Aditya Roy Kapur On Playing His Second Innings
After a two-year, self-induced sabbatical, one of Bollywood’s favourite boys, Aditya Roy Kapur, is back. While 2019 has given him a rocky start with Kalank, the future looks bright, promising and very exciting.
Everybody seems to love Aditya Roy Kapur. I haven’t come across anyone who has any complaints about the man. He is classically handsome, and when the shirt comes off, all manner of un-Christian thoughts go through people’s minds. He’s polite, charming, well-spoken; this is my third cover shoot with Kapur, and he has never been anything but an absolute delight to work with. His smile is large, totally honest and reaches all the way to his eyes.
I have watched all his films, and while I haven’t enjoyed them that much – or at all, sometimes – I don’t remember complaining about him. I revisited reviews of his films by almost all the country’s critics, and nobody really had anything bad to say of him. He is described variously as “charming”, “a robust performer”, “infused life into the film”, “lovable and attractive” and so on. Unfortunately, Kapur’s charm and performances have not been able to deliver hits. While Aashiqui 2 catapulted him to stardom and fame, it has been the only solo hit he has had. After a cracking supporting performance in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, all three of his films – Daawat-e-ishq, Fitoor and OK Jaanu – failed at the box office.
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Why? For most people, Daawat-e-Ishq was insipid, and didn’t pack enough meat for a rom-com. Fitoor was ambitious – like all Abhishek Kapoor films – and while everybody gushed about how good the film and Kapur looked, the script and direction were major disappointments. OK Jaanu was just a pointless exercise in trying to make money by remaking a Tamil film, frame by frame. Then, Kapur disappeared.
When we chat, he tells us that he didn’t come across a film that he could really connect with. For a leading man to take a break just because nothing satisfying was coming his way is quite rare, in this industry. Kapur isn’t exactly the usual Bollywood hero, though. He isn’t seen literally everywhere. You won’t see him plastered on billboards, or being papped at parties. Till recently, he wasn’t even on Instagram. He doesn’t mind taking a break in order to make sure that he picks the right films, he says. Unfortunately, he came back with Kalank, and while no one is complaining about him, the film has suffered at the box office because of a story that nobody could connect with, and because it seemed like Karan Johar was trying too hard to beat Sanjay Leela Bhansali at his own game.
Kapur enjoys relationship-based stories, with passionate human connections, and is evidently a hopeless romantic.
Why does Kapur consistently pick films that are unsuccessful? While there is no way of politely asking him this to his face without shredding his filmography, if you look closely at his films, you will detect a common theme. Kapur enjoys relationship-based stories, with passionate human connections, and is evidently a hopeless romantic. Daawate-Ishq wasn’t a bad premise, and on paper, Fitoor must have definitely sounded delicious. How can an adaptation of Great Expectations, based in Kashmir, with Tabu as Miss Havisham, go wrong, right? OK Jaanu might have been a frame-by-frame remake, but the original was a smashing hit – and it was a Mani Ratnam film, people.
Do these fantastic concepts and initial ideas lose focus in the journey from script to screen? Quite possibly. Kapur discusses that in our interview too, when he talks about how most scripts that come to actors are half-baked and incomplete. Kalank’s script was supposedly impeccable. “It came to me completely ready,” he tells us during this interview. “You could feel that the director had worked really long and hard on it, and you could see the clarity of thought. He was able to articulate to me very clearly how he was looking at every character and its importance to the film.” High praise, for a film that has been accused of being long and convoluted, but one can understand why Kapur would be attracted to Kalank, a film on complicated relationships. Maybe the man was born in the wrong decade, given his affinity for low-spectacle, intimate stories.
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This is why reuniting with Mohit Suri and Mahesh Bhatt for both his next films might be a good idea. The Bhatt factory had been all about troubled romance till they – and Emraan Hashmi – lost steam. Suri’s best films have been low on glitter and high on intensity. He might just be the right guy for Kapur. Suri’s Malang and Mahesh Bhatt’s Sadak 2, thus, definitely look like important projects for Kapur’s career. Also, I’d like to put my money on Kapur and Alia Bhatt as a leading pair. While everyone has been going on about his on-screen chemistry with Shraddha Kapoor, he is a much better actor than her, and maybe he needs an amazing talent like Bhatt to challenge him. Flops don’t necessarily ruin careers in this industry, because many leading actors have more flops than hits in their filmographies. In that sense, Kapur is far from being written off – he is just taking off.
We’re seeing you on screen after a while, so what’s been up?
Oh, so much has been up. We’ve been working on Kalank for the last year or so. One of the blessings that came out of this time when I wasn’t working was that I had enough time to put everything into Kalank. It’s a film that required a lot as an actor, to feel like you’re doing justice to the role. So, it was a real blessing to feel like I have the time to kind of really sink my teeth into it, and do the kind of prep and research that I needed to do for the role. Apart from that, there was a period where I didn’t do anything. For two years, I wasn’t on a movie set. It was an interesting thing; it was a self-imposed sabbatical. I didn’t happen to find anything that I connected with. As an actor, you give everything to your role – six months of your life – so you have to be convinced enough to want to do something.
So it was a conscious decision to take the sabbatical?
It wasn’t a conscious decision. It just happened. I was listening to stories and not connecting with them. If I found something that worked for me and I wanted to do, I would have done it.
When Kalank happened, what about the story made you feel like you could dedicate a year or more to it?
It was the script and the director. As actors, you get so many scripts that aren’t a 100 per cent shooting ready. It’s always like ‘Haan haan, dialogues pe kaam karenge, second half mein kaam karenge, ispe kaam baaki hai’, but with this script that wasn’t the case. It came to me completely ready; you could feel that the director had worked really long and hard on it and you could see the clarity of thought. He was able to articulate to me very clearly how he was looking at every character and its importance to the film. I felt the script had so much to offer in simply exploring human emotions in so many different ways.
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At that time, did you know you’d be shooting with friends like Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Sonakshi Sinha?
When I first came on board, I don’t think most of the casting had been done. I don’t remember clearly, but I think only Varun and Alia were done. It was lovely (being on set with them). We’ve known each other for quite a while since we’ve been in this industry. The experience was wonderful.
Since Aashiqui, you’ve been a brooding, thinking woman’s sex symbol. How do you deal with this attention?
I don’t think it’s anything to deal with, I take it as a part and parcel of being an actor. I think every actor has to deal with a certain amount of brickbats and adulation. It comes with the territory. It’s important to take the brickbats in your stride and enjoy the adulation. It’s definitely not a chore, as people are appreciative of your work.
I had avoided social media for the longest time and never even made a Facebook account before. I’ve just been averse to it – I’m a tech-challenged guy.
You’re now on Instagram, and you obviously know how the game works. Why did you avoid social media for so long?
I had avoided social media for the longest time and never even made a Facebook account before. I’ve just been averse to it – I’m a technologically-challenged guy. About Instagram, my fear was that I didn’t want to look at every experience I had as an opportunity. I was fearful that if I got onto Instagram, I’d start thinking too much like I would try and use what I’m experiencing as something that is portraying me the way I want people to perceive me. This is something I grappled with for the longest time. The number one reason I got on Instagram was because I felt fans who supported me had no way to connect to me, so I wanted to open a window into my life.
What’s a film release for you like? How do you deal with it when a film doesn’t do as well as you’d hoped?
I think any film, when it does well and when it doesn’t, you feel differently. I don’t think there’s any one way. Filmmaking 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. Beyond a point, there are no clear answers, and I don’t think you should look for them too long. 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.
I was listening to stories and not connecting with them. If i found something that worked for me and i wanted to do, i would have done it.
What is your dynamic with your brothers like? How do you guys deal with negativity and gossip?
I don’t think we give it too much thought. We found ourselves in this place, and we’re adapting to that. I don’t think the attention has ever gotten the better of us in any way, where we felt that it’s being too intrusive or anything like that. All of us handle our careers separately from one another and, more often than not, we don’t even discuss articles that come out about each other. Sometimes they haven’t read anything about me, and I haven’t about them, so we’re quite oblivious to a lot of things.
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It probably helps that you weren’t on social media for so long.
There are times when I’m unable to post anything even during the promotion of a film; they ask me to post and I don’t really know how to, I don’t know how to tag and edit. I end up not posting at all, because it is such a painful process. I need to get some Insta classes, basically.
If you had to take Instagram classes from one of your co-stars, who would you pick as your teacher?
Varun Dhawan, hands down.
Are you someone who enjoys being single, or are you a commitment sort of a guy?
Well, there’s times and places in everyone’s life when you want different things. I am now single, and I don’t plan a thing too far. I don’t have any set plans laid out for me for the next year, or two years, or three years. I’m going with the flow, and I’m not closed to anything. I’ve not planned to be single, and I’m not planning to get hitched or married or anything. Sometimes, things happen when it’s least expected, you meet someone and connect with somebody, and I think those are the best times.
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.
Given that Bollywood has drastically changed in the last few years, are you open to working with younger filmmakers, on smaller budget films?
I’m open to all kinds of films and filmmakers. I don’t restrict myself to thinking of films like that, and I think as time goes by, people will realise that there’s no such thing as a small film. The smallest budget can have an idea that resonates, which is an encouraging thing all around, and it puts the onus on the director and the producer and everyone in the industry that ‘Listen, if you do something different, we’ll come and watch’. And if we go by the last year in the industry, the films that have done so well show that the industry has really stepped up on what the audience wants as well.
During your sabbatical, did you give thought to the kind of films that you want to do?
Well, as an actor you react to what’s offered to you, what’s around in your orbit. I’m happy I’m doing an action film, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while with Mohit Suri. I’m doing something in a slightly comic space with Mohit, and I’m working with Bhatt saab on a different film. I’m really excited about the films I’m doing right now, because they are letting me play really diverse characters.
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What do you like eating? If this was your last meal on earth, what would you pick?
I’d probably eat pizza, to be honest with you.
What do you love to do when you’re not doing anything?
When I’m not doing anything, I just sometimes like to – well, not do anything. That is also something that’s important. We occupy our minds so much that it’s important to do nothing.
Cover Story by Arnesh Ghose
Interview by Mayukh Majumdar
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