'Everyone in a small town wants to grow up and become a star'

Thanks to a tiny part in Slumdog Millionaire, Arfi Lamba bagged the lead in Helena Danielsson's The Pollutant. He talks about playing an environmental zombie for a Swedish production and, closer home, why he once thought that Bandra wasn't in Mumbai

How did you make the transition from having a small part in Slumdog Millionaire to playing leads (with Chandan Roy Sanyal in Prague and the protagonist in The Pollutant)?
Thanks to the small part in Slumdog Millionaire, I went to the Cannes film festival. A lot of opportunities opened up for me, despite my telling them repeatedly that I had a very small part. I am very happy to have landed Prague, which is a psychological thriller about three Indian architects who live in the city. The tagline encapsulates the theme beautifully -- 'Men live in cities, cities live in men too'! Prague has a mystical air, it is like a dark Paris.

Pic/ Darius

The Pollutant is being described as a film about environmental zombies.
Yes, it is a fascinating film. Helena (the Swedish producer of the acclaimed film Beyond), met me at the Goa Film Festival when I was pitching my friend Katharina Suckale's next project to investors and producers. She was in the crowd and publicly declared, "I am backing this project; and, Arfi, you are doing the lead role.' I thought she was joking. But she wasn't.

Tell us about the subject.
The film is about the environment turning us into zombies because we are treating it indifferently. We are mining and depleting resources in third world countries; and the consequences are going to be disastrous.

Will you also turn into a zombie in the film?
If I tell you that, I would be a zombie! It is a bizarre, satirical and humorous film with a powerful message.

Have you started Bombay Berlin Film Productions to promote yourself?
It started because Katharina Suckale from Germany was doing a project on farmer suicides in India. It was supported by the same German team that supported Don 2. Katharina sought me out for the film because I am a farmer's son. After a while, we decided to take it forward ourselves and formed a company.

How did a farmer's son get into films?
Everybody in a small town wants to grow up and become a star. One day, I just quit my 9 to 5 job and came to Mumbai. When the train stopped at Bandra, I was asked to get down. But I told the co-passenger, this is Bandra, I want to get down at Mumbai station!

As an outsider, is it easy to break into Bollywood?
I live my dream everyday. The fire in me is far stronger than the wet blankets of defeat and rejections. I identify with Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With The Wind, who learns from her lows and avows, "I will never be hungry again."

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