Arjun Rampal on Nail Polish: It was a blessing to work with Manav Kaul
Arjun Rampal on turning defense lawyer for Nail Polish and his upcoming projects in 2021
The last time Arjun Rampal played a defense lawyer was in Fox, a 2009 thriller co-starring Sunny Deol. Now, in Nail Polish (2021), out on ZEE5, he gets to explore the archetype in full gear. A respected sports coach (Manav Kaul) is accused of murdering two migrant children. As Sid Jaisingh, it falls on Arjun’s hotshot lawyer to defend his dead-end client. Sid has his own issues — he hates his father, a famous former lawyer, and has recently been offered a political bait. “You needn’t stoop low like me,” he tells the public prosecutor — a telling admission from a ruthless character.
Last month, Arjun was questioned by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in a drugs-related case (he refused to discuss the probe in this interview).
Excerpts from the conversation:
Nail Polish begins as a courtroom drama but takes a complex turn. What drew you to the project?
Initially, I was a bit sceptical to shoot during a pandemic. I have a one-year-old daughter and I told the producers there’s no way I am stepping out. On their insistence, I got on a zoom call with Bugs Bhargava, our director. Bugs is such a charmer and he really wanted to tell this story. We spoke about the process of filmmaking and how an actor approaches his character. Finally, I asked him, "Why did you call your film Nail Polish?" He then told me to read the script. After I read it and discovered the answer, I had a big grin on my face.
We heard you took inspiration from your uncle, Advocate Surendra Singh, for the part.
My uncle is one of the top criminal lawyers in the country. Growing up, I would spend my summer or winter vacations at his place. For the character of Sid Jaisingh, I could draw from his style… the way he conducted himself in front of people. The good lawyers are always charismatic. There’s a certain intensity and larger-than-life quality to them.
I also spoke to other lawyers for my research. My big concern was how do they convince themselves to defend a criminal. And they all had the same answer — until proven guilty, every man is innocent.
The ensemble cast of Nail Polish has been praised. How was it collaborating with Manav, Anand Tiwari and Rajit Kapur?
It was a blessing, really. We did about seven readings together and discovered each other. With any actor, you are always looking for their instinct. Manav and I would jam together and give each other suggestions. There was no ego between us. He has a tough part in the film and he’s played it with so much ease.
Then there’s Anand, who has a terrific sense of humour. His timing is just great. He can be comical and at the same time maintain seriousness. Finally, there’s Rajit, who in person is so proper. So he was the perfect one to play the judge.
You have an intense monologue near the end. Tell us about shooting that scene.
It’s a six-and-a-half-minute speech with no cuts. I remember on the shooting day, I just could not hit the right note. I did a couple of takes and realised something was wrong. I went up to Bugs and asked if we could do it the next day. He just hugged me and told me to sleep it off. He told me not to overthink it. I came back the next morning and it just flowed.
You are working with Kangana Ranaut on Dhakkad. What are your other projects for 2021?
I’m doing The Battle of Bhima Koregaon. It’s a massive film with a beautiful story. We started shooting it in January last year, but had to stop because of Covid-19. We have finished about 50 per cent of it. Unless vaccines are rolled out, I don’t know when we can go back on floors with that. You can’t create a project like that in a bubble.
The other film is Penthouse, directed by Abbas-Mastan. It also has Bobby Deol and Sharman Joshi. Again, it’s a really interesting subject. I have finished the film. It will be coming out on Netflix.