a fascinating director. He layers his characters intricately. He gives you so much material to play with, it’s unbelievable. Initially, I was kind of concerned that the film was about sexual harassment. Immediately words such as ‘sleaze’ and ‘disclosure’ came up and I was distinctly uncomfortable. But then Sudhir took me through the script, which wasn’t even complete then. I felt this was different. He said that he wanted to break down the dynamics of two strongly opinionated people.

We hear you contributed to building the script.

Yes, while I liked it, I also felt that the storytelling was too linear and frankly told Sudhir so. So we began work on it after I returned from an outdoor shoot. Sudhir had all but camped at my house for three months so much so it appeared we were in a relationship! In the end, we had a script of a film spread over seven years that is told from two perspectives. It will get people talking because a man’s and a woman’s version about the same situation is very different.

What’s your take on it? Does the film reflect the insecurities of a man in a new corporate set-up where the woman has become a challenging factor?

Men are definitely facing newer situations about having to deal with women — sometimes as colleagues, sometimes as juniors and even as bosses. It’s not easy for them to decide how to treat their female counterparts. Should they treat them like buddies with whom they can share lewd jokes or should they keep them at a distance? Nowadays a lot of people like to work beyond office hours. Meetings take place over coffee or dinner. What if the next morning your colleague turns around and tells everyone that it wasn’t just a simple dinner meeting? Men should also know what’s acceptable and what’s not. Women want their rights. But Inkaar is also about egos. It looks at a relationship over seven years, so these characters have grown in stature too. Egos can complicate life like nothing else.

In the light of the Delhi gang-rape issue, how do you think your film will be accepted?

I was quite depressed with the rape case. In fact, I didn’t want to promote the film too and had called off my promos several times. Then I thought that it is a very important film because it brings to light several serious issues — the ambiguity of sexual harassment laws, what to do when you are in a situation like that, how to decide what is allowed and what isn’t in the corporate world, and how to understand and respect a woman’s sentiments. It could serve as a guideline to youngsters who look for internships. Parents don’t usually sit their kids down and talk about these issues when they set out to work.

What’s your equation with Chitrangada? It’s a film that requires both of you to go through extreme emotions — being in a strong relationship and then destructing each other.

We did several joint readings with Sudhir. Chitrangada is a great actor and has done a fabulous job in the movie. When the three of us sat together, we knew we’d have to take the characters from one end of the spectrum to the other, and that we had enough acting expertise to take us through! We wanted both Rahul and Maya to bring out how ego, ambition and power change you.

You’ve made some great choices with regard to films in the last few years.

I have just been lucky! (Laughs) Yes, there have been some good choices and I hope that continues. I have D-Day coming up with Nikhil Advani which is an action thriller. There is also Prakash Jha’s Satyagraha in which I play a crazy character.

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