Actor-producer Arjun Rampal opens up about his reel and real life tryst with Arun Gawli.
Arjun Rampal’s much awaited film, ‘Daddy’ is a biopic on gangster-politician Arun Gawli. Besides co-producing the project, Rampal has also forayed into script writing with this movie. He has been credited for co-writing the screenplay along with director Ashim Ahluwalia.
Explaining the new role, Rampal says, ‘Three years ago, someone approached me to play Gawli. I was taken aback because I didn’t understand how they thought I’d fit the bill. They gave me a script that was far removed from Gawli’s actual life. So, I refused to do it. But the idea stayed with me and I began researching about him. I was intrigued that he is called ‘Daddy’ and not ‘Bhai’ or ‘Dada’. I started meeting people who knew him and decided to put pen and paper together. I locked myself in a hotel room for almost two months and started writing’.
Rampal isn’t new to writing although he has done it in a personal capacity, in the form of writing poetry and short stories. ‘This was a completely different experience; it was the first time I wrote a screenplay. I had to make sure that it didn’t turn out to be a propaganda film, where we showed him as a Good Samaritan; neither could he have been an out-and-out anti hero’.
Arjun Rampal was invited by Google to their headquarters in California to release the trailer. Arjun and Ashim are happy with this special honour because the Bollywood superstar is just the fifth Indian film personality after Shah Rukh Khan, A R
Rahman, Ajay Devgn and Kajol, to be accorded a special invite by Google! Also, this is the first time ever a Bollywood film’s trailer was launched from the search-engine’s HQ in USA. Google Toxic, a key property of Google has invited only four Indian celebrities in the past to visit their office in California and now extended an invitation to Arjun to stream the trailer live and interact in a live chat with audiences across the globe; a move that is extraordinary in every sense as it allows Arjun to showcase Daddy to the world in a way that no film maker has ever done.
Speaking on the occasion of the launch, Arjun said, `It’s an honour to be invited to the world’s most-sought after platform to unveil the trailer of my film Daddy. I thank Google for this. Daddy is special to me because it’s not just another film that I have done; it has a lot of emotions associated with it on screen and off screen. By unveiling the trailer here I know I have created the maximum reach for it and I almost feel as if I have connected personally with each and every fan of mine. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for more on this occasion’.
CP magazine was honored to meet Arjun Rampal during his press conference in Dubai last month and was lucky to get an opportunity to meet him and find out some inside information about the move for our readers. Special thanks go to Tehzeeb Ahmed and Briti Shah of Buzzy Bee Communications for their help in making this happen.
We hear you were planning a biopic on another gangster when you switched to doing one on Arun Gawli…
Yes, three years ago, director Ashim Ahluwalia and I were planning a film on another don when some guys approached me to play Arun Gawli. They assured me that they had the rights and showed me some computer images which brought out the likeness between us. But the script was terrible, one of those completely fictitious accounts with none of the ‘realness’ of a biopic. I didn’t want to be this guy in a white-kurta pyjama and cap, climbing cables. Even the dialogues were filmi!
If everything was out of sync, how come you still stepped in?
I started reading up on Gawli and found the material engrossing. The man had seen it all, his story spanned decades and I was hooked! What caught my imagination was that people call him ‘Daddy’. Usually they refer to a don as ‘bhai’ or ‘don’. I realised that although dreaded, he had another side which intrigued me.
The word is, you rewrote the script?
I locked myself up in a hotel for two months and put a structure to the story and sent it to Ashim. Both of us then co-wrote the script. Somewhere along the way, the guys who’d approached me earlier didn’t have the rights so the project fizzled out. By then I’d done so much work on the script that I decided to produce it and approached his family, convincing them to give their nod. After that, I met the big man himself and got his blessings.
Tell us about your first interaction with Gawli.
I met him when he was out on parole. The first few times, he was slightly sceptical and I understood that he’s reserved because of his colourful past. For him to accept that someone would be playing him in a film took some adjustment. Also, his story will be out while he’s still living.
What’s your take on him?
He’s not flamboyant, doesn’t go to dance bars and blow money on bar girls and mistresses. He’s spent half his life in jail but is a Godfearing, family man. At home, there are photographs of Gods everywhere, he is always praying. He commands respect, thousands come to visit him when he’s on parole, yet he’s also dreaded. Mostly, he is quiet, well-mannered and soft-spoken, but you know he’s walked the dark side. After a few meetings, he started opening up to me. I assured him it wouldn’t be a propaganda story, I wanted to tell it the way it is, in a realistic manner. His consent convinced me this was a man with self-confidence. He is the only guy who stood up to Dawood Ibrahim.
You started shooting before he had given his consent, why?
We didn’t have a signed agreement but I’d spoken to his family. By the time he came out on parole, we’d finished one schedule. He was taken aback, wondering how I’d started without his official permission. I pointed out he’d verbally committed to me. He said, ‘Haan maine toh tujhe zabaan di thi’ (Yes, I had given you my words).
Why did you lock yourself away for a year-and-a-half?
You have to invest a lot to roles like this and Ashim made everything so realistic that during the duration of the shoot, I was living in a different world. Characters like this isolate you and when I was shooting, I rarely wanted to be around people. Even now, I’m tempted to tell someone in Gawli’s style, ‘Tujhe aake chamkaoon kya? (Shall I come to beat you).
How difficult or easy was it to find the rest of the cast for the movie?
The casting was totally done by Ashim. Ashim had a very different criteria to choose the cast. He was not looking for stars but rather people who could really fit in the real characters. There are lots of real people (non-actors) in the movie. It’s the first time you will see so many different kinds of people working together in a movie. Every time Ashim would cast someone, he would send me whole piles of information about them. Initially, I would give him my feedback but it came to a point where it was too much and I told him he was free to cast anyone he felt fit the role.
Apart from not going to the gym during the filming of the movie, did you go through any special diet or preparation?
I had to lose weight. I had to eat much less and take smaller meals. I was running a lot. I had to lose lots of weight and lots of muscle as it was important to look like a normal guy.
We know that you have also written stories and poems. Are you planning to publish them one day?
No, I have no such plans.
After this experience of script writing, are you thinking of writing another script?
Actually, this happened very organically. It was very accidental. As I have said in all my interviews, I embarked on it in the process of doing my research on the character and as an actor, I wanted to act in the movie and wanted it to be real and less fictional. But, in general, I don’t see myself becoming a scriptwriter.