Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to in.com - your flight to the stars. Flying you today is Almas Khateeb with co-pilot Arjun Rampal. Fasten your reading glasses and make yourself comfortable on this non-stop service from the 70mm screen to the mobile phone.
Arjun Rampal may be slightly distant from the screen but he is not shy of the medium at all. Having shared the screen with the likes of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, Rampal has always been in a league of his own. After the tried and tested Bollywood formulas, the Daddy actor has debuted on an OTT platform, Zee5, where he plays a pilot in The Final Call. Not just an actor, Rampal is one of the few who can boast of being a script-writer and a producer as well. Being an established filmmaker who is adapting to the OTT platform, were there any limitations that he faced? "Limitations? On the contrary, I feel OTT platforms are more liberating. They're not limited at all. They give you a lot more freedom, you're a lot less confined than the limitations that the films have. Especially when there are really big budgets involved; you end up making it more and more commercial, and get a larger audience because of the box office. If it's a much smaller, a niche film, you don't get those kinds of budgets to really play around to get the desired quality. You don't get producers and investors who'll really back the film, or even actors who'll join the film - because they don't know if it's going to work or not work. Here, I think, it takes care of all those problems of people who want to tell a story, they get the time to do it, the production values are good. You're also competing on a global level and are more thrown towards a global audience. The reach is much, much greater. So, I don't know what the limitations are, the platform is much more liberating."
Since Sacred Games aired on Netflix, the number of A-List actors, who typically wouldn't conform to anything that isn't on the big screen, have now started to evolve. The masala entertainers only get by due to star power in a population as big as ours. Would it, then, be true to say that Bollywood is now facing an exodus by actors trying to get onto streaming platforms? "In India, we are a race which believes in herd mentality. One guy jumps on something, two guys jump, three guys jump, and suddenly there's a whole bandwagon of them. To justify it, I feel that it is a great space for the actor to explore. I've explored it and I've had lots of fun with it. There's not that level of pressure that there is when you do a film. Simply because you know it is going to a platform. The pressure is just to give your best which you do even when you make a film. But, on an OTT platform, it is there. People can watch it when they want to watch it. It's there forever, unlike a film. Even if a film has had a good run, when it goes off the air, you really don't get to see it again. Now, you can watch these things on these OTT platforms."
Just because it is a series being produced for an OTT platform like Zee5 doesn't mean that big money hasn't gone into making it. So when asked how Arjun would sell the show to me, he demanded 40 crores. Thankfully, without any awkward silence, Arjun went on to pitch the idea of the show to a millennial audience. "See, a show like this, it's never been made. You've watched the gangster stuff, you've seen all of that, it's all happening and they're doing a great job with it. But no one has really tried to do a script where there is a pilot who is suffering mentally and is a threat to the passengers. A pilot is somebody you blindly place your faith in to take you from one destination to another. But, what if that pilot doesn't want to do that? What if he's suicidal? What if he's mad and crazy? What if he's trying to take revenge from somebody? What happens if that pilot is trying to crash a plane? What happens then? We never think about that. We just board a plane without thinking what would be the mental health of the pilot - and who checks that? You can go through security. You can do a physical examination to see if the pilot's eyesight is okay, to see if he or she is sober and all. But who checks the mental health of the pilot? Have you seen anything like that? No. The Final Call is an exciting thriller with interesting back stories to the passengers. There is a great crew and cast that's put it together."
On 14th February 2019, some of our bravest CRPF jawans lost their lives in an attack by a suicide bomber. It is a known fact that Arjun shot in Kashmir, extensively, for The Final Call just a while before the entire nation mourned. When I touched upon the topic of the Pulwama attacks, Arjun was quick to offer his condolences to the families of the deceased. However, he didn't stop there like most celebs have when asked for a reaction to such issues. He went on to tell us what, in his opinion, would help in bringing peace upon the troubled valley. "It's horrible! It's so sad and disturbing. I come from an armed forces background, my grandparents were both in the army and I've grown up in cantonments, my brother is in the army. This just feels horrible. It's done in such a dastardly and cowardly manner, it wasn't even a fair fight, it was just so sly and done in a terrible manner. Like a hit-and-run kind of a case. Violence is not something that I endorse. It's sad what happened and my heart goes out to the families. See, we have this life because of them. We're sitting here, free to do what we want because of them and we need to acknowledge that. My condolences. Even to the Kashmiri people. I was just there shooting, it was the first time I went - and it's so gorgeous, so beautiful! People are amazing, it is a really, really nice place. I met some locals. Everything was so peaceful, so good and then something like this happens."
Arjun has, forever, been fiercely protective of his personal life. He's kept his young ones away from the spotlight and seldom speaks about his divorce. When he started posting selfies with Gabriella Demetriades, rumours of a relationship were rife. The South-African model doesn't hold back from posting loved-up posts that Arjun stars in. What makes you think all these things? "See the thing is, let me just say it, I don't speak about my personal life. It is really my space. I'm very private like that. You can ask me about anything else, but please let's not go to that space. It's about people and people's lives, we should just leave certain things."
And just when we decided to wrap the conversation, Arjun decided to share some more only this one was about Tom Hanks’ Sully. Arjun remembered a particular shot, the one with the famous cockpit scene. It is the one anecdote from The Final Call that he will always remember. "I don't know how many people have seen that movie - Tom Hanks' Sully. It's based on a true story, and I shot in the same cockpit that Tom Hanks shot in. All I could think was - 'Oh, I'm sitting in Tom Hanks' chair!' That was quite amazing."