The Final Call: Arjun Rampal Shot In the Same Cockpit As Tom Hanks In Sully
From shooting in the same cockpit as Tom Hanks in Sully to portraying a depressed, suicidal pilot in The Final Call – Arjun Rampal talks to us about his debut digital foray.
Arjun Rampal in The final Call. Image: Instagram
If there is one thing that Arjun Rampal has maintained all through his two-decade-long career, is a variation in the kind of roles he’s taken up. He might have done films like Dil Ka Rishta and Dil Hai Tumhaara in the initial phase of his career, he later shifted to more serious characters like Joe Mascarenhas in Rock On and Prithviraj Pratap in Raajneeti. He is pushing the envelope once again, in the digital space now, with The Final Call, a new web series that premieres on ZEE5 today.
The Indian digital content space has really boomed in the past few years. Were you thinking of foraying into this space before The Final Call was offered to you?
It is an interesting platform to venture into. There’s a lot of freedom and you work with a lot less pressure. In a big budget film, you are pressurised to put an item song, the scripts are manipulated, the film has to do certain numbers at the box office.
Is the risk less on a web platform?
I don’t think it’s about the risk. You can spend a lot of money on a show and still not get eyeballs. People are very impatient, if they don’t like the initial one or two episodes they won’t come back to watch the whole season. Keeping them hooked is very challenging.
But you get a lot of freedom to work on a very purist level. That’s why the writing is so good and the resulting performances are good too. So everything kind of complements each other. The storytelling is enhanced, you can take one character from good to bad to grey over a period of time, explore various shades of it.
Most of the successful web shows follow a certain template. Do you think edgy content works better on a web platform?
The good thing is that people are willing to experiment these days. From the kind of content that was being made even five years ago to the content that is succeeding now, with films like AndhaDhun, Badhaai Ho, Stree or even Uri, which are not backed by huge budgets or star power, but their box office collections are phenomenal. So you can really push the envelope in various directions.
Would you have taken up a show like this five years ago?
That’s a good question, because it reaffirms my choice of The Final Call. Something like this has not been made, and it really got me. Content should be timeless, if it was made five years ago and can still be watched five years later, then that’s great. That’s what you want to do.
My questions while doing this were, will the story have the backing of the production as well, because when you go on to the web platform, the kind of audience you reach is also changing. ZEE5 goes to over 173 countries, dubbed in various languages. The reach is very different.
Also, your competition changes. You’re competing on an international scale with international stars, with a global level of quality and writing. And right now is the golden era in that space. You get the best writers, the best shows, the best production, all for a subscription.
Maintaining the quality of the show was very important, and they did it. I have shot in the same cockpit which Tom Hanks shot in for Sully, that was a high and an incredible experience. The production value of it is like that of an international show. Director Vijay Lalwani was very clear about it. The writing was kept as edgy as possible.
Do you wish that you got to work with such content in the initial phase of your career?
For an actor, it is great to be able to work with such content when you are younger, but I feel that I have been part of that space, because I was very conscious about doing work that was very different, character-driven parts than just looking at roles which would create star power. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes people make a film around an actor. I would prefer to work on a script.
How close is the role of Karan Sachdeva, a pilot suffering from depression, to you in real life?
The character is not close to me at all. Depression can happen to the best of people. One part of playing the character was to figure out what is depression and how does it come into our lives. Depression has grown rapidly in the last five years, suicide cases have increased.
Most of that blame goes to social media. We think we are part of something, but there is no personalised human interaction, and without realising, you are kind of isolating yourself. So these were the keywords that I was working with.
The script said that the character is isolated. So you work on what it would feel like to be isolated and cut off from people, stop going out. Then your mind starts working and you realise the power of the mind and the games it can play with you. I think that’s what depression would be like. You start hating yourself, the world and everything around you.
When you hop onto a plane, thinking that you will reach your destination, you expect a smooth experience - that’s blind faith. What if your pilot is not well? You can do a physical check-up of the person, but what do you do about his mental state? The show invokes questions about mental illness, and how to overcome it.
What do you do to stay mentally healthy?
How do you know I am sane? Or stable? (With a laugh) A lot of people think I am insane. That’s why they cast me.
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