Says Arjun Rampal as he tells us why it is important to educate children about sexual harassment
“Why don’t we discuss such topics with our children,” asks Arjun Rampal. One look at him and you are convinced that this man cannot even hurt a fly but this is the reason why Sudhir Mishra chose the actor in the first place. Arjun’s suave and sophisticated looks makes it impossible to see him as a perpetrator who harasses women. Inkaar opens with Arjun’s character facing an inquiry committee for a sexual harassment case and the story goes back and forth from there. “It is a relevant film in today’s time. I have two daughters and it is important to watch this film with your teenaged children because soon your child will be in an environment like this,” he adds. In a candid chat, the actor talks about his film and why parents should discuss such issues with their children.
Excerpts from the interview:
When you consider a role, what excites you as an actor?
I always wanted to work with Sudhir; he is a fine director. The backdrop is that of sexual harassment and when I was told about it, I thought that it must have some amount of sleaze but when I read the script, I could see how Sudhir explores that without being sleazy. When he came to me with the script, I liked the way the characters were portrayed and the dynamics between a man and a woman in a work environment. They are like minded in more ways than one and have the same goals and aspirations.
What were the challenges involved in playing such a layered character?
Today, each one can be exposed to an environment which can leave a woman devastated and a man stuck despite being innocent. But then, who defines what sexual harassment is? There is always a fine line between harmless flirting and harassment. It is a relevant film in today’s time. I have two daughters and it is important to watch this film with your teenaged children because soon your child will be in an environment like this. Why don’t we discuss these issues like sexual harassment? Nobody tells you about this when you are in school or college. When you get a job and you are inducted into your work environment, nobody tells you anything. Suddenly, there are these accusations flying around. You don’t know who is right and who is wrong but again, the whole thing is ambiguous. It is this ambiguity of the whole situation which made me explore the film. I can call a woman sexy, she can take it as a compliment or she can find it derogatory. There is no law which says that I can’t call her that but everyone needs to be aware of the limit. This is not just about sexual harassment. It is also about these two characters whose life is on a transition in the span of seven years. What Sudhir is trying to explore in the film is that ego is your biggest enemy and what happens when your ego gets hurt.
Why Inkaar is relevant now
In the promo, it is difficult to decide who is at fault. Was it intentional?
The beauty of the film is its structure. When Sudhir came to me, I found the structure very linear and then we spent two months reworking on it. If you make it linear, there is no suspense in it so we decided to treat it as a thriller. We spread the film over a span of seven years and what happens in office environment between the two characters. You meet Rahul Varma in the first shot of the film where he is sitting infront of the board with a sexual harassment case slapped on him and why. And then we go into the past he is in that situation. The film is shown from different point of views. It is not about this one incident. It is about relationships and how ambition changes you as your goal changes.
In terms of fleshing out a character -- his nuances, his eccentricities -- how much of it is actually down to the script and how much is down to improvisation?
You do a little bit of improvisations during the shoot but when you work on the script with your director for three months, you don’t need to do much. Sudhir loves improvisation because instinct is a really good thing and you should never lose it or else you become mechanical. So you feed off each other’s creativity. They are very layered characters and you have to be in control during execution.
Every actor has a certain comfort zone. What’s yours?
My comfort zone is when you take me out of my comfort zone and how I can adapt t it. How many actors would be comfortable doing a film on sexual harassment? This film has been very emotionally draining but you come out of it feeling extremely satisfied. This is one of my better performances.
Stars promote Inkaar
Is there any role which has stayed with you even after you have stopped shooting?
You know it is tough because the parts I chose to portray make to live that life even after the shoot. When you change yourself physically and mentally, it does take a little bit of time to get out of it. But sometimes it is good to hold on to the character you have enjoyed. I like the wildness of my character in Rajneeti. I love the unpredictably of Prithvi. Sometime, I like the nobility of Adil Khan from Chakravyuh . He wanted to make a difference. Some characters give you good vibrations and you want to give it the audience and it will live with them for a while and hopefully change things for better in their lives. The sense of humour of Rahul Varma is also appealing.