Arjan Bajwa may not be a name you know, but you will after this Wednesday. He is set to make his mark in the highly anticipated film Fashion, starring opposite Priyanka Chopra and under the direction Madhur Bhandarkar. Though still considered a newcomer, the handsome actor in fact debuted in the film Woh Tera Naa Tha and has played the lead in several films in the South, with more to come. He was also seen in Guru and Summer 2007, and both performances received good reviews. In an exclusive interview with BollySpice.com, Arjan spoke about Fashion, working with Priyanka and Madhur, and what we can expect from his next film – though he could not reveal who is directing it! So sit back and meet Arjan Bajwa!
Tell us a bit about your role in Fashion.
Well, in Fashion, I play a fashion model who is aspiring to make it big in this field, and I guess he’s one guy in the film, one character in the film, who is very adamant about how he wants to do it. He wants to do it his own way, which is the hard way, he doesn’t want to take any shortcuts. He doesn’t want to take any back-door entry. He’s the kind of guy who sticks to his rules – he prefers the hard way than kind of obliging someone. He makes his contacts but doesn’t use them the wrong way. To sum it up, I would say that he is the kind of guy who wants to make it big by walking straight and turning right.
Did you have to do any specific preparation for the character?
Not really any big preparation as such because I’ve done a fair bit of modeling at some point, though more of advertising than fashion, but I had a fairly good idea of what it is. I guess it’s more about how you look fine; you can walk on the ramp, can be made to walk on the ramp, a little bit this way or that way by the choreographer. But ultimately I guess your look has to be correct, it has to match up to the way a fashion model would dress, have his hairdo and everything, so that has been worked on very well by the stylists. Ultimately, I would say if you are on screen, whether you are playing a fashion model or playing a pilot or anybody else for that matter, it’s more about about your acting that is going to work; nothing else matters really.
What was your first-ever shot in front of a camera? Were you nervous?
(Laughs) No, I’ve faced the cameras many times earlier, but considering it was the first shot of this film, which is a very prestigious project, and very important for me as well, for various reasons. It is a huge project with a big production studio like UTV, with three-time National Award winner Madhur Bhandarkar as the director of the film. So it was more important for me to kind of make my mark from the very first go because I wanted to impress these people, so they have in their minds that they made the right choice selecting me. So the first shot I did, I am sitting there with the designer, who is trying to explain how difficult it is, how you have to go through so many things and everything to make it big, or get a chance or get a break. So I guess the first shot was, we are more or less sitting across the table, we are having a cup of tea, we are having a conversion – that went pretty well. In fact, I got a lot of applause on the first shot so I was happy! (Laughs.)
How was it playing opposite Priyanka Chopra?
Opposite Priyanka Chopra – I was pretty excited about playing a role opposite such a very well known actress. At the same time, I was a little apprehensive about what and how I am going to be doing things in front of her, me being considered a newcomer and she where she is. I wouldn’t want to do something stupid or something to kind of, you know, offend her in any way, or make her feel like I really do not know my job, but I guess she was really being supportive and she was really humble enough to kind of, um, understand this thing, and she made me feel comfortable. We hit it off kind of well, in fact.
You two reportedly shot an intimate scene that was cut by the censors. Are you upset by the Censor Board’s request?
Why is the whole world talking about this? (Laughs.) The whole world, anyone who interviews me, will be asking this question: “What about the intimate scene?” Come on! (Laughs) Anyhow, OK, fine, I will just kind of throw some light on that. It was a scene between two people who are in love, and I guess that is a very basic part of a relationship, the intimacy. And the scene was shot in a very aesthetic way, and I guess it was not even put for any other reason, it was just part of the story – it was written like that – where they were just trying to show how close these people become when they are living in together. How they are in a constant, complete love with each other. At the same time, I felt that if the censors requested it be chopped off, if they found it too steamy or too much, I guess that’s fair enough, because that’s what their job is. They were doing their job, and we did ours. Not everything you shoot on film remains on screen.
Can you tell us about any funny or interesting experience on the set?
Funny interesting experiences were every day, you know, because this is one set where you would really, really love to go to shoot in the morning; you wouldn’t get up with a kind of a burden on your head, like “Oh my God, oh no not again, I have to go work early in the morning”. It would be something every day I would look forward to, considering the whole set looked more like a fashion show. The first day that I went to shoot, after a couple of scenes I had shot that were not a part of the fashion show, the first time I ever went they had put up a kind of a show set, so I in fact went sat and I thought that I was probably in the wrong place – it was full of all these gorgeous women, really nice hairdos and really nice clothes walking around, a lot of makeup people and lot of technicians and a lot of people practicing on the ramp with a choreographer, and I kind of thought it’s probably my shoot. Then when I saw my director that confirmed it, OK, fine, I am in the right place. Apart from there it looked more like a fashion show that was about to start or something.
The director is Madhur Bhandarkar. Did he give you any particular advice?
He would advise us all the time about how to do things, like how to enact a certain situation or a scene. The best part about that guy is that it is really, really impossible for one single human being to know so many facets of life. He has made films on bar girl dancers. He has made films on beggars in Traffic Signal, which was his last film. He has made films on the corporate world, so it is really amazing to see how this man knows all these small, small nuances and small, small habits and gestures – the way a person would think, walk, or talk in all these different fields. I understand he is a director so he must be doing a lot of research, that is the reason he is called a realistic filmmaker, but at the same time to understand every single character it’s not really easy. He was also aware, apart from whatever we did on the ramp, which was obviously more the responsibility of the choreographer to make us walk the right way, but apart from that, whatever expressions, whatever situations we were in as models, and how we would react, he would just have the correct expressions and tell me do it this way, and looking at him you would see that is exactly right how one would … that is how I would feel if I had been in that situation. So it is really, really commendable how he thinks and how he has so much knowledge about everything. Again, where I think I was doing really fine he would appreciate it and whenever he thought I could do better he would come and take me aside and give me a few tips – not like this and not like that. That was really, really helpful. He was really a fantastic director! But more than a director I would say he was more like a friend, like a brother, who would come and kind of help you out with certain things if you were in trouble.
Which of his films are your favourite?
I liked Chandni Bar because that was really heartrending. It was something that shocked people. Although his films are shocking, that was one film I saw that I realized that everybody who watched that film – when they walked out of the auditorium there was a pin drop silence. Nobody spoke to each other. Nobody said a word and you know it played on your mind for a long time. After that, I would say I liked Page 3 and Corporate and all those films as well, but in Traffic Signal there are like millions of actors. How every actor was given his detail of work and the way he has to look, the way he has to walk. In a sense, you see street children and you see beggars on the road and all that stuff – not everyone has the same way of doing it. How he has captured every single moment is what makes it so spectacular. The best part about his films is whatever is said, every word means something. It is not just there for the heck of it, for the sake of putting a dialogue in there. There is a reason behind everything being said and everything being shot.
The music is currently doing very well. Which track in the album is your favourite?
I liked two songs – the first one is the title track that is called ‘Fashion Ka Jalwa’. Jalwa is a word Madhur uses quite often. That is one nice song. The other is the duet between me and Priyanka Chopra that is called ‘Kuch Khaas Hai’. It is a very nice, soothing romantic number.
Have you seen the film yet, and if yes, how do you think it’s turned out?
I have seen whatever I have been in during the dubbing for the film. I think it is falling into place very well. Not boasting it off I would say it looks nice. It looks very well shot. It depicts very well everything it wants to say very well on screen. Lets hope people think so too.
This relates more to your past, but how hard is it for a model to break into Bollywood?
There used to be a wrong notion about fashion models not being able to act or make good actors. I think now the whole divide of models or fashion models, that it is difficult making it in acting, is just diminishing by the day. At the same time, people who are fashion models are complete all rounders. I don’t know if it is a generation change, or that people are more prepared, or are more aware that they need to prepare themselves before they get into anything. Most of the people, they can act pretty well. That whole divide between films and fashion has kind of diminished you know. It is more about people who can act decently and carry themselves. Again, there are different kinds of cinema being made, that is a big advantage for people who are from fashion. But there are films being made where they have to present people who are really good looking – look like fashion models – not all the films require a lot of tough acting as such. It’s pretty OK now I guess.
What do you think of the current Bollywood films today? What do you think of the quality of Bollywood films?
It is a mixed bag even now. If you look at the best films of Bollywood, of which I would say this year have been a couple of films, which are given by complete newcomer directors with relatively new star casts as well. They have done fairly well, and I guess all you need to do is to dub it into another language and it falls into place very well. Whether it was Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, or it is Rock On!!, or a film called A Wednesday, these films are the kind of cinema that anybody can understand even if language is a barrier. They are very simple films, but they fall into place very well. They are timed very well, not as in length but as in a film, as a script they are timed so well. I would say looking at those things it is getting more contemporary by the day. I guess it evolves all the time. Probably five years down the line we will find this obsolete (laughs). So it’s an evolving process, but at the same time, today, whatever is being made, it is worth taking a look.
You have also worked with Mani Ratnam in Guru, another great director. How was that experience?
Oh, with Mani sir, he is a great taskmaster. You have to keep your eyes open, you have to keep your ears open, and you have to just be on your toes and keep your mouth shut. You have to grasp whatever ideas he is giving to you, because he has so many things going on in his mind all at one point that you don’t know what he’s expecting from you. In the sense that what he is expecting from you is the whole world, so you better be prepared for that. Whatever else comes and shows onscreen is magical. He is fantastic.
You have done some work down South. Can you tell us about your experience there and whether it’s different from working in Bollywood?
I wouldn’t say it is different at all because it is the same medium, just a different language. Filming is the same medium everywhere. I wouldn’t say they are more organized, but yes, they are much more quick. Everything is organized. Bollywood is getting organized like nobody’s business because there are a lot of corporates coming up and studios, and they are doing things in a very tight way. It is all about zeros and ones right now, you know. It’s no more like: OK fine, it will happen, we will see. It is all about things on paper, it is all black and white now so that way they are pretty much organized. I would say my experiences have been good, because I have already done six films and I have signed three more, which are really huge projects with very popular actors and directors. I am working with another National Award Actress – her name is Priyamani – so that way I am getting a good experience. In Hindi films I am working with Madhur Bhandarkar, who is a National Award winner, my actress is a National Award winner, so I guess I am in good company.
Is there a rehearsal period before shooting? How does that process work?
See, if it is a very, very difficult character that you are playing, then there is quite a lot of preparation – if you are playing a character that is different from the ordinary. When you are playing someone you have never been, then you definitely require a lot of preparation. But if it is a regular story, where it is more a city based film, where you are playing a regular guy and the situations are playing upon you, then I don’t think there is much preparation to do than just getting your look right or getting into the character which you are playing. So I wouldn’t say you just go on set and start filming, but at the same time you do need a little bit of time playing any character, for that matter.
So do you sit with Priyanka and read through the lines together and do some blocking before filming starts?
Oh yes, most certainly. When we are given our scenes, I first of all read my lines three or four different ways to see which is the correct tone or correct way of doing it. That is how I prepare from my side. Then, after the director’s consent, we sit with Priyanka also and we do our lines a couple of times, and we try and do some more improvisations in between which would come naturally while you are doing the shot so it looks more natural.
What’s your favourite recent performance by an actor or actress?
I think there have been great films, but no one has done anything out of the ordinary where you would say mind-blowing, just out of the world. I would say performances in the end are very subjective to the kind of character you are playing. There have been actors and actresses that have played great characters but nothing has been out of the line. Nothing has been like Godfather or Forrest Gump or something like that, where you had to kind of get off the line and then do something.
Which kind of roles are you interested in playing in the future?
Like I just mentioned, the two films, they are my most favorite films. The Godfather Trilogy – that is what I would LOVE to do. It is something which is more aggressive, something which is more on organized crime, because that really interests me a lot. At the same time, on the other side, something like a Forrest Gump, because every time you watch that film you are like crying buckets! I am looking forward to doing a lot of action films because that is what I consider I am trained for. I am a black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I am just waiting for a good script which is more action based, not just like action for the heck of it, but definitely with action involved in the film where I can show my talent, where I can show that this is what I have trained for; this is what I can use on screen very well.
What films can we expect to see you in next after Fashion?
I am working on a very big action film, but I can’t disclose the director’s name because I have been instructed not to do so, because sometime later the guy wants to do it himself. But most certainly you will see me in a very different role from playing a fashion model, a completely different person, and also doing a lot of hardcore action.
What is the unique selling point of Fashion?
The unique selling point of Fashion … I would say that there is not one USP of any film; it is a collective thing. At the same time, I would say Fashion is something that is a very catchy title itself. Everybody knows what fashion is, they know exactly what it means, be it the fashion industry or just getting ready and getting dressed up and people say, oh my God, you are very fashionable. This word is so catchy, everybody knows this word, considering that the media has put fashion or glamour into people’s bedrooms now. Everybody wants a piece of it in their own way. More or less the whole world right now wants to be a part of this industry, of this field, which is glamour. I guess people would like to know what exactly goes on behind the scenes of all the glamour and glitz that you see.
Fashion is supposed to be very true to life to the industry itself. Did you feel that while you were making the movie? How real is it?
See, there are so many situations which are depicted in the film which are definitely very close to how it happens in real life. But at the same time, I would say the characters are pretty fictitious here. I mean it, is not depicting anybody’s personal life or real life as such. It is more of a director’s and writer’s vision that they wanted to show Fashion in a different light. I guess they have shown the bad, the good and the ugly side of it, all three of them. Now it is up to the audience to decide and take away whatever they want to take home. Whether it is inspirational for somebody or whether it is dejecting for somebody, that is up to them.
How do you feel your performance turned out?
Umm, I guess I have been appreciated by my director and whoever has seen the film. My studio has seen the film, they have told me that I have done pretty well, so I guess I will take their word! (Laughs)
Do you have any message for your fans out there and at BollySpice.com?
Well, I don’t know how many fans that I have in all. But I guess whoever is a well wisher or who likes me as an actor, I would request them to go see this film and see if I have lived up to their expectations. If I have not, then I would ask them to give me another chance to prove it again. (Laughs.)
We are certain that Arjan will live up to expectations in Fashion, and we are looking forward to seeing his performance. His number of fans is sure to increase, and I know I am listed among them! It was great talking with him and we wish him all the best now, and for all his future projects! Hopefully, he will be offered the Godfather or a Forrest type character one day!