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    Sep 2011


    Default I cry when I am happy: Arjun Rampal

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    Arjun Rampal, 40, to date remains India's most distinct supermodel with his own style and image. Ahead of his upcoming film 'Inkaar', which he believes to be his best performance so far, he talks to TOI about why we don't have supermodels anymore, the lesson he learnt from Amitabh Bachchan and what spirituality means to him.

    How did you get into modelling?
    Born in Jabalpur, I was brought up in Deolali, where my father ran a small business of making fire extinguishers. I studied at the international school at Kodaikanal, after which I was visiting Mumbai with my friends when at RG's nightclub, Rohit Bal saw me and asked me if I was a model. I was doing Economics honours at Hindu College in Delhi when I again bumped into Rohit (Gudda) at a night club. To my surprise, he recognised me and came up to me and said, 'Aren't you Arjun?'. He offered me to model for him and my first question to him was, 'What will I get?' He said, 'First you need some clothes'. I landed doing my first shoot with Bharat Sikka as the photographer.

    After a few days, Gudda called me to his office and showed me the poster of this guy who looked really good in Black and White and he said 'That's you'. I couldn't believe what I saw. He had turned me into a model. Initially, people thought that I had an attitude problem as I couldn't understand why people would walk a 20-metre ramp for five to six days as it was not rocket science, but then I made friends and became a part of the circuit and moved to Mumbai. Milind Soman's girlfriend, Neerja Shah, got me a paying guest accommodation at the Piramal House at Worli Sea Face, where I believe Amitabh Bachchan also lived when he first came to Mumbai. I was told it was a vegetarian house, where I could not drink or bring girls. Knowing me at that point in time, I was thrown out bag and baggage in a week by one of the older Piramal ladies as she found some chicken bones in the dustbin. I shifted to Lokhandwala and bought a small apartment.

    I continued to model till I was 23, after which I moved to London and New York to model there, to put myself through the test of going abroad and seeing myself against the top models of the world. During my college days, I used to see guys my age struggling not knowing what to do in their life, whereas my life was fine and I was making more money than what they would probably make after their first job. So, I went through this spiritual fight questioning myself whether I deserved all that I had and went to Dharamshala for six months to practise Buddhism.

    Stars are the models today. Why are there no supermodels anymore?
    When we were coming up as supermodels, each of us was a personality and as individuals, were different from each other with our own style. You can still remember images of Mehr and Madhu Sapre. Today, models all over the world have become uniform. They are like clothes horses and walking mannequins. You can't remember any image today, as every image is a copy of another image shown as a reference point to the model. People that I worked with, be it Rohit Bal, Prabuddha Dasgupta or Bharat Sikka were people who were not copying but creating images. Today, there is more production of shows, but that time there was more creativity. Even today, if a model were to do his job really well, he would become a supermodel.

    How did you meet Mehr?
    She was the person I walked the ramp with in my first professional fashion show. She is four years older to me and was a model whose poster I had in my hostel room. I was so nervous walking with her that I held her hand and she thought I was making a pass at her. Though we were good friends, we were not in a relationship till I was 25 when I returned from the US, after which we got married.

    Ashok Mehta was your mentor? What was it like working with him?
    When I was in New York, a lot of my friends were studying filmmaking and would bring their scripts to me as I was a good script doctor. I would read their scripts and make corrections to them for $ 20 per script and was fascinated by films. On returning to India, I started working with Ashok Mehta on my first film Moksh. It took the film five years to complete. I looked so stiff in the rushes, I decided to quit modeling even though at that time I was at the peak of my modelling career. Shekhar Kapur had worked with Ashok Mehta and told me, 'I don't know what will happen to the film but you will learn a lot.' The film was ahead of its time in concept, won a national award, I was noticed and he became my mentor.

    It took time for you to get success in Bollywood. How did you deal with that low phase?
    The period from 2001 to 2005 was really tough. My films were not working even though there was an acceptance of a model. I was depressed but did not cry. I cry when I am happy. For instance, I cried seeing my wife crying when I won my Filmfare award for Rock On, when I got my national award, when Mr Bachchan hugged me after Om Shanti Om and whispered in my ear that my life would change after the film. I had been like an artist with open windows and a lot to express with a telephone at home waiting to ring, but it didn't, till Rock On came to me in my life. Mr Bachchan is an extremely sensitive person and he told me once, 'In this industry keep doing your work, but don't bring it back home. I never tell my wife what film I am doing. Don't bring back home your failure, enjoy your success'. I have practised that in my life.

    You brought in the New Year inside the Golden Temple. Does visiting a religious place mean being spiritual?
    Going to religious places gives me clarity. When I am sitting there, I am in a state of gratitude with my defence mechanism down and am open to receiving that energy, that gives me clarity as at that time, you are listening to your heart. The heart shows you the direction in life. The mind exists only to execute your emotion.

    Inkaar deals with the subject of sexual harassment in a corporate set-up. Is there sexual harassment in the world of fashion and films of which you are a part?
    There would be traces in every industry. However, it is more susceptible to happen in a closed environment of a corporate set-up, where you work closely for long hours everyday, over a longer period of time. In fashion and films, you work together for a short period and then move on. If a female sleeps with a younger boy, she is termed cougar or a cradle-snatcher. If a man sleeps with a woman, we assume that the woman is doing it for a professional advantage. Surprisingly, nobody says 'love' even though it could be mutual and healthy. Research has shown that 50% of all sexual harassment cases started with the two people having a relationship.



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