June 19 2019
Patriots in the picture: Arjun Rampal talks patriotism in Bollywood
09 March 2019

Arjun Rampal talks patriotism in Bollywood narratives and how he keeps his mental health in check

With Bollywood producers scrambling to register film titles — Pulwama, Balakot, Abhinandan — and milk the emotions of what the country is currently experiencing, it is perhaps a great time to look at how the display of jingoism in the Indian film industry is maturing. Or is it? Fresh off the launch of his latest web series, The Final Call, being lauded for its gripping storyline, actor Arjun Rampal is quick to comment. “To bring a kind of patriotic vibe through your work is challenging and it’s always more exciting to have both points of view in a film and to get the audience thinking.”

This year’s primero box office hit, Uri, seemed to impress the trend in stone, but such telling tales of screenplay bring to the forefront the role cinema at large ought to play — more so with recent developments that have seen real-life reactions from the masses, still reeling from such on screen fervour. Rampal, who plays the role of a pilot in the series, talks to Weekend on patriotism’s changing narratives in cinema and why he chooses the films he does.

Questioning the josh

The depiction of patriotism in Bollywood has charted an interesting graph over the years: From the JP Dutta classic, Border (1997), to the unconventional Rang De Basanti (2016). Be it the aggressive Sunny Deol-voiced wartime clarion calls, or the string of Akshay Kumar portrayals of unlikely heroes and motifs of nationalism, Hindi films have evolved. They’ve moved from out-and-out battleground framed jingoistic sagas to layered dramas like Lakshya and spy-thrillers like Raazi and the John Abraham-led Parmanu.

Patriots in the picture: Arjun Rampal talks patriotism in Bollywood

For the actor, who has to his credit the 2013 spy-drama D-Day, the cinematic evolution has also brought along a shift in how such subjects are dealt with. Irrespective of the cinematic treatment given, Rampal says it’s always a challenge to do away with constructs that have held social roots for ages. “Good, bad, evil, godly things — they’re man-made. We create those opinions and instil those beliefs in people, and to change those beliefs is difficult.”

Drawing reference to what’s unfolding in the political and social milieu of the country, the 46-year-old says it’s all about fighting the good war together. “Heart of hearts, one knows exactly what’s going on. The war is not against any State and the idea is to work together and not play the blame game.”

If the actor were to helm a project on the lines of Uri, he’d make one from a civilian’s perspective. “Perhaps the person who is trapped between the two borders. For example, what happens to a Kashmiri in this scenario is what one should be looking at in this country,” says the National Award-winning actor, who shot for The Final Call in Kashmir.

Mind warp

The Rock On! actor’s latest outing in the web series is adapted from author Priya Kumar’s psychological drama, I Will Go With You. Rampal essays the character of Karan Sachdev, a pilot gone rogue mid-air. “We only think about terrorists hijacking our flights or the engines conking off. What about the pilot? Who’s checking that? To me, that was intriguing,” says the actor, who shot his portions in the same cockpit used in the filming of the 2016 Tom Hanks starrer, Sully. “By sitting in the captain’s chair, I hope some of his talent came through me!” he laughs. Though the series is directed by Vijay Lalwani, the cockpit scenes were shot largely by filmmaker Nishikant Kamat, who directed Rampal in the 2017 thriller-drama, Daddy.

Producer’s cap

Amongst the staple headlines on the actor’s looks and baritone, he’s often been written about for his offbeat career choices: his switch from modelling to movies and the hospitality outing, LAP. The actor’s recent plunge into OTT entertainment seems to be an extension of this streak. For Rampal, the freedom to create content is just one of the many reasons artists find themselves lured by online platforms. “It’s an exciting medium. Stories that you perhaps couldn’t make into films, organically lend themselves to web series. We’re not competing only with our peers from the industry, but with international shows; the sensitivity and production value have to be top-notch.”


Patriots in the picture: Arjun Rampal talks patriotism in Bollywood

In his new-found role as a producer, Rampal hopes to finally realise ambitions to execute storylines built over the years. “I’ve been collecting good stories and hopefully this is the right time to tell them, ” says Rampal who will next be seen in films across the horror, thriller and adventure genres.

Survival mojo

Though The Final Call only implicitly touches upon mental health, for Rampal, that’s half the job. “The immediate reaction to a person suffering from mental illness is, ‘Oh God, you’re visiting a shrink!’. It happens to the best of us, and like any other illness, it can be cured.” For his role of a pilot fighting depression, he ensured his portrayal was authentic. “When you’re in that space, your thoughts are moody, you don’t understand it. I would never make it gimmicky.”


Patriots in the picture: Arjun Rampal talks patriotism in Bollywood

For him, one of the key triggers of such conditions today is the merciless onslaught of social media. “We’re inching away from human interaction, pretending that we’re with a large friend circle. But most people online don’t even have their real names out there. It’s scary.” How then does Rampal, who clocks close to two decades in the industry, maintain his sanity? “I used to waste an hour on my phone every morning. Using that time to meditate or journal does wonders,” he says. Similarly, switching the phone off before sleeping is a part of his routine. “I’m going to hang up on our call in the next five minutes!” laughs the actor mid-way into our late night chat, adding he prefers playing with his dogs before hitting the bed.

The Final Call is streaming on Zee5



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