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Arslan Goni

By Armin Sethi Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017 01:15: PM

He comes from a family of lawyers, but he is here to make his mark with his first venture, Jia Aur Jia, alongside the very talented Richa Chadha and Kalki Koechlin. When he made his way to Mumbai, it wasn’t necessarily films he had on his mind. But somehow, he lost his heart to films and film-making.

When I spoke to Arslan Goni, I talked to him about many things, but one which was on my mind for the duration of 2017, is the rise of art cinema and the eventual fall of commercial cinema. I asked him about how he felt to be a part of the rise of art cinema with his first outing. He answered,I think I am a part of film-making and it’s amazing. It depends on the product, so so-called independent or art cinema, is just film-making. The quality of the film depends on the calibre of the film that is being made. Good films, either within the commercial space or the art space, will be appreciated if they are of that calibre. A lot of big studios are picking up these kinds of films and they are coming back from festivals and being appreciated by audiences, which is a great change.”

Talking specifically about the lines blurring, he talked about Lipstick Under My Burkha: “For example, there is Lipstick Under My Burkha, which was an independent film, and then it was picked up by Balaji. At the end of the day, they are only expanding everyone’s ability to work. For me, regardless of the space, it is about the story, and hopefully, somebody believes in it, and picks it up. There is a thin line now between the division of art films and commercial cinema because so-called commercial production houses are picking up arthouse films.”


All things considering, Arslan doesn’t come from a lineage of actors so his motivation to come to Mumbai seemed to come out of nowhere to the objective observer. But Arslan talks about luck – how he defines luck as his go-to, where his hard work met opportunity. He says, “When I think about luck – a lot of people say oh, that was luck – people have different definitions for it. My definition for it is when hard work meets opportunity, that is what luck is. So you have to work hard and do things from your heart. Like when I came here, I had to sustain myself in Mumbai. Like, I had to go about and really work on my craft. Just like any other job has requirements, you know. Like you have to get in front of a camera, and you have to be able to perform, so it is as apparent as that – just like a normal job.”

But what did his hard work consist of? How did he actually go about landing the sweet role he did with Richa and Kalki. Somehow he always knew he would be getting into films, and then he told his family: “When I came here, I always wanted to be getting into films, but I was from a family that was very far away from this world of films. But after a year, when I gathered myself, I finally told them. They had nothing to say except ask me, “do you think you can do it?” I said “yeah, I can do it.”

Anyone who has heard about struggles, has quite obviously heard about the struggles of the struggling actor who can’t seem to land a role anywhere. Arslan invested his time into all facets of film-making and eventually landed up in front of the screen. He says, “I started training myself. I went into assistant direction, writing. Anything I could get my hands on. And eventually, I got this part in Jia Aur Jia.”


And don’t be mistaken to think that Arslan doesn’t have the acting prowess to get the job done. We talked about how his indulgence in different facets of filmmaking has helped him in front of the camera. Arslan says, “Well, I think it helps you technically, a little bit. It gives you a better understanding of how everything comes together at the end of the day. So, how money is involved and how that impacts a film. Or looking at the writing, and how you need to have patience for that. So it gives you a well-rounded perspective. You also understand the difference between what is on paper and what is on celluloid. That is the full process of training. So it helps you a lot by the time you get on set and face the camera as an actor. It is taking the responsibility of an actor, but being aware of the money, the set, the writing, everything involved in the process of film-making.”


Finally, I get into the fact that Jia Aur Jia is led by two powerful actors, Richa and Kalki. He is over the moon when he finds out who his co-actors will be and says, “when I first heard the two girls who would be in the film, I was super excited. They are insane actors in their own right. They are so great. It was good in every way. When I heard the script and when they finally sat me down with the script, after the round of auditions, the role of the guy is a very strong and powerful way. So I knew I had to do it.”


It is also high time films like Jia Aur Jia have become so normalized in our society, and Arslan touches on that: “It is great that we are in a time and space in Hindi cinema when films can be promoted with two girls at the forefront of the film. There are two characters but one narrative of one person. So, I was thankful for getting this film. I never thought that, oh, this is a film that is about just the women. I never thought that. Obviously, the title of the film is Jia Aur Jia, so I have actually gone ahead and joked that I am the “Aur” in the title.”


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