‘We should not forget the sacrifice these men made.’
Arjun Kapoor takes up a historical character for the first time in his career with Panipat.
Arjun plays Sadashiv Rao Bhau who led the Maratha army at the Third Battle of Panipat on January 14, 1761.
“This film is about the first battle between Indians versus outsiders,” Arjun tells KhabriBaba.com Contributor Mohnish Singh.
How much Marathi did you learn while working on Panipat?
I know Marathi as I had learnt it in school.
I feel scared to speak because you should not make such bad mistakes that people may get offended.
If you ask me something in Marathi, I will reply in Hindi, but I know the language.
IMAGE: Arjun Kapoor in Panipat.
Did you use prosthetic to get the bald look for the film?
I shaved my head on November 16 last year.
We did a look test with a bald patch; that was the only way to see how I would look in the role.
But that was just a formality.
Eventually, I shaved my head and we started shooting in January.
I was wearing all kinds of weird caps, not because I loved them, but to hide the ghera shendi because that looks weird without context.
IMAGE: Arjun Kapoor with Kriti Sanon in Panipat.
The film belongs to a different era. What did you have to unlearn for it?
It is difficult to say.
We can go into history books, look at encyclopaedias and understand all the touch points of history that had unfolded in the battle.
But these people were human beings.
So I wanted to unlearn the fact that I had seen so many period films as a child.
We get consumed by the behavioural patterns that come with period films.
Like, they must not be sitting like this, they must be sitting like this. We don’t know, but we have been told.
Eventually, they were human beings.
The way you behave with me when you are doing an interview is different from how you behave in office with your colleagues.
You would behave differently at home.
You would behave differently with friends.
I wanted to unlearn the baggage that came with a period film.
I wanted to be as casual as possible when it came to talking to my wife or speaking to my friends or the way I conducted myself when I encouraged the army.
There has to be some subtle differences in your personality, otherwise we will be uptight in every scene.
Ashutosh Gowariker asked me to be human, to be vulnerable, because anyone who is the Senapati (commander in chief) to 50,000 to 60,0000 people will have that vulnerability.
He will fear about right and wrong.
He will think twice before taking decisions for the lives of so many people. And he cannot show that to everyone, only his wife. Or when he is alone.
So I unlearned the very basic principle of not overthinking.
Just come and do it.
If you are authentic in your approach, if the director gives you an authentic set up, something right will come out.
Ashutosh provided such a great foundation, in terms of the costumes, sets, ambience.
Even mobile phones were not allowed on the sets.
You are in that place where you have big Marathi actors around you.
There is a certain regard for the story, and the time, and the era, when you are dealing with people from Maharashtra.
I am from Maharashtra, but I am a Punjabi.
But I feel the story should be told.
How taxing was the action?
You should ask the stuntmen; it was very taxing for them.
At least actors go inside our AC vanity vans or we get a chair to sit on.
There are hundreds of men who are there on set to make us look good.
Every time a fighter falls, he has to get up and do the take again.
So if I am killing people, they have to die, they have to fall.
It is hundred times more taxing for them than for me.
I had to wear the armour, which weighed around 18, 20 kilos.
Then, I had to sit on a horse and ride it.
We shot the climax in May!
After India’s Most Wanted released, we shot in June.
It was tough because of the weather — I needed four people to dress me up.
I could not sit because my costume had metal.
Ashutosh got it made in metal primarily because he wanted to shoot the film outdoors.
He wanted the sun to hit the metal and shine, otherwise it would look fake.
So, if you see, I am wearing metal plates and the sun’s reflection creates that authenticity of the heat and the grime that we are going through.
Riding a horse and doing action is very difficult because you have to control the horse.
I had to learn horse riding for two months before we started shooting.
I would go to the Mahalaxmi race course at 6 am every day.
My horse was as much as an important co-actor as Kriti Sanon would like to believe she was (smiles).
His name was Jabbar. I spent a spend a lot of time with him.
When I see it on the big screen, it looked so nice that it all seems worth it.
I learnt a lot too.
I learnt how to throw a javelin.
Every night, after pack up at ND Studios, lights would be put up for me to learn the footing to throw the javelin.
I would have never guessed I needed to learn that for Panipat, but it comes in handy when I have to throw a sphere in the film.
These are small achievements as an actor you feel happy about.
IMAGE: A scene from Panipat.
How much did you research for your character?
Have you met Ashutosh Gowariker?
He is an encyclopaedia in himself because he is very, very, particular.
Being a Maharashtrian, he knows things better.
There is a lot of pride in this story.
People would want the story to be told because it is known to them only in bits.
They know the end, but they do not know the beginning. They know the result, but they do not know why it happened like that.
My research came from Ashutosh.
If I had read the whole story, I would have had a lot of questions and if he kept answering all of them, the film would never have been made!
He assembled everything he knew and made it one story.
This film is about the first battle between Indians versus outsiders because before this, we had people coming to India, pilfering and going away.
Nobody could do anything about it.
Sadashiv Rao Bhau was the first man to have a vision for a united India.
This film deals with the fact that one powerful Indian army stands against Abdali.
So my job was to make him human.
IMAGE: Arjun Kapoor in Panipat.
The meme culture can be really taxing on actors. How difficult is it to process this?
Everybody gets trolled.
It has become habitual for people to be negative and bitter because of whatever they might be dealing with in their personal lives.
It reflects badly on the way they have been brought up.
You can make fun of me.
But if you make fun of this film, then you are making fun of people who have sacrificed themselves for India.
I don’t see anybody making fun of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
I have never seen a meme on Subhas Chandra Bose.
But I am seeing memes on Sadashiv Rao Bhau and nobody is saying anything about it. He is as much as a valiant soldier of our country.
It’s not my job to teach people, replying to the trolls.
The fact is that these men were martyrs.
Nobody stood up and said this is uncouth and rude.
As a person, who has grown up in Mumbai, I am as much as a Maharashtrian as much as I am a Punjabi.
It is sad that we are allowing it to happen.
I have done the roast. I have made fun of myself.
In my career, I have cracked jokes on myself and you guys have seen it.
I don’t have any issues with it.
If you make fun of me, I am used to it because I am relevant.
That’s why you will make fun of me because I will sell your tickets and that is important.
You need my face to get eyeballs, and I have laughed at many of these (memes) in the past.
When Half Girlfriend happened, I had laughed at them.
But I regret that the character and the story they are making fun of is unfair.
I am 34 years old and have heard a lot of stories.
People say they are patriotic, but I don’t see anyone raising their voice against this. Why?
It is because they don’t know the story.
If this story had been taught to you from childhood, you would believe that this person and the characters should not be made fun of.
It is because of them that India is independent today because they were the first ones to take a stand.
We should not forget the sacrifice these men made.
Mohnish Singh dabbled with a career as a copywriter before making a transition into entertainment journalism.
Besides writing about movies and television, he engrosses himself in books and old Bollywood melodies.
You can contact him at movies@KhabriBaba-inc.com