'Ajeeb Daastaans' actor Armaan Ralhan opens up about the Netflix anthology, nepotism & working with Fatima Sana Shaikh

Armaan Ralhan is back after a gap of five years, and is currently lighting up the OTT space in Majnu from Netflix’s anthology, Ajeeb Daastaans. The actor, who was last seen in Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor-starrer Befikre, is the grandson of yesteryear’s filmmaker, OP Ralhan. Read on as he talks about the anthology, working with Fatima Sana Shaikh, nepotism, and more. Excerpts:

What drew you to the character in Majnu from Ajeeb Daastaans?

I have always loved these kinds of characters. Of course, I do like the quintessential romantic hero characters, too. But these kinds of characters are really exciting, because they are layered and have different shades. With the quintessential good guy characters, you may not get to play these elements.

You had a few intimate scenes with Fatima Sana Shaikh. How did you break the ice with her before those scenes?

Before we started filming, we had multiple reading sessions. I got to know Fatima a bit then. In fact, Jaideep [Ahlawat] and I didn’t get to spend as much time before the shoot as Fatima and I did. To me, the intimate scenes are just like other scenes. For instance, if I have to kill somebody onscreen, it’s just a scene. By the same yardstick, I approached these scenes too. Of course, there is a trust factor between co-actors that helps. You want your co-actor to be comfortable and vice versa. At the end of the day, you are just telling a story.

Leaving Majnu aside, which was your favourite story — Khilauna, Geeli Pucchi, or Ankahee — from the anthology?

It’s difficult for me to pick one. But if you really have to push me then I would pick Kayoze Irani’s film (Ankahee). It really touched my heart.

What kept you away from the screen for almost five years?

Befikre came in December 2016. After that, the projects coming my way in the same space that I had done before. Then there were two films, which I was supposed to do — one got delayed and the other one got shelved. Even Ajeeb Daastaans was supposed to come out last year, but it was postponed due to the lockdown. Things just happened in a way that expanded the timeline, it wasn’t intentional. Once things get back to normal and it’s safe to work again, I intend to make these gaps smaller.

You are not a ‘typical star kid,’ rather more of an outsider in the film industry. What would you say about the nepotism debate?

My take on nepotism is fairly simple: At the end of the day, it’s basic human emotion of a parent to help their child in any possible way. It’s not just the film industry, but it happens everywhere — it's a humanity thing. We are programmed that way. I don’t look at it as a boon or a curse. For me, if my dad had some access I would have used that. But if my work isn’t good, I don’t see how I can make a long-lasting career. Producers need to back you, directors need to want to work with you, and the audience needs to accept you. There have been so many people from the industry who are talented and have done such stellar work that it would be a shame to not have them in the film industry. On the flip side, there are so many people from outside the film industry who have established themselves as actors. I don’t think too much about this and I feel it’s more of a buzzword. People should focus on what they can control. I want to do good work and grow as an actor.

Buzz was you were offered Diljit Dosanjh’s role in Good Newwz. What happened on that front?

There was a bit of miscommunication. When I read the reports, I was confused. It’s probably because this whole ‘giving interviews’ process is quite new to me. You say something and that line becomes the headline, and is totally out of context. What I said was I had messaged Shashank [Khaitan] when he was producing Good Newwz. I wanted to audition for the film. But he said the casting process was complete. Of course, Diljit Dosanjh was absolutely brilliant and no one could have played that part better than him. In fact, when Shashank auditioned me for Majnu, it was a long time after I had messaged him for Good Newwz.

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