Arjun Rampal on ‘The Rapist,’ working with Konkona Sen Sharma, and more

‘The Rapist’, directed by Aparna Sen, narrates the trauma of a sexual assault survivor. The film had its Indian premiere at the International Film Festival of Kerala recently 

March 20, 2022 06:56 pm | Updated March 22, 2022 04:14 pm IST

Arjun Rampal in a still from the movie The Rapist

Arjun Rampal in a still from the movie The Rapist | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

“Some films just happen and The Rapist was one of those,” says Arjun Rampal. The film, directed by National Award-winner Aparna Sen, recently had its Indian premiere at IFFK 2022 in Thiruvananthapuram. A gripping drama following the life of an academic Naina (Konkona Sen Sharma) who survives a brutal sexual assault, the movie had its world premiere earlier at the 6th Busan International Film Festival where it eventually won the prestigious Kim Jiseok Award.

The narrative explores how the heinous incident changes the lives of three people: Naina, a professor of criminology; her husband Aftab Malik (Arjun Rampal), also a professor; and Prasad Singh (Tanmay Dhanania) who is convicted for the crime. When Naina, who is struggling with physical and emotional trauma, decides to understand how the mindset of Prasad works, her relationship with Aftab suffers. 

In a telephonic interview, Arjun talked at length about his journey with the project. “Aparna ma’am has taken a different approach to a subject that has become rampant in our society. She has handled it so sensitively as she takes the audience through what transpires after the incident. The emotional trajectory of the characters is bang-on; I hope it makes people realise that it is the worst thing to do to anybody,” he says.

The model-turned-actor says that he was surprised when the role came his way. “I asked myself, ‘Am I really working with Aparna Sen?’ She is such a beautiful person, and I think she might have felt the same way about me! We had earlier interacted a couple of times on various other projects which never materialised, so I kept wanting to work with her. My mentor Ashok Mehta used to say that I should do at least one movie with her.”

Approaching and fine-tuning the character

Arjun adds that Aparna’s characters are not at any point contrived or superficial: “I just love her mind... you have to just belong there. Once she took me through the script, she asked for my inputs to enhance the character and how I would feel in certain situations. She went back and rewrote a lot of it; she did it with every character I believe.”

Arjun Rampal and Konkona Sen Sharma in a still from The Rapist

Arjun Rampal and Konkona Sen Sharma in a still from The Rapist | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The actors also went through a workshop prior to the shoot. “I had never met Konk (Konkona) nor had I ever interacted with her before. There was no prior friendship between us. But in the film, we were playing a husband and wife who share such a delightful bond. So, at the workshop we sat and spoke about each other, did a few scenes, some exercises, meditation... and a lovely friendship developed organically that put us at ease,” he explains.

The film, produced by Applause Entertainment in association with Quest Films Pvt Ltd, was shot in 27 days in Delhi, that too during the small window between the first and second wave of the pandemic. “There was tremendous pressure on all of us... the cast, crew, the producers. Aparna ma’am was working 14 hours a day on certain occasions. She is this lioness! I haven’t seen the full film yet, and couldn’t be at Busan for the premiere. But just before the awards were announced, I sent a message to her, ‘Our film is going to win,’ and it happened. There is a lot of purity, integrity and honesty in the effort she has put in.”

Acting process and coming into his own

Arjun also spoke at length about how each actor approached their roles. “It is a very realistic film and all of us had our own process to arrive at the required intensity, and keeping it authentic. In my case, I usually pace myself out and think of all that is to be done before the shoot. I believe that as long as I am honest with myself, I am in the right zone. Tanmay got into the skin of the character by losing weight and living in the slum where his character hails from. He didn’t meet us because Aparna ma’am did not want him to strike a friendship with us. As for Konkona, she probably overthinks the scenes in her head a million times; by the time she is on the set, she is like, ‘Please finish this part, I am going to die!’

But did working alongside such an illustrious actor like her intimidate him at any point? “I have never got intimidated by anybody in my life! (laughs) I think everybody is beautiful and there is no reason for fear. An actor is meant to be caring, loving, giving and sharing; only when that doesn’t happen, I am bound to be disappointed. Fortunately, I have worked with such good artistes that I have not been intimidated,” Arjun says.

The actor, who made his debut with Pyar Ishq Aur Mohabbat (2001), has come into his own over the years, thereby shedding the image of being just a handsome face. He won the National Award for his performance in Rock On!! (2008) and has been appreciated for his other performances in films such as The Last Lear, Rajneeti, Inkaar, D-Day, Kahaani 2 and Daddy

Last seen in Nail Polish, Arjun says that he tries not to get affected by the lack of good roles or the box-office fate of his films. “You get depressed if you think like that. What you get is what you get, that is the truth. I am ready to embrace that and move on. The beauty of my profession is that every film, which is a journey, is unique. You try to make every experience incredible. Sometimes a lot of such people come together and the whole journey becomes special.”

Among his upcoming projects are films such as Dhaakad with Kangana Ranaut, The Battle of Bhima Koregaon, period war drama, Three Monkeys directed by Abbas-Mustan, and web-series The Return.

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