Aditya Roy Kapur has been known to pick deeply personal films with passionate human connections, but 2020 saw him in a new avatar. With Malang, he was kicking ass, and with Ludo, he was showing us what the perfect millennial relationship looks like. Now, with Om: The Battle Within, the actor is diving straight into the action genre, and promises to give us something we’ve not experienced before.

Aditya Roy Kapur doesn’t know that there are thousands of fan edits made with his images and video clips to the title track from Kalank. In fact, Instagram is so saturated with these Main Tera edits that influencers have now taken out funny counter videos on the song. It would be foolish to assume that Kapur doesn’t know the effect his physique has on his legions of fans, but he’s amused when I tell him that there are tweets dedicated solely to his veiny forearms. Despite steering clear of social media as much as he can and without making any effort, Kapur has an entire internet subculture dedicated to lusting after him. But, Kapur is an extremely private figure. He rarely gives interviews, and is a quieter person, in that sense. He’s a tabula rasa, in the truest sense, and hence, can be whoever you want him to be.

Overcoat and boots by Ermenegildo Zegna; turtle neck by Selected Homme; trousers by Brooks Brothers; Celebrations partner: Jameson Black Barrel

With the right roles and directors helming the project, Aditya Roy Kapur has shown he can shine. While his filmography may not be as vast as compared to his peers, there’s an obvious variety in the kind of roles he has done. He’s played romantic heroes with élan, and then transformed into an action hunk in front of our very eyes. In fact, we can’t think of a co-star Aditya Roy Kapur did not look good with. In 2020, he was paired opposite Disha Patani, Alia Bhatt, and Sanya Malhotra, and he’s shown that no matter who he is seen alongside, he’s the perfect romantic partner. What also works in his favour is that he is known to not dwell on his failures. He doesn’t believe in dissecting why a film didn’t work out, because he believes that it won’t do him any good.

“Film-making is not a science, it’s not a profession where you can predict what will work. So, you have to take that in your stride and say ‘Listen, it happens to the best of us’. Yes, when a film doesn’t do well, there is introspection that goes on within everyone working on the film, but sometimes, there are no clear reasons. As long as you know in your heart that you gave your best, you can sleep easy. The problem occurs when you feel like you didn’t do everything you could,” he had told MW earlier.

His words match his actions, because if he didn’t give his 100 per cent to his craft, how would we see how he shines in Ludo? He manages to make an impact, despite starring in a cast that includes acting greats like Rajkummar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi, and you tell yourself that he’s only scratched the surface of what he can accomplish in the career he has chosen.

Aditya Roy Kapur
Blazer and trousers by Hugo Boss available at The Collective; t-shirt by Hackett London On the wrist: DIESEL Mega Chief Chronograph Quartz Analog Watch; Celebrations partner: Jameson Black Barrel

What makes Kapur stand out from his peers is that despite all the hatred that Bollywood occasionally faces, he makes you root for him. He has a boy-next-door appeal, and can be seen as the guy you can chill with at your local dive, or as the gym bro who’ll tell you that your form is bad without coming across as condescending. His is a journey that’s an inspiration of perseverance, of self-confidence, and of someone whom the audience has never complained about, even in films that might not have done too well at the box office. Maybe it’s because people have grown up with him since the days when he sported an afro on TV as a VJ, and hence, can relate. He’s not had a debut marked with fanfare and a publicity blitz, and he’s not shied away from being a part of ensemble casts when really, he could have demanded to play the lead role. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and that’s part of his charm.

Aditya Roy Kapur
Overcoat and boots by Ermenegildo Zegna; turtle neck by Selected Homme; trousers by Brooks Brothers

Kapur is also known for taking breaks between movies, unlike other actors who go from one film into the next. “I’ve realised it’s not necessary to be hyper-busy as an actor. You need that time to recuperate, to prepare. You shouldn’t be reaching into your bag of tricks as an actor, and keep bringing out the same tricks. It’s supremely important to take that break, to reinvent,” he had told us in an earlier chat. This time around, the sabbatical was decided for him, due to the lockdown. And now that he’s back in the city, he’s raring to go. Kapur has starred in three films this year — Malang, Sadak 2, and Ludo. In an ensemble cast of some of Bollywood’s best, Kapur managed to hold his own, and while Arijit Singh’s Aabaad Barbaad features four other relationships, it was Kapur’s Akash Chauhan and Sanya Malhotra’s Shruti Choksi that everybody focused on.

“I honestly didn’t know what the film (Ludo) was going to be in its entirety. Normally, you get a script in hand, and you know what the beginning, the middle, and the end is. In this case, I think most of us weren’t really aware of the graph of the film. We all know dada (Anurag Basu) is a genius, and it was a beautifully interwoven story and finally, it all added up. I had a good feeling about the film, but when I watched the film, I was actually watching it as a viewer because I didn’t know what to expect,” Kapur says about Ludo, which released on Netflix last month. The film was initially slated for an April 2020 release, but got stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing national lockdown. It did not receive the theatrical release it was supposed to get, but an OTT release seems to have actually worked in its favour. The naram-garam and quirky storyline fits right in with the content-driven cinema we have gotten used to seeing in the digital space.

Aditya Roy Kaour
Blazer and trousers by Hugo Boss available at The Collective; t-shirt by Hackett London On the wrist: DIESEL Mega Chief Chronograph Quartz Analog Watch; Celebrations partner: Jameson Black Barrel

“I wasn’t disappointed at all that the film couldn’t release in theatres. This is just the time we live in, and we should consider ourselves fortunate that we have these different platforms available to us where we can showcase our films in these times. I’m just happy that it was released on Netflix, and so many people have enjoyed it. I think it’s going to be a while before we can enjoy theatrical releases, even though there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines coming out,” Kapur says.

A theatrical release would have been a disaster, honestly. Kiara Advani and Aditya Seal’s Indoo Ki Jawani managed to rake in an abysmal Rs 25 lakh on its opening day.

In Ludo, Kapur and Malhotra’s characters enjoy a unique ‘friends-with-benefits’ relationship. They have great sex, enjoy each other’s company, and Kapur’s character is completely okay with Malhotra’s character interviewing possible rich husbands. Of course, Akash Chauhan is in love with Shruti Choksi, but it’s not the suffocating, marr jayenge, mitt jayenge kind of love that Bollywood espouses. “It was a really relatable thing that they were both going through. As individual characters, they were relatable because of the age at which they are, and the things that they are grappling with are common. Together, their dynamic and the choice between love and career — those are very relatable issues that couples go through these days. Apart from that, even the situation that they were put in (with the leak of the sex tape), when you think about it, it can happen to anyone. Overall, it rang true, and didn’t feel like it was contrived,” Kapur says.

Aditya Roy Kapur
Tuxedo jacket by Tisa; shirt by Hackett London; trousers by Hugo Boss available at The Collective On the wrist: DIESEL Mega Chief Chronograph Quartz Analog Watch

With Malang, Kapur entered the action genre. He sure had the body for it, and his performance in the film showed that he also had the skills needed to pull off a film like that. Now, he has started shooting for his next film, Om: The Battle Within, which will be directed by Kapil Verma. He’ll be sharing the screen with actress Sanjana Sanghi, who was last seen opposite the late Sushant Singh Rajput in Dil Bechara. He is as surprised as we are about the time it’s taken him to play around with this genre. As a child, Kapur was raised on a heavy diet of action movies, and idolised the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Despite all the love stories he’s done, the 35-year-old actor really enjoyed “kicking ass” in Malang. His filmography has been varied, and that was a conscious decision because Kapur enjoys challenging himself with projects that will force him to acquire new skills, he says. “It’s also fun to watch yourself with a machine-gun on screen, you know?” he adds, and bursts into laughter. He’s living his childhood dreams on screen, and loving it.

He can’t talk much about Om: The Battle Within, except share that it’s going to be “all out action”, and that he’s been training his ass off for the past few months. In fact, when we get on a call for the interview, he’s actually come out of the gym. For the film, he’s trained in different disciplines, which have been quite hectic for him. Like all of us, Aditya Roy Kapur is also affected by the way COVID-19 has changed the world. In particular, he mentions the frontline workers who have to battle the virus every day. However, on a personal level, the lockdown has given him some much-needed time off. He had planned to chill at a farm for three days but due to the lockdown, he ended up staying there for 90 days. The lockdown allowed him to spend time with his parents — something he hasn’t been able to do for many years now.

Aditya Roy Kapur
Knit by Karl Lagerfeld; trousers by Etro, all available at The Collective

On sets now, Kapur says that the vibe is a little weird because things aren’t the way they were before. “Everyone’s wearing masks, and things are constantly having to be sanitised. You’re constantly being reminded that there is a pandemic. The idea is that, when you’re on sets, you lose yourself in the moment, but now, there’s a constant reminder. Things are also moving slower because you’re maintaining discipline. On the flipside, it’s also nice to be working again, and be back on the sets,” he says.

Finally, I bring up Kalank. I tell him that I personally liked it and that, over the past year, people have been kinder to the movie. The songs have made a comeback, and a certain staid appreciation has set in for this enormous saga of a film. “It’s nice to hear that people are appreciating the film. It happens with films where they don’t do well, commercially, but years later, they become cult, and get a lot of love. That film was made with everyone’s blood, sweat and tears — that much I can tell you,” Aditya Roy Kapur says, signing off.

Art Direction By Tanvi Shah

Fashion Editor Neelangana Vasudeva

Photographed By Rahul Jhangiani

Make-Up By Stephen Jadhav

Hair By Team Hakim Aalim

Location Courtesy Luna Nudo, The St. Regis Mumbai

Celebrations Partner Jameson Black Barrel

Fashion Assistant Foram Kubadia