EXCLUSIVE: “It’s A Huge Honour To Play Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan,” Says Arjun Bijlani

Arjun Bijlani is playing the late NSG Commando in ZEE5 Original series State Of Siege: 26/11, based on the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Arjun Bijlani in Operation Terror Chhabis Gyarah

Arjun Bijlani is the handsome heartthrob of Indian television. The dapper actor is a household name and has been on a winning streak off late with his stellar performances on small screen soap operas. Arjun, who has headlined several leading TV serials and also ventured into films, is now set to make his digital debut with ZEE5 Original The State Of Siege: 26/11. In an exclusive conversation, he reveals the range of emotions he felt when the 26/11 attacks took  place and why he felt it was right for him to make his digital debut with this series.

Q. Where were you when 26/11 happened?

A. I was at home. I was watching everything on TV as  usually, I watch a lot of news. I am born and brought up in Mumbai. It is one of the safest cities and Mumbai cops are highly qualified. We knew something was going on, but never expected it to be a terrorist attack. I thought it was a local thing, a gang war of sorts. Eventually, we got to know that terrorists had attacked. The Taj Hotel, Leopold Cafe — these were the places we used to go to during college days. I couldn’t believe that somebody’s attacked Mumbai from all ends, as these were the places I grew up in. So, I was filled with  a lot of anger. There was also fear and we were hoping that the people we knew were safe. It got scarier, as the news updates kept coming in, I called my friends and enquired about their safety.

After we got to know how they entered the city, I was ashamed and questioned,  ‘how could this happen?’ I am a citizen of Mumbai , and I love my city. Why would somebody do something like that? Since childhood we have seen on the news, terrorists have been infiltrating areas in India including Kashmir but Mumbai was probably the last place. People were just randomly shooting with AK-47 rifles.

In the meantime, catch Arjun’s terrific performance at the Shaam Shaandaar event here:

Q. Your character is based on Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan. He was posthumously honoured with the Ashok Chakra. How does it feel to essay such a braveheart who went down fighting for his country?

A. I started my career with Left Right Left, where I played an Army cadet Alekh Sharma. So, it was a full circle with The State of Siege: 26/11. I play Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan in the web series, but my character is named Major Nikhil Manikrishnan. To portray someone like him is a lot of pressure, yes, but a huge honour. When I was offered this series, I felt it was some divine calling because it comes back to where I began this canvas from.

Q. What kept you away from the web space till now?

A. I always wanted my first web series to be special. I did get offered a couple of them earlier, but The State Of Siege: 26/11 felt like the perfect choice. And I was clear, I didn’t want to get into that erotic space.

Read more about Harleen Sethi talking about her previous relationships, break-ups and her work on the show Broken But Beautiful Season 2here.