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2008 will be remembered as my most memorable trip to Mumbai ever since I've moved to London in 2002. And it's not just about meeting Bollywood stars and having lunches and dinners with them. It was more about knowing them personally. So after having a drink with the director of Rock On, Abhishek Kapoor, I moved on to having lunch with Farhan Akhtar in his Santacruz office. But it was my last day in Mumbai, which was the busiest with none other than my pal Arjun Rampal. Dodging the Mumbai traffic, I had to reach Arjun's Dadar office at 7pm. I press the door bell and to my surprise it's Arjun Rampal who receives me with a friendly hug. He offers me tea and tells me to wait for a couple of minutes till he finishes his interview with some reporter.
The moment he is done, he comes out and angrily questions me, "Where the hell are you man? You've come to meet on your last day in Mumbai?" So to make my day special he plays the perfect host. He grabs his guitar and starts the best ever unplugged session in his room. But the worst was still to come. He wanted me to play with him too and willingly agreed to give me some exclusive tips on how to play the instrument. We had a ball. Then enters his wife Meher Jessia Rampal. A long chat for almost an hour over a masala chai made it even more special. It was 8.30pm. Arjun had to attend the Rohit Bal's Fashion show at the ITC, Lower Parel. He tells me, "Come with me to the fashion show. It's your last day in town. Let me make your day extra special". We reach and go backstage where he meets his friends from the modelling world. The show gets started, Karan Johar walks the ramp with Rohit Bal. A standing ovation and we depart. Indeed, Arjun is a star but on Friday night, he made me feel like one. Presenting you, Rampal as never heard before in an exclusive interview with us.
Hows life post Rock On? Heard your fans are soon becoming your followers?
I am really glad that I could give them that because they've been extremely supportive. So I feel really happy and my family too. My fans feel the same way too. I know the kind of mails I used to get. I know the kind of support I've got from them. So you feel like you haven't let somebody down. They feel proud of the fact that I took time to choose the kind of work I wanted to do. As an actor you can walk out of a film feeling satisfied but that film may not necessarily satisfy the audiences. But when the film does satisfy the audiences, then you know that all your efforts and energy you put in has paid off. You don't make a film to watch it for yourself or to watch it on a DVD at home, you want people to come to the cinemas and enjoy the experience. So yeah, everything feels just great.
Do you see Rock On re-release after a decade just like in the past, films like Sholay and DDLJ have re-released?
I definitely think so. It can happen. Rock On is a path breaking film and why I say that even though it sounds pompous is because a lot of people thought a film like Rock On won't work, especially the seasoned people within the industry. They called me and asked me what kind of a film was Rock On where we all were looking like some rock band members. I laughed and said that was the whole idea (laughs out loud). They said, 'Aaj kal kaun dekhta hai aisi picture. Yeh film kaam nahin karengi aur ise opening bhi nahin milengi'. When the film has had an amazing opening, the same people tell me that it's a metro centric film which means that it will only work in the main centres. But the film performed even in the interiors and small towns and cities of India. That's when you realise that your audience has changed. They don't want to leave their brain at home. On that level I think Rock On should re-release after a few years.
Can I now say that Rock On is a bigger success than Om Shanti Om?
No, I wouldn't say that. I think in terms of a box office success, Om Shanti Om is a much bigger film today. But Rock On is a success in its own way. It's not right to compare two genres and types of films. It's wonderful to say that you were in both the films (laughs) and both the films were super successful. Om Shanti Om is the biggest film ever in terms of magnitude till date and to what it created at the box office.
Moustache has now become quite synonymous with your success. What say?
(laughs) Please don't say this because I don't want to be stuck with moustaches in all my films.
A rather surprised Farhan Akhtar tells me that Rock On performed the worst in the U.K. Do you think it lacked the star power?
I am a huge star in the U.K (laughs) and my U.K fan base are really huge and if it was based on that then I think people would've come in. I was very surprised to see that Rock On did not perform well in the U.K even after I did loads of interviews. But then I realised that there weren't a lot of theatres in the U.K playing the film. So I called the Big Pictures, a Reliance company and asked them where exactly was Rock On being screened. To my shock, the film wasn't released in parts of Birmingham and Leicester where a huge Asian population thrives. As a distributor, you can't do that. That was a big draw back. But I'm very confident that everybody in the U.K will see Rock On once it comes out on the DVD for sure.
It makes sense if Rock On continues from where it ended. I mean, why isn't a sequel on the cards?
It was Abhishek Kapoor's dream to make Rock On. It really did come from his personal experiences and friendships. It was a very honest and a sincere approach to the film. If he can do that again to make a remake then he should. But if he can't, we should just leave Rock On where it is. If the driving force is not there, you can't make any film, forget the sequel. He will have to showcase the same innocence in his protagonists, the innocence in terms of dialogues and the relationships shown in the film, etc and to recreate that, it'll be very very difficult. What Rock On gave to some people was a lot of hope and nostalgia. Like for example, a lot of people who are working today wanted to meet up with their college friends after watching the film, a lot of bands reunited. A lot of musicians thanked me for giving them hope. It is that extra special magic what Rock On created. Now if you can't create that magic, a sequel can't be made. Just like a remake of Sholay can't be made and we all know what eventually happened (laughs).
From your rocking persona, there was also your soft side seen when you almost started crying after Mr Amitabh Bachchan's comment.
You're right. He is my ultimate hero and all heroes worshipped him while growing up. We still do so when we work with him because his energy is just unbelievable. So when he stood there and put his arms around me in front of 15,000 people and said, 'I'm so proud of Arjun Rampal', my eyes went moist. I think anybody would get moist eyed.
Your time is right Arjun. Producers and directors are now chasing you. But let's talk about you 'Chasing Ganesha', your production house. How's that shaping up?
It's not about the right or the wrong time. I never do things according to the timing. You do things with conviction. You do things what you believe in. We have been working on a script which is an action packed story. We are trying to get the right director on board to direct our film because it is something new and novel. It's an entertaining film which the audiences will enjoy. The first draft of the script was ready even before Rock On was released. Yes, we are seriously getting into production and will at least produce one if not two films a year through our production house and that is our goal. We may also do things on television, may be do things related to fashion and promoting talent. So there are lots of things I want to do which are based around the entertainment industry and that's what Chasing Ganesha Entertainment stands for.
What's happening with your restaurant 'LAP'?
LAP which is called Lounge and Party, will open up in December in Delhi. That's something I really wanted to do. I was in Goa on a flight and I met A.D.Singh who owns all the Olive Bars and Restaurants throughout India. So we got talking and chatting and finally zeroed down on opening LAP together in partnership. As I don't understand the business side of things, he will be looking after it and I'll take care of the entertainment side of things which I understand well.
What next after Rock On?
Well, now EMI is going to release because I've done enough heavy roles and I wanted to do something light and refreshing. I was missing the song and dance so I wanted to get back into it. That's why EMI. It's a fun film. I play a DJ in the film, a guy who misuses the credit card completely. A bit of a conman and then he meets Sanjay Dutt, a recovery agent. My next after EMI is a thriller called Fox. It's a really interesting thriller with Sunny Deol. We've almost finished shooting it. Then I am doing another heavy duty kind of a role in a film called Rajniti directed by Prakash Jha. The whole backdrop is very political just like the name suggests. I play a politician in it. I am very excited about Rajniti because it's got tremendous amount of talent in it. There's Ranbir Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgan and Manoj Bajpai. So it's going to be a very powerful, hard hitting, realistic film. Then I do this film called Kunal which is a period film produced by AB Corp.
What suggestion would you like to give the male models who want to join Bollywood soon?
I've always believed that it is more difficult to come into an industry where you're already known and have been seen. When I got into films, I stopped modelling completely. That was in 1996 end. So from 1996 to 2002, I never did any modelling because my film took five years to be made. People had completely forgotten what I looked like, there was a nostalgia and a memory in terms of a name. What people do in today's time is not correct. They use modelling to be a stepping stone towards films. I always tell youngsters that if they wanted to join films, why did they choose modelling then, why can't they just go train as an actor. When I was modelling, I only came in as a model because I enjoyed it and wanted to contribute to the fashion industry which was growing and booming at that point in time. That's how people remember us. I got bored of it in two and a half, three years. I started professional modelling in 1994 and ended in 1996. That's it. But people still remember you because you were honest with your work. So don't mix the two up. Choose one profession and do it. If you really want to act, come and do acting and if you're good, you'll get a chance. Then it's what you do with it that counts. Right now all the male models are confused.
You're one of those very few actors who haven't quite his profession inspite of many flops.
Because I believed in myself and I've always been honest to my work. I didn't work for other people but myself. The day I worked to prove myself to other people I was unhappy because how many people can you eventually please. The day you work from your heart, you'll know you're not a flop.
Any parting message for your fans?
I am very disappointed that my U.K fans haven't seen Rock On and it shows from the figures we've got from the box office. So make sure you buy the music CD and a DVD of Rock On and please don't download it.