Arjun Rampal, who plays a Kolkatan filmmaker in Rituparno Ghosh’s ‘The Last Lear’, says he travelled incognito around the city in trams and buses to get into the skin of his character.
Rampal said he was so moved by the storyline that he literally became Siddharth, the filmmaker, during the making of the movie that has superstar Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role.
‘I was so touched by the storyline that even before Ghosh finished narrating the script I agreed to do the film. To get into the skin of my character – a Kolkatan filmmaker acquainted with the vibe of the city – I came here a few days before the shooting started. I wore a bandana so that no one could recognise me and travelled across the city in trams and buses and took photographs,’ Arjun told in an interview.
‘The Last Lear’, according to the actor, is a wonderful example of commercial and parallel cinema co-existing in a single reel.
‘I have never played anything like this in my entire career. My character Siddharth Kumar is a passionate film director who is making his first film and refuses to compromise with the quality of the film at any cost. He is a mixed bag of emotions who convinces an old Shakespearean threatre actor Harish Mishra (Amitabh) to play a clown in his film,’ he said.
This is the third time Arjun has worked with Amitabh after ‘Aankhein’ and ‘Ek Ajnabee’, but he says that the excitement of acting with a legend never wears off.
‘No matter how long your association with Mr. Bachchan has been, the first shot with him invariably makes you nervous. However, every moment with him is a learning experience for me,’ said the actor who has wowed audiences with his performance in ‘Rock On’ and ‘Om Shanti Om’.
Asked how different it was playing a producer in ‘Om Shanti Om’ and a director in ‘The Last Lear’, Arjun said that while the former with negative shades was quite challenging, the latter was like a self-exploration for him as an actor.
‘Director Rituparno Ghosh was always on his heels to bring something different and more profound out of me. He stressed me so much that at times I felt as if he was the Hitler of our unit,’ he laughed. ‘But one thing that bound us was the urge to do something new and passionate.’
‘The Last Lear’ is based on Utpal Dutt’s play ‘Aajker Shahjahan’. Shot in theatrical style, it also stars Preity Zinta and popular Bengali actors Prosenjit and Jisshu Sengupta.
Arjun said a unique feature of the movie is that every scene was done in one shot.
‘It’s very unlike contemporary films. There were four cameras around, but we weren’t told which one was for what shot – long, medium or close-up. Once Ghosh said ‘action’, he said ‘cut’ only after the scene was over. That made us more spontaneous and even when we goofed up on-screen, we made it up quickly. In fact, Ghosh treated the film as a cinematic version of theatre where the actors brushes up their skills through mistakes.’
So any plans of turning director in real life?
‘I am better off an actor than a director. But I enjoy filmmaking and hence have started a production company called Chasing Ganesha,’ Arjun said.