While interviewing Arjun Bijlani, his words and persona brought to my mind a very famous adage; if you find the glass half full, you're an unrelenting optimist and if you find it half empty, you're the hopeless pessimist. For your information, Arjun belongs to the former category. Confident and ready to utilize every opportunity that knocks on his door, Arjun has come a long way from his cameo in Remix, to television's most popular youth show, Mile Jab Hum Tum, where he plays the much adored Mayank.
At the beginning of his career, Arjun found himself modelling for advertisements and videos and was content doing so, till he realized that he needed to grow and decided to plunge into acting. Television was the last thing on his mind, but destiny had already chalked out his career. "I didn't want to do television at all. I used to think 'TV kaun karega…'
This was my attitude towards acting. But I was offered Left Right Left (LRL). I gave a look test, and as it was a young, military based show, I was very excited. That's how I started off. Before that too, I had done a cameo in Remix but I didn't like television much then. That was just for fun. I didn't think acting was my cup of tea. I just wanted to model and do ads. But you need to move upwards in life too. I didn't know how TV was and I was sceptical. I did LRL, which I enjoyed a lot and I realized TV was good fun," he says.
He speaks about Mile Jab Hum Tum (MJHT) and I am surprised when he tells me that he was initially offered Samrat's role, which is now played by Mohit Sehgal. Arjun had refused the show when it was first offered to him, because it was taking a long time to go on air. "When Samrat was finalized, I got a call again from them. They told me that there was another lead called Mayank and asked me if I wanted to play him. I met them and learned how the character was. And I am much happier playing Mayank. I have realized he is a nice character and many people like him." he beams.
Though MJHT is popular and Arjun is riding high on its success, I point out that he has only worked in youth based shows. Be it Remix, LRL or MJHT, we have only seen him essaying the chocolate-faced college dude. Doesn't he think he could do with some variety of roles, now that he is five years old in the industry? He says, "I am pretty young and I also look very young to play a role in saas-bahu sagas. Youth shows are fun, as they are more real. Everything about drama is very typical. You know what is going to happen in the show and then it becomes very woman oriented."
He lists out the pros of having the younger generation as his niche audience. "The advantage of a youth show is that if children are watching, even the parents land up seeing it. I meet so many parents, who tell me that their children are crazy about the show and that after watching it, even they have started enjoying it. It's not like I can always keep doing these shows. In future, even I will take up a show which may be a drama; I don't know. Or maybe I won't do soaps at all. I'll move on to films," he says enthusiastically.
Since there are four leads in his show, I wonder aloud that it must be difficult for them to get along with each other on the sets, without any ego clashes, but he clears my notion. "We don't have fights. At least, I don't. I have been around in this industry and have seen stuff. I have learnt to keep away from any kind of controversies. I go on the sets, shoot and have fun. I do masti all the time!"
Just before MJHT, Arjun had signed on Mohe Rang De on Colors, but he was barely seen for a few episodes and that too in an extremely insignificant role. According to him, his exit was very ethical from the show, even though rumours suggested otherwise.
"I rejected MJHT the first time for Mohe… I though it was a show based on freedom. What I joined the show for; I didn't land up doing at all. It was supposed to be about freedom struggle and fighting. But that show was all drama, in fact it became a family drama later on. When I came on board, I was told that it was a 'parallel' lead. But later I realized this is not what I wanted to do. I gave them a notice and told them I didn't want to work with them."
Arjun has had his share of controversies too. Apparently, some time back, he had a public brawl when he was out with his girlfriend, which resulted in a serious shoulder injury. He confirms it. "Yes, that is true. But she wasn't my girlfriend. I was with a friend. We were heading back home in the car. There were these bikers who were misbehaving and stopped my car. They were passing comments, looking inside the window. There was a fight and that's how I dislocated my shoulder. But I made sure even they did," he says.
Speaking about girlfriends, I ask him about his MJHT co-star, actress Sanaya Irani, who he is apparently dating. The pair has been termed as 'Arnaya' by their fans, an amalgamation of their names! But when asked about their relationship status, Arjun expresses surprise at the very thought of them as a couple.
"We are dating? I didn't know that." When told about all the reports that have come online about them, all he says is, "Are you serious? We are just good friends. That's all I can say. We have worked on LRL also, so we are very pally. I have no idea why such rumours have come; probably because we are very good friends. When two people chill out, hang out, laugh and enjoy themselves, it's very easy to make two and two 22, rather than four."
And don't such rumours make them feel awkward? "We don't feel awkward. We are friends and if we start letting our friendship get affected, due to such things which are written or said, then it will happen every time. As long as we both know the truth, it doesn't matter."
The rumours are even stranger, considering he is paired opposite Rati Pandey and not Sanaya in the show. "Somebody had linked me with Rati too. Maybe as she is my co-star, people tend to think like that. But the Sanaya link-up is just strange. I don't know why I am linked with her," he ponders.
So if not Sanaya, is he dating someone else? "I am not dating anyone. I know you will ask me why. Dating someone for fun is just not me. If I am dating, I will have future plans and be pretty serious about that person and probably get married to her. As of now, I can't say anything. But I would love to settle down in the next two years." And what kind of a partner is he looking for?
"Everyone wants a good, sweet and simple girl. For me, the most important thing is that she should be comfortable with the fact that I am an actor and she has to keep that in mind. It shouldn't be a reason for our fights. I don't want too many complications. And I would never go in for an arrange marriage. I need to get to know the person.
You need to spend time with the person and only then can you get married to her. In an arrange marriage setup, everyone is on their best behaviour, so you don't get time to judge how they will react to a particular situation. I may make a wrong choice, or might even make a right one, but I don't want to risk my life. I don't believe in first getting married and then getting divorced, if it doesn't work out. If I have to marry, I will marry a person with whom I want to spend the rest of my life," he says confidently.
For now, he is happy playing Mayank, but he does want to get into Bollywood. "I am very selective about the work I do. As long as I am enjoying it, it's fine. At the end of the day, be it films or TV, you have to act. I want to do films; that's one of the reasons I have stuck to television. Obviously, the mediums are different. But your performances shouldn't be different. I am creating the likeability amongst the audience, so maybe later on, they will go to the theatre and buy a ticket to my movie and watch me on the big screen," he reasons.
There are hardly any TV actors who have made it big in Bollywood. But it doesn't seem to bother Arjun. "Once you get into soaps, it becomes difficult to get into films. But I don't really agree with this anymore. Rajeev (Khandelwal) is doing pretty well. I think things will work out fine. It's also about luck and it varies from person to person.
If I get into films, I may get lucky. You don't know what may happen. We have the biggest example in the industry which I know everyone gives. If you have the luck and kismet, it takes you places like Mr. Shah Rukh Khan." Isn't it a little too overconfident, considering SRK was on the small screen two decades ago and the scenario has definitely changed since?
"I always look at it from the positive side. SRK started his career with Fauji that was a military show; I also started off with LRL which was military based! You need to find positive things in everything. There is no comparison with him as he is a big star. But every actor wants to do films, and wants to become big, so if I am dreaming it, it's no big deal. Your hard work and how you do it is what counts."
This was the optimism I was speaking about. Even if life is harsh enough not to give him an opportunity, knowing Arjun, you can be sure he will grab his own chance.
*By Purvaja Sawant