Things started looking up for Arjun Rampal in the summer of 2008. Till ‘Rock On’ happened, the successful former-super model went by relatively unnoticed as an actor-he was criticised for being uncomfortable in movies like ‘Moksha’, ‘Dil Ka Rishta’ and ‘Asambhav’. Then came the long-haired, brooding guitarist in ‘Rock On’, which got him a National Award for best supporting actor. It was as if Bollywood had finally accepted him. Since then, Rampal has been very busy. In the last five years, he has had a good run at the movies, taking his chances with both commercial and experimental Bollywood. For every ‘Rajneeti’ (2010) and ‘Chakravyuh’ (2011), he’s had a ‘Rascals’ (2011) and ‘Heroine’ (2012).
The balancing act
While Rampal, the actor, is still passionately trying to analyse and perform his varied roles on screen, the real Rampal is a suave business man, closet DJ and gourmet who “thinks every creative actor, if he can multitask, should take time to invest in something he is passionate about.” Take his three-year old LAP, Delhi’s premier member’s only night club (in partnership with restaurateur AD Singh), designed by Sandeep Khosla. Charging about `2,00,000 per party, it is said to be one of the most frequented night spots among Bollywood’s and Delhi’s most wanted. “My idea was to have a place for people from the creative world. I love music and the concept of my club is an extension of my personality,” says Rampal, who has stepped up as DJ on several occasions, once even with friend Shah Rukh Khan. Ever the perfectionist, he takes a keen interest in everything from decor to the food at the club. One of the high points of LAP - Swarovski-studded tables and an imposing chandelier, designed by the actor’s glamorous friends, including Shah Rukh Khan’s wife, Gauri, along with designers Tarun Tahiliani and Rohit Bal. That apart, Rampal also co-owns the production house, Chasing Ganesha, with wife and former supermodel, Mehr Jessia. The company is into event management and organises media events for Bollywood actors abroad. Recently, they organised after parties and fashion shows for the Indian Premier League. Every year, Rampal’s F1 after parties are a huge draw at LAP, with a performance by Lady Gaga in 2011.
Rampal, hailed as India’s original supermodel along with Milind Soman, is the antithesis of an average Bollywood star. The Nasik-born actor, who completed his Bachelors from Hindu College, New Delhi, was spotted by fashion designer Rohit Bal at a party. He went on to study filmmaking in New York and worked as a part-time model. Despite a slow start in Bollywood, the actor didn’t really have to struggle. And while the tag of “non-actor” haunted him for a while, it cracked a bit with ‘Om Shanti Om’ (2007), and he was finally was able to shrug it off with ‘Rock On’. Today, he plays a significant role in the films of serious directors like Prakash Jha and Sudhir Mishra.
Keeping it personal
Bollywood critics say nobody knows the art of making friends like Arjun Rampal. This is echoed by friends who swear by his surprise parties. Earlier this year, the actor and his wife threw a birthday yacht party for best friend Hrithik Roshan in Mumbai. Rampal’s carefully selected friends span fashion, high society, film, industry and politics. “They are not manipulated, just smoothly managed on a one-to-one basis,” is how the actor likes to put it. His friendship with SRK (though said to have cooled off recently) continues, despite his relationship with other families like the Bachchans. “Why is there so much speculation about my friendship with SRK? It really doesn’t bother me at all. My personal life and friends are entirely my business,” he snarls, adding that “without talent, nobody is going to sign you even if you belong to any camp.” His connection with the fashion world is strong, be it appearing as showstopper for Gudda (Rohit Bal’s pet name) at the Lakme Fashion week in March or for Tarun Tahiliani. In an industry that breeds egomaniacs, Rampal has built a reputation as Mr Nice Guy. Many recall how he did ‘We Are Family’ for filmmaker Karan Johar when John Abraham walked out, or filled in as a last-minute showstopper for Bal, delivered first-aid to an injured Ranbir Kapoor at Bandra’s Gold’s Gym and even pushed the launch of LAP till SRK could make it after his shoot for ‘My Name Is Khan’ in the US. It is said that during the filming of ‘Rajneeti’, he went all out to make friends with his on-screen brother, Ranbir Kapoor to add more realism to the bond on screen. Sure enough, Rampal bagged a Filmfare that year (2010). “I think he is extremely focused, a go-getter. He came at a time when models were not supposed to know acting. He changed all that. He is one of the easiest guys to work with. Arjun has a fabulous face, is well-groomed and is a photographer’s delight. But I think now he has grown much beyond his good looks,” admits celebrity photographer, Subi Samuel. Though he has managed to stay away from link ups, for the most part of his career (except rumours of a fling with his ‘Inkaar’ co-star, Chitrangada Singh), Rampal is known to be a committed family man, who dotes on his wife and two daughters (he recently tattooed his daughters’ names on his arm). Annual vacations are a must and his marriage with Jessia is said to be one of the most envied (15 years) in the industry. The actor maintains that Mehr is his biggest fan and critic.
Fans and marketing
Prod the 41-year-old half Dutch, half Sikh actor about his massive female fan following and he grins, “I have no problems when girls throw themselves at me. I work for this adulation. Imagine the tragedy of not being recognised on the streets.” Despite everything, Rampal admits, “marketing himself is a necessary evil.” He seems amused by the hype around the `100 crore club and personally believes “we are not using the correct barometer” for that. On being a red carpet regular, he is candid, “We attend award shows if we are getting one, or perform if there is money involved. Who goes there to support their colleagues? Let’s be honest. I have refused many movies which I knew I couldn’t do. And it turned out well for everyone. Why can’t we aim to be original like Hollywood and not simply compete,” guffaws the actor.