Arjun Rampal’s first digital show, The Final Call — which debuted on Zee5 on February 22 — cruises into the smoky arena of a spiritual thriller. The actor plays Karan Sachdeva, a hard-bitten former Indian Air Force captain with a hazy past, who takes up commercial piloting after his stint in the army.
One day, Karan decides to end his life mid-air, putting at risk the lives of the 300 passengers on board. Directed by Vijay Lalwani, the show is adapted from Priya Kumar’s 2016 novel, I Will Go With You: The Flight Of A Lifetime.
Arjun tells us he was initially discussing a period biopic with Zee5 for his digital debut. “I read the first two episodes and thought it was terrible, though I was keen on doing it. Tarun Katial, the CEO of Zee5, read the episodes and agreed. He wasn’t in a rush to bang out content. A couple of weeks later, they called me in for The Final Call and said the show will be made with no compromises.
I’ll have the best writers and technicians on board; I’ll go to London and shoot in the same cockpit Tom Hanks shot in for Sully,” says the actor, adding that he also read Priya’s book and liked it. “I was impressed by how the screenplay combined the thrill elements with the philosophical and spiritual portions.”
Last seen in the Arun Gawli biopic Daddy (which he also co-wrote and produced) and the historical war film Paltan, Arjun believes digital content is the future of entertainment.
While agreeing that OTT platforms such Zee5, Netflix and Amazon have opened up new avenues for actors and storytellers, he also cautions against making inferior content that does not match up to international standards.
“It is great that everyone is keen on doing a web series. But if you do it badly, no one will have the patience to watch it. You have to do it correctly, because you are not just reaching out to an Indian audience or diaspora. This content is going worldwide. Your competition is the House of Cards and Game of Thrones of the world. So we cannot put out anything that looks shabby or cheap.”
Asked if the in-depth exploration of characters and worlds is becoming difficult in the feature film space — and if that is the reason many Bollywood actors are migrating to the web — Arjun says, “Look, you have to be true to the subject. Sometimes, there are subjects that allow you to gloss it up, which is great as long as you do justice to it. It shouldn’t look like a Poppins wrapper. Take Simmba, for example. It’s a film I would love to go and watch in a theatre. It’s unabashedly entertaining.
A Hollywood parallel I can draw is Moulin Rouge!, which is larger-than-life and everything is mad. There’s nothing wrong with it. But if you ask me to do the same in a biopic, with Arun Gawli walking in high speed and putting on a hat while his dhoti is flying away, I’ll say, ‘Dude, come on.’” Quizzed about his favourite international shows, the actor lists Game of Thrones, Black Mirror and House of Cards above all else. “Right now I am watching The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. I think she’s (Rachel Brosnahan) great.”
On the Bollywood front, Arjun’s upcoming release is Nastik, a cop-drama directed by Shailesh Verma. Up next, he has three feature film projects lined up. “I am shooting for a horror film right now. After that I am doing a thriller, followed by an adventure film,” he shares.The Final Call also stars Neeraj Kabi, Jaaved Jaaferi, Anupriya Goenka and Sakshi Tanwar. The first four episodes of the show are presently streaming on Zee5.