x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Ranveer and Arjun on why they were perfect to play ‘Gunday’

They're inseparable both in reel and real life. Arjun Kapoor and Ranvir Singh say it is their chemistry that fuels this gritty new drama, out now in cinemas. Also: Priyanka Chopra on her cabaret sequence in the film.

Indian Bollywood actors Arjun Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh. AFP
Indian Bollywood actors Arjun Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh. AFP

Anyone who doubts the rapport between Bollywood’s young blood Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor needs to be in their company for just a few minutes to realise their pairing as friends-turned coal-mafiosos in the gritty drama Gunday (it means thugs) was not just left to chance.

When the actors, along with co-star Priyanka Chopra and director Ali Abbas Zafar, attended the Dubai International Film Festival in December to launch the movie trailer and discuss their work, they often digressed into off-topic chatter.

After several disruptions, from breaking into a song-and-dance routine to jumping out of their seats to greet other actors at the festival, they settle down to talk about the film, set during Bangladesh’s war for liberation in the 1970s.

Singh lowers his voice to sound sinister and introduces the characters in Hindi: “Vikram aur Bala Calcutta ke sabse bade Gunday hai aur unke tewar alag hai [Vikram and Bala are outlaws and they have a bold attitude].”

“What he means,” explains Kapoor, “is that Vikram and Bala are inseparable, like two sides of the same coin.”

The story, which is written and directed by Zafar, begins with their turbulent childhood in Calcutta (now Kolkata) as Bangladeshi refugees whose struggle for survival makes them thieves and wagon breakers. As the city’s problems escalate between the 1970s and 1980s, they continue to defy the legal system and become powerful mafia men.

Kapoor explains that he plays a “more sorted” individual, while Singh is spontaneous.

“Bikram is essentially Bala’s equilibrium,” says Kapoor. “He is more in control and aware of his surroundings. Bala, on the other hand, is temperamental and acts in the heat of the moment.”

Singh claims he was confident they would make a good team — “even before we read the script”.

“Whenever we’d meet, we’d be in the centre of a group, bantering and entertaining. It struck me that if this kind of chemistry, which is so organic and natural, gets translated on screen, it would be special.”

Gunday is Zafar’s second film under the Yash Raj Films banner. After the success of his movie Meri Brother Ki Dulhan in 2011, the producer Aditya Chopra invited him to direct again.

“Yash Raj is my home ground,” says Zafar. “Aditya understands me well. “He called me after my first hit and asked me what next or was that it?”

Gunday is influenced by the cult films Deewar and Kaala Patthar by the late director Yash Chopra; both feature male-centric plots played out by Amitabh Bacchan in the lead, alongside Shashi Kapoor and Shatrughan Sinha respectively.

“What I am happy about is that the last film Yashji heard before he left us was Gunday,” says Zafar. “He was thrilled by it because he had this whole idea of the era when he was making films – talking about righteousness, distinguishing bad from good, and a system that created its own victims.”

Zafar made his actors work out hard to look like the characters they play.

“Ali was very clear at the start that he would exploit us,” Singh says. “Throughout filming, we were told to hit the gym and hit it hard, which we did.”

He admits Kapoor was more committed to the regime. “I was doing my thing, but Arjun was more committed. Our physique has been used to the maximum in the movie and I think those are the shots I love the most.”

• Gunday is out on Thursday in UAE cinemas

aahmed@thenational.ae