“You are making fun of people who have sacrificed themselves for India,” Arjun Kapoor tells Panipat trolls

The Panipat [2019] actor is fine with people making fun of him, but is upset with trolls who indirectly insulted Sadashiv Rao Bhau, the 18 century Maratha warrior

By Mayur Lookhar

Panipat [2019]

In the age of social media, a film undergoes scrutiny the moment its teaser, trailer is out.  A trailer review now precedes the film review. Journalists would dissect and allocate few paragraphs to the trailer review alone. Unless the film takes you by surprise, there is not much difference between the trailer and the film review. Obviously, the latter is filled with more paragraphs. Most netizens, though, sum up their impression in one tweet or a facebook post.

A month before its release, the makers of Panipat [2019] had released their trailer.  It largely received mixed views from the media, but many netizens weren’t that impressed and soon Panipat and lead actor Arjun Kapoor began to trend on social media.  The fans were largely outnumbered by the trolls, who resorted to memes to make fun of the actor and the historical film per se.

You may not care, but it is hard to ignore when the trolling just piles up.  Has that affected Arjun Kapoor?

“Everybody gets trolled. It’s become habitual for people to be negative and become bitter because of whatever they might be dealing with in their personal lives. It reflects more badly on the way they have been brought up,” Kapoor said in a group interaction.

The actor is fine with one criticising him but he is not impressed with jokes, memes on Sadashiv Rao Bhau, his character in Panipat.  [Sadashiv Rao Bhau was the commander-in-chief of the Maratha empire in the third battle of Panipat, 1761].

 “You can make fun of me. But if you make fun of this film then you are making fun of people who have sacrificed themselves for India [then Hindostan ],” says Kapoor.

The Panipat [2019] actor is pained that no one is condemning the trolling of the Maratha warrior.

“I’ve never seen memes on Bhagat Singh or Subhash Chandra Bose. I’m seeing memes on Sadashiv Rao Bhau and nobody is saying anything about it.  It’s not my job though to tell the trolls.  But the fact is these men were martyrs. Nobody has said this [trolling] is uncouth and rude.  It is sad we are allowing it to happen” Kapoor bemoaned.

The 34-year-old actor reiterated that he’s not averse to laughing at himself. The actor was brave enough to take all nasty jokes when he appeared on AIB – The Roast.  He also candidly admitted to being amused by the memes on his film Half Girlfriend [2017].  However, Kapoor reckoned that trolling is now becoming a business.

“I’m disappointed that the story, the character is being made fun of. That’s unfair, “said Kapoor.

“I wonder if you were told this story earlier, then would you have made fun of these characters? I will laugh a million times over a joke on myself,  but there is a limit, “ he continues, “Today it has become a little derogatory and insensitive. I don’t know how to explain it, but we are being criticised as if we are not human beings.  One should keep Arjun and the story apart.”

At this moment, Kapoor seemed to be talking of trolls and genuine critics in  the same breath.

A journalist pointed out that art can be interpreted in different form and if one makes fun of a film and a character for the way it has been shown in the film that shouldn’t be taken as making fun of the icon or the person being portrayed.

“So, tomorrow if you see a film on Mahatma Gandhi and you don’t like it, will you make fun of it?,” Kapoor shot back.

The scribe pointed out here that the film is a gaze and interpretation of the director, the writer of Mahatma Gandhi. And it’s this interpretation, that is open to critique.

“[But] There is always a way of appreciating and criticizing”, cautioned Kapoor. He adds, “Criticism is a respectful part of our profession. Most of us get paid money to critique.  I appreciate the way you put your question. But that is not how it happens in the country.”

The actor was of the opinion that there perhaps the constructive criticism is missing with many crictics resorting to a harsh tone in their reviews.  In a pleasant surprise, an actor stressed on the importance of having logic in conversations.  [We hope filmmakers, actors, too, don’t ask critics, cinephiles to keep logic aside when watching certain films].

One of the criticism against the Panipat trailer is it appearing as a poor rehash of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani [2015].

Commenting on the unfair criticism, Kapoor posed few tough questions, “People compare Panipat to Bajirao.  There were many such great stories during that period. So, should we not touch them? By that count, a Tanhaji [2020] shouldn’t be coming. Are you saying that just because we had a biopic on Dhoni [Indian cricketer] there shouldn’t be one now on a Yuvraj Singh? Should there no more war films after Uri: The Surgical Strike [2019]?”

Both Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor have played Maratha warriors in Bajirao Mastani and Panipat, respectively.   Kapoor found the comparison over their looks as silly. “If someone says that Arjun looks less bald than Ranveer so I will not watch Panipat. I don’t think that’s possible.” said Kapoor.

“Ok, for a moment, had I thought of not going bald. But then wouldn’t the [descendants of] Peshwas [Prime Minister of Maratha Empire] get offended? Will I care about a comparative study and the wrong sense of memes being made or will I care about telling a story that touches the heart of the people? A story about people who sacrificed their lives,” questioned Kapoor.

We don’t know, too, much about the trolls, but it was a little odd to see Kapoor, Kriti Sanon and Sanjay Dutt not having the requisite accent for their respective characters in the Panipat trailer.  We didn’t find Kapoor and Sanon having the Marathi tone, while Sanjay Dutt, who plays Afghan warrior Ahmed Shah Abdali, didn’t have a Pashto accent.

When asked whether he has learnt Marathi for Panipat, Kapoor replied in Marathi, “Mala Marathi yete” [I know Marathi]. But the actor was quick to tell that while he can understand the language, as he is studied it in school, but he can’t speak it fluently.

“I’m scared to speak because you don’t want to make a bad mistake that people get offended.  You ask me in Marathi, but I’ll answer in Hindi,” Kapoor said confidently.

 Leave aside all accents, trolls but Panipat is a key film in Kapoor’s career. After a bright start, the actor has struggled in the last few years.  How pivotal is Panipat at this stage of his career?

“I’m one of those fortunate few who has seen the highs and lows. Not just box office but I also lived through them in life. The person that I am today is because of those lows more than my highs,” he says philosophically.

But Kapoor then quickly adds, “Having said that who doesn’t like a hit. The amount of it doing well, I can’t quantify that. What I would like to believe is that the last few [films] have disappointed people who have gone and paid money for my films expecting good work.  I hope this film doesn’t disappoint them. Today, I would like credibility. And that is something not earned by numbers. It is earned by people watching your film and liking the film. I would like to believe this film is a credible film and I hope it does incredible business along with it”

Panipat is set to be released on 6 December.

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