EXCLUSIVE: Arjun Rampal is on his way to a shoot in Poland after a week of work in London and a brief stop in his home country of India when he sits down for a chat with Deadline.
“It’s better to be busy than not busy in my line of work,” he says with a shrug of jet lag.
The veteran actor’s schedule is the result of a late-career renaissance, which recently began with an acclaimed performance in Aparna Sen’s latest film, the rapist Produced by Applause Entertainment in association with Quest Films Pvt. Ltd, the film chronicles the journey of three protagonists as their lives intertwine after a horrific incident. The film won the Kim Jesouk Award at the Busan Film Festival and was screened at the Kerala Film Festival, the Kolkata Film Festival in India, and the London Indian Film Festival.
“When I read the script, it just hit me. I thought it was such a wonderful, forceful take on what really happens to a rape victim,” she says of the film, which has yet to be released worldwide. “Aparna is a wonderful and very sensitive filmmaker. I think when this movie finally comes out, it will be special.”
Rampal has also recently completed work on new Abbas Mustan and Sunny Leone films and set up his South Indian film debut with Hari Hara Veera Mallu, Pawan Kalyan’s latest big-budget movie. After several delays due to labor strikes in the Telugu film industry, the film has just resumed shooting in Hyderabad, India.
“It was fantastic to see the unity they have with each other in the south,” Rampal says of the strikes. “The pandemic changed a lot of things and they wanted to regroup and set certain rules and guidelines.”
Rampal’s move south after 21 years of working in Mumbai’s Hindi-language film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, is a sign of the changing powers within Indian film culture.
As Deadline reported earlier this summer, films from South Indian film industries such as the KGF in Kannada Language: Chapter 2 and telugu language RRR have been breaking box office records in India and abroad. In contrast, only a small number of Hindi films, namely The Kashmir Archives, Gangubai Kathiawadiand horror comedy Bhool Bhulaiya 2 – have performed well this year, while an alarming number of titles with big stars and high expectations have struggled at the box office despite Indian cinemas having been open without Covid restrictions for several months.
“It hasn’t been as easy as one might have hoped or imagined to get people back into theaters,” Rampal says of the change.
“The audience in India has changed tremendously in the last three years. The kinds of movies that they like to watch, the kinds of movies that are going to go straight to OTT, and the kinds of movies that are going to be made for the big screen are going to be very different forms of content.”
But Rampal doesn’t see these changes as a sign of decline, but as an opportunity for reinvention.
“As filmmakers, actors, and anyone who is creating, we really need to roll up our socks, put on our thinking caps, and connect more with the audience,” he says.
“This is what 21 years in the industry have taught me: not to build walls but to break them down and be more connected with your audience. I think that’s something we’ve missed. We need to ask the public whathat really want to see and what is going on in their lives. And then bring those stories back to the screen.”