Arjun Radhakrishnan shares that his breakout role as Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in Rocket Boys hasn’t really changed his career much. After having made his debut in the independent film Shreelancer in 2017, the actor has been working steadily across several industries. (Also read: Jim Sarbh shares why Homi Bhabha is an intimidating person: ‘He would rather be alone’)
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Arjun said, “This is just my second project in Hindi after Jhund (2022). I did a couple of films in Malayalam and one in Tamil. I think people don’t recognise me from any of the roles I’ve done. Everyone’s very surprised that I’m the same guy who played Kalam.”
After the trailer of Rocket Boys season one came out, there was much interest in the show and even his character. He shared, “It generated so much interest, the way it was cut and the fact that my character comes in the end. I wasn’t expecting any of that. That got a lot of attention. Post that, I think I got a lot of appreciation for my part but that’s also because the show’s been so well-received.”
The SonyLIV series is the biggest project he has worked on. “Having lived in Bombay for so many years and then finally getting a show like this, that’s been sweet. It’s been a long wait for me,” the actor said, adding he couldn’t express how exactly his life has changed after the release of the show.
To get into character, Arjun read whatever he could, including Dr Kalam’s autobiography. Writer-director Abhay Pannu’s direction team also gave him their research to read up on.
He explained, “There is hardly any documentation of Dr Kalam from back in the day when he was a young scientist. I had to rely on my imagination and create that character. Obviously, the whole look and feel of the character always helped. I feel as an actor, once you get a costume and once you get your look, you get a sense of being somebody else.”
In season one, Kalam first makes an appearance only in the seventh episode, but for season two, the actor has a larger, more active part. He participated in the Smiling Buddha mission, the first Pokhran attempt.
Arjun said, “You see him closely working with Dr Sarabhai and Dr Homi Bhabha, because they were towards the end of their careers and technically towards their end of lives. Dr Kalam was really young then. So you get to see what his contributions were during that time. The second season deals with India’s attempt to be a nuclear power and all the politics and scientific decisions that were made [along with] the ambitions of the scientists and the country. Kalam was a part of all that and he was witness to it, which I think helped him spearhead Pokhran II in 1998.”
The actor praised the rest of the cast of the Rocket Boys. He shared that he was the least experienced of the group but it was nice to be part of the mix and he got to learn a lot from everyone.
Arjun acknowledged the many expectations fans had for the new season and lauded Abhay for leading them through it on his debut. He said, “Abhay handled himself with so much calmness. He’s a lot younger than me but he’s more of a friend on set. To be able to do a show of such magnitude, I think it requires special mental ability to carry off.”
Later this year, Arjun will star in a few Malayalam films including one with actor Parvathy that he’s eager for fans to see. He also recalled the time he shared screen space with Amitabh Bachchan in Jhund.
He said, “[After] Sairat, Nagraj Manjule was making a Hindi film, not a Marathi film, with Nagraj sir’s politics and his form of entertainment with Mr Bachchan in it. It was a great experience. To see him work at this age with so much dedication, with so much love for his work, all of us can learn from him. He’s lasted this long, purely because of his genuine love for his work. He would come as prepared as a newcomer would. I haven’t worked with other stars as such so I don’t know how they work, but one would expect somebody who has been around for 50 years to see that kind of dedication is quite encouraging.”
When asked about the possibility of a spinoff for his character, Arjun laughed and said the producers, Emmay Entertainment and Roy Kapur Films would have the answer. He replied, “Of course, I’ll be up for it. It’s interesting because we haven’t really done a biopic on him. Even Rocket Boys is a biopic on scientists, we haven’t really done that. There’s a lot of scope for it also, [for] politics.”