Arjan Bajwa in a chat with Chaya Unnikrishnan about his digital debut series, which is based on the Mumbai terror attacks
After featuring in last year's super hit film, Kabir Singh, Arjan Bajwa is all set to make his digital debut with the series State Of Siege 26/11, which revolves around the Mumbai terror attack in 2008. The actor's role is inspired by the real life hero Col Sunil Sheoran, the NSG (National Security Guard) head who led the commandos in the fight against the terrorists. Here Arjan tells us why he took up the role, the challenges in playing a real-life hero and more.
What prompted you to take up this series?
I had been looking to play an army personnel of defence forces and this was the way I could break into that space. More so playing an NSG commando which is fantastic -- it's like a double whammy. One you are playing an Indian defence services person and, two, a NSG commando, that too in a series about real incidents. It is about somebody who was leading his unit in an incident which shook the nation.
Did you know about Col Sunil Sheoran or start reading about him after bagging the role?
Before I got the role I knew about NSG coming and rescuing the city, but nobody had got into details of the individuals who were responsible for performing the respective tasks. After I bagged the role, I got to know so much about Col Sunil Sheoran – what a hero he is, such a good and amazing human being and at the same time a dare devil commando and an officer. It's fantastic that in spite of having gone through so much mentally, emotionally and physically -- he has been shot three times in earlier insurgency operations in the North East India -- he went with the same fierce fire and guts to perform his duties as an Indian commando.
What kind of prep did you have to do physically and mentally to play the character?
Mentally, of course, you have to prepare yourself that you will be performing the role of a real life hero. You have to get into the skin of the character where you walk, talk, think and behave like somebody who was responsible for rescuing so many people – hundreds of them in incidents like the 26/11 Taj attacks and at the same time have the huge responsibility of leading his team of commandos which flew in from Delhi to perform their duty. So, I had to attune my mind to that, and not make any mistakes. I hope I have done everything right to make him feel proud. Physically, from having buzz cut hair to losing weight to becoming more agile and learning how to operate all the weapons used by the NSG, I had to do intense training. I also carry that one big mark on my cheek which is the real life scar of bravery that he has as a result of the gun wound in the insurgency.
Last year, you were part of Kabir Singh which was a big hit. Has that translated into more work?
I have been very lucky that I have had some major Bollywood films and blockbuster movies in my kitty. Of course, Kabir Singh was a big hit and it has definitely transformed into a lot of work. I am just taking my time to choose the best.
Despite winning praise in your earlier outings like Fashion and Rustom, you haven't been able to breakthrough with lead roles. What do you think is the reason?
I have been lucky enough to have started with people like Mani Ratnam sir in Guru, which was a blockbuster and then Fashion happened which was a hit with Madhur Bhandarkar sir. I can proudly say I have had four huge hits including Rustom and Kabir Singh. As far as appreciation for my roles I have always got critical and public acclaim for my work. If you ask me why I haven't made a breakthrough as a hero, I leave the answer to people who don't cast me as leads. I don't think it's only your merits, work, acting talent, sincerity or looks that are responsible to put into the lead roles. It's a different ball game altogether. It's all about publicity and marketing more so nowadays. It's more important to be seen in the poster for you to play the lead roles and not appreciation or accolades you get for work.