October 12, 2018 / 5:32 AM / 7 days ago

Q&A: Arjun Kapoor on how social media devalues celebrities

Arjun Kapoor is preoccupied with his social media feed to an extent that he won’t let a full day of promotional interviews stop him from relentless checking and updating. That’s common for his generation of Bollywood stars. Reuters interviewed him as he maintained his brand.  

Handout still from "Namaste England".

Q: You seem to put in a lot of thought into social media. How important is it to you?

A: Marketing has evolved for the better and worse. It’s evolved slightly more for the audiences and it’s becoming slightly worse for us. Content suffers because you are in a hurry to put out stuff. It’s also tiring – you want to switch off sometimes, but you cannot.

Q: Speaking from the other side, there is also such a glut of information about films and actors. I don’t know how much of it audiences are processing.A: The audience is processing the organic stuff – that is from the heart and is genuine. Even when it comes to imagery, or an interview, or banter – when it is not scripted or being influenced by external sources.

But that is not a tangible thing, you cannot quantify it. You have to put out everything and see what works. It’s trial and error. I think the generation after us will be better prepared because they will have seen our failings.

Handout still from "Namaste England".

I think “humne apne aap ko bahut sasta kar diya hai” (we have cheapened ourselves). We are constantly putting ourselves out there because we don’t know any better. There are very few actors who are not on social media. The repercussion is that if you are available to me on my phone 24x7, I don’t need to consume you on a bigger platform. Or, I might decide that you are not worth my time because you don’t like my personality for some reasons.

Q: Is there a downside to not being on social media? What if you choose not to put yourself out there?

A: I joined social media after “2 States”. I was oblivious to what people thought of me on social media till then. I like to keep in touch with my fans. It came from a place of wanting to join to interact with the fans. We were all naïve when we joined social media, thinking it’ll only be love. Then we all faced brickbats, because social media became important and trolls became relevant. Listen, it’s a very enjoyable medium – I enjoy putting myself out there. But you also have to remember that it is not real.

Q: Both the love and the hate are not real?A: Yeah, because why would you follow someone if you don’t like them? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not real in the sense that it doesn’t make any difference to your life. It’s a nice mirage that make you feel connected with the rest of the world. Then the box office dictates a certain other reality, and then life takes over, you meet people, and you get a sense of what is real and not. Social media can be extreme – both the love and the hate. The mid-ground is that you should know when to put your phone down and walk away.

Q: Are you able to do that?

A: Easier said than done. I can give you that advice. I told Janhvi (his half-sister) too, that she shouldn’t read comments for her first film. I told her the fact that you have hate towards you means you are relevant. Imagine how much you matter that people have the time to go and write hateful comments about you.

Handout still from "Namaste England".

I don’t read comments. You do things you believe in – everybody’s opinions cannot matter to you. People who are your fans will give you tremendous love and the haters will do the opposite. So, the best thing to do is “photo lagao aur bhool jao” (Put up your picture and forget about it).

Q: Is your upcoming film “Namaste England” similar to 2007’s “Namastey London”?A: In a complex world like ours, to find simplicity on celluloid is also nice. That’s what worked for “Namastey London”. We are all so scared of simplicity, when we crave it. “Namaste England” is the dal-roti to your sushi and take-out, and all the paraphernalia associated with that.

Q: Was it the simplicity that made you want to do the film?A: No, what attracted me to the film was that it started where all other films end – at the happily ever after. The relationship, the two personalities clashing on beliefs. It’s easy to say opposites attract, but there is also friction. It was fun to play that grounded character.

Q: You’ve had a very tough year on the personal front. Has it been difficult to focus on work in that time?

A: I find work therapeutic. I found happiness the first time it happened. I found myself. I found solace. I found silence. You get to live vicariously through your character and lose yourself for a bit. I have always found work therapeutic. Being on a film set, performing a scene, collaborating on a project, all of it is damn exciting. It takes away the pain.

But if you go through it again and again, there are certain permanent repercussions where you are not the same person. It is not about being distracted, it is just that there is a certain suffering that doesn’t go away. But you have to fight it.

There is no point complaining. I am not a whiner, have never been. There are only two ways – either you give up or you keep going. Either circumstances get the better of you, or I’ll get the better of them. We’ll see.

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