If it feels like Arjun Rampal has been missing from our screens for a while, he’s certainly making up for lost time.
The actor, whose recent work includes streaming movie Nail Polish and ZEE5 series The Final Call, is back with a new streaming show with Voot Select’s The London Files. A by-the-book murder mystery, Rampal plays a tortured detective tasked with solving the murder of the daughter of a prominent politician. A case that forces him to confront his own turbulent past. (Also read: Halo: Pablo Schreiber talks bringing The Master Chief to life, helmet acting)
The actor has a prolific lineup of upcoming projects across languages and platforms, six of which he says he’s completed and are awaiting release. The diverse slate includes Aparna Sen’s drama The Rapist, Kangana Ranaut-led action film Dhaakad, two Abbas Mustan movies, a Telugu period epic starring Pawan Kalyan, and more.
At a recent press event for The London Files, the actor spoke to me about completing 20 years at the movies, working with Abbas Mustan and the rise of streaming.
Over your twenty-year career, you’ve seen a fair amount of critical acclaim and commercial success. At this stage what kind of projects are you looking to be a part of? What kind of roles excite you?
I don’t look for anything specific. Looking for something becomes a very different space to be in, which kind of restricts you from exploring. What excites me is a filmmaker coming to me with a different world to get lost in. For example, in Dhaakad my character is a coal miner which is an exciting space I’m unfamiliar with.
Even with London Files, it was about going and exploring this world of Om, who’s this dysfunctional detective. He doesn’t always have it together or have all the answers. He’s not always thinking on his feet. He’s going through a lot himself and he does have problems with addiction and depression. And that was a fascinating space.
London Files is your second streaming show and you’ve had straight to streaming movies as well. What do you feel that streaming gives you that the big screen maybe hasn’t?
I think what it’s done is given filmmakers and actors who would never have gotten a chance to do a theatrical film because no one would have them. It’s given them a huge opportunity to showcase their work and tell stories you wouldn’t usually see. And in that way what it’s done is educated the audience. They’ve been exposed to much more and today they have choices. Today concept films are working alongside the massively mounted ones. What this platform does is give a huge amount of space for creativity.
It also allows gives you more scope as an actor to explore your character through the series format. The arc and the journey become much more exciting, so it’s more satisfying when you walk away from creating a character for a series. But to watch a film on the big screen is also tremendously satisfying in a different way.
How much does the platform matter when you’re considering a streaming project? From an audience perspective, I feel like it definitely does. We associate each platform with its own personality and sensibility. How much does the platform factor into your decision-making as an actor?
Yes of course it does. You want your show to go onto a platform that will support and champion it. London Files wasn’t commissioned by Voot. What (producer) Ajay Rai did was made the show first and then found a home for it. And when Voot watched the show, they loved it and said they knew what to do with it. I know they are the correct platform for this because they have a huge audience in the UK, US and India, and this is a show that appeals to all three markets They already want a season 2 so we’re already thinking about that. They’re investing in something long-term because they believe in our show and that’s all you want.
There was a recent article that claimed that the title of the show was changed to add the word “files” to capitalise on the success of Kashmir Files. Is there any truth to that?
No that’s not true. We had two titles for it – The London Files and The Return. But the producer didn’t have the rights to that title so we had to settle for London Files. And this happened before Kashmir Files.
It feels like after Daddy in 2017, you took a bit of a break from acting. Did people ever advise you against it at that time and tell you taking a break would be crazy?
Honestly, I don’t listen to people, I make my own decisions. I didn’t take a break as such but I did cut down on work because my mom wasn’t well and then she passed away, and I went through a phase where I really didn’t feel like doing anything till it was really special. Then, of course, there was the pandemic. So, there was a lot that goes on in your personal life where you need a timeout from being on set even though it’s my favourite place to be.
On your IMDb it says you have 7 upcoming projects. What can you tell us about them? More specifically, what can you tell us about the Abbas Mustan Netflix movie?
Yeah, I have already finished 6, so now they’ll all be releasing. With Abbas Mustan, I’ve always wanted to work with them. I’ve always enjoyed their work. They’re really cool directors and they’re so clear and know exactly what they want. We did a really interesting film together called Penthouse which is actually about myself, Bobby Deol, Sharman Joshi and Cyrus Broacha and it’s about guys going through a mid-life crisis who hire a penthouse for all their naughty until someone is murdered and then its a whodunnit. And right after that Abbas Mustan came to me with another movie called Three Monkeys which we did. It’s such a wonderful relationship with them.
Then there’s Dhaakad with this crazy director called Rajneesh. I call him Crazy Razy (laughs). Aesthetically I don’t think anyone can come close to his vision. He’s gritty and extremely stylish and it’s going to be a special movie. And it’s about a female protagonist in the action space and no one’s done that properly yet.
If you could go back in time and speak to yourself from twenty years ago and offer yourself one piece of advice about navigating the industry what would it be?
I would say that the first film you do or any film that you do, always look at it like your last and give it your all. And if you approach it like that, nobody can take what you bring away from you.