Arjun Kapoor’s black boots are almost touching the all-glass window of the interview room in the T-Series office. He is looking outside, at the greyness of the Mumbai monsoon. Disha Patani is sitting by his side. A freshly brewed cup of black coffee is steaming on the table before us. Raindrops glisten on the window. It’s perfect weather for a hooded serial killer to look for prey. “I liked a girl in college,” Arjun reminisces. “I asked a friend to find out if she likes me too. A few days later, the two of them started dating. But I was fine with it. I guess I sacrificed my love for my friendship.”
This, however, is unlike Arjun’s character in Ek Villain Returns, a spiritual sequel to the 2014 thriller Ek Villain. Arjun’s Gautam Mehra doesn’t seem like the sacrificing type as he trades blows with John Abraham’s Bhairav in the film. “His angst comes from losing his mother at a young age. He is not used to having women in his life and doesn’t know how to behave with or around them. Moreover, his father hates his behaviour, but still, he seeks his attention.”
The film’s trailer shows a tormented Arjun tapping on Tara Sutaria’s car window as she abandons him. This seems like a typical Mohit Suri character, whose roots go back to Kunal Khemu’s Kunal in Kalyug (2005). Though Arjun has covered the first half of being a jilted lover in another Mohit directorial, Half-Girlfriend (2015), it’s the second half of exalting revenge that awaits him in Ek Villain Returns. “I worked with Mohit in Half-Girlfriend and it was a romantic role. It was the brooding side of Mohit’s in Murder 2 (2011) and Ek Villain that I always wanted to explore.”
“What I really like about Mohit is how he writes his women,” says Disha. “He always tells me that it’s important for a love story to be told from a woman’s perspective.” In his career spanning ten years, Arjun has strived to not be stereotyped, even at the cost of commercial gains. He made a mark with his performance in Yash Raj Films’ Ishaqzaade (2012) and played varied roles in subsequent releases like Aurangzeb (2013), Finding Fanny (2014), and Tevar (2015) and Namaste England (2018), although they failed to mint money.
However, Arjun is sort of a box-office whiz and the exact daily collections of his releases are at his fingertips. He is the son of producer Boney Kapoor, and maybe it’s in the genes. Arjun, however, doesn’t only choose films on the basis of their money-making viability. “Box-office potential can only make fifty per cent of the decision. When I did a Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, I was not thinking about the commercial prospect. I just wanted certain respect as an actor and to explore my craft more.
When I was approached with Finding Fanny, Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapur, Deepika Padukone, and Dimple Kapadia were already a part of the film. I did the film because I wanted to work with such stalwarts and didn’t want to be pigeonholed as an action hero. It’s also about the people who are making it. Sometimes a commercial film comes around and you don’t resonate with the way they are imagining it.”
Interestingly, Arjun’s first film was not supposed to be Ishaqzaade. He auditioned for the role of Achyut Diwan, a hacker, in Y Films’ (a subsidiary of Yash Raj) Virus Diwan. After the release of an announcement video, the film, however, didn’t progress. “Virus Diwan’s script didn’t turn out to be as it was envisaged. At the same time, Adi sir (Aditya Chopra) approached me with Ishaqzaade. You don’t ask questions when you are being upgraded to business class. After which I got Aurangzeb and the rest is history.”
Arjun believes Aurangzeb (2013) didn’t get its due. “I did a thriller with a double role in my second film. Nobody hated the film but there was not enough love and it was lost somewhere in between. I think out of all my films Aurangzeb got the most lost at that point in time,” he says. “If it was released now it would have worked as a great OTT series, maybe like Pataal Lok.”