2019 has not really been his year at the box office, but Aditya Roy Kapur is as calm as one can be when they know it’s only going to get bigger and better from here. With three new releases and a bunch of projects to look forward to, we sit down with the actor to draw his vision board for the new year, and more candidly than ever before

He’s a little unwell, Aditya Roy Kapur’s manager warns me, as we set to get the actor all suited up for the photoshoot. I wonder if he will be able to give the interview today because I have so many questions, I want to know everything on his mind… especially, why did he do Kalank, man? My thoughts are interrupted when the set bustles as ARK walks in, with a big, cheery smile on. Too hot, we gush. And nice too, really. He’s quick to change, quick to pose, and even quicker to ask me if he can eat while we talk when we’re finally done with the shoot. He couldn’t share our sandwiches when he was on the floor shooting, so we can’t let the guy’s omelette get cold. I know we’re all supposed to think of ARK as the breakthrough actor of Aashiqui 2, and rightly so. But you know what comes to my mind? His Omar Siddiqui in Guzaarish. Why? Well, because if you can make your presence felt in a film with Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan leading the way, you are good at your job. Yes, his choices have not necessarily been big hits, in fact, it’s been a while since we didn’t come out of a film featuring him, nodding in disapproval. But you’ll agree with me when I say that none of these “what was that?” films had anything to do with his performance. Can we boil it down to just wrong choices? Maybe. But he definitely doesn’t think so. In fact, if anything, he’s quite understanding about the fact that his past choices have been…questionable. The candour and infectious smile that he faces my questions with, it’s a discussion I’m intrigued to have. We settle down over a conversation that deepens, then rises to the surface with a few “I don’t want to talk about this”, and deepens again. Over to ARK, and everything on his mind for 2020.

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On 2020

“2019 has been a happy, busy year for me. I’ve been filming three that will be released in the first half of this year, which has never happened in my career before. I want to see how these three projects turn out. I’m also looking forward to being busy and starting new projects. About resolutions, I don’t have any, really. I just want to get better,” he says.

On Bollywood

Talking about the changing narratives in Bollywood, Kapur thinks this is the best time to be an actor. “So many films are doing well because we’re giving the audience something different. The industry is being successful at being able to give actors something different, the kind of films that they want to do.” Are directors the heroes of the films again, I ask. “I think the audience have always followed directors that they admire, they have films that they watch because of a certain director. Film is the director’s medium, actors are a part of a film. I think directors have always been the heroes of the films,” he points out.

His films

Let’s address the elephant in the room, I decide, and ask point blank about his choice last year, a multistarrer, ensemble cast film. You didn’t exactly go down the content driven road. What was the idea behind the choice? I wonder, not sure if he’d take offence. But he has his reasons and he calmly explains, “I really connected with the story…and I wanted to do somethings different. It’s not a role I’ve done before, in a periodic film that has its challenges as an actor, which is something I always want to do, push my potential. The reasons for wanting to do it were many. I had a great time making the film.” But Kalank didn’t work, I softly say. “Once a film is out, its fate is not in your control. But the process of making it stays with you. The process was enriching,” he says. it’s not like people have criticised your performance in films that haven’t worked, be it Fitoor, Kalank or other such releases. So why do you think your films haven’t been leaving a mark? I ask. He pauses, frowns and says he doesn’t know, and doesn’t even think about it that far. “It’s very tough to pinpoint a reason. I don’t like doing too much of a post mortem into why it didn’t work. If it doesn’t do well, I don’t feel the need to dissect it. It’s really not the end of the world, you know. It’s just another film at the end of the day,” he laughs. “In fact, even when selecting my upcoming films, I haven’t done anything differently except been receptive. And lucky, to get the kind of roles I have got,” he says.

Olive green checkered tuxedo jacket; white shirt; black satin bow tie and Champagne gold polka-dotted pocket square all by Georgia Gullini

Upcoming releases

Kapur has Malang, Sadak 2 and Life In A Metro 2 coming in the new year, which at this point, all seem like promising projects. He delves into details. “Mohit (Suri) and I have a very close working relationship, but to work with Anurag Basu, with (Mahesh) Bhatt sahab is a learning experience, because there’s so much to imbibe. The experience on both Malang and Sadak 2 were different. Mohit and I are working together after six years, and Malang is a project I’ve been deeply involved with since the inception, so I’m really close to the story. It’s also a genre I’ve never done before: it’s an action-romance. Pushing myself for the physical transformation was challenging. I got a taste of what that would be like…it was quite strenuous, honestly,” he says.

Coming back to Vishesh films

Being in a project like Sadak 2, which marks Mahesh Bhatt’s return to direction after 25 years, has got to come with some pressure. Also, the OGs of the film, Pooja Bhatt and Sanjay Dutt, are part of the sequel. Vishesh films is like a homecoming to Aditya, and he thinks of it as exactly that. “Bhatt sahab’s energy for anything is infectious, and so is his protective nature. He hasn’t let any of us feel pressured by the success of Sadak. You just get the sense that you’re working with someone you want to learn from. Every time you interact with him, you feel like you’ve come out a little smarter. Also, the whole family is on set, Alia is there, Pooja is there and Sanjay Dutt, who is like a brother to me. The atmosphere on set is like family and it’s amazing to be able to be a part of that,” he says. In fact, he continues, they didn’t think about the outcome on sets. “We’re not allowed to have that pressure. Even he says that himself — it’s just a bloody film at the end of the day. We don’t have much to shoot. I really wish we had more,” Kapur sighs.

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On fashion

“You help me, what’s my personal style like?” he asks me. “Do I have any? I mean comfort is paramount. Someone said it’s slouchy cool,” he frowns. But slouchy is not exactly stylish, I feel like he’s more streetwear rugged. “I like that, I’m going to go with that. It’s definitely more streetwear rugged,” he says, leaning back in his ripped jeans and ganji. “Guys have it easier that way. I feel like if it looks good and fits well, it doesn’t matter who made it. But I don’t overthink brands,” he shrugs. In fact, if there’s a trend I can’t follow, it’s really skinny jeans. I don’t think I can pull that off. I used to love those really low hanging baggy jeans, by the way, but not anymore…We grew up,” he chuckles. There’s a whole conversation about Bollywood and fashion on the runway, I tell him, something we at MW have also reflected on in our last issue. Some designers say they don’t need Bollywood to showstop, and some just don’t say anything. I ask him if he thinks actors should let models take the limelight for fashion shows instead of becoming the faces on the ramp. “But they are doing runway shows, right? I think that’s totally up to the designers, doesn’t have anything to do with actors. If someone likes a Bollywood actor to be the showstopper, it’s up to them. The decision to have a showstopper is in the designer’s hands, not ours,” he states.

On his brothers

The youngest of three brothers (Siddharth Roy Kapur, Kunal Roy Kapur, and then ARK), Kapur says while everyone thinks he’s pampered because he’s the youngest, that’s not true at all. “I’ve not had it hard or anything, but I can’t say I’m extra pampered. We just have a literal generation gap beteeen us. Siddharth is 11 years older than me, Kunal is six years older than me so I think by the virtue of that, we never really grew up chilling with the same set of friends, but we’re very close. Our dinner table conversations are about films, of course, but also about sports, about politics, like really normal family talk…” he trails off.

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On friends in the industry

“When you’re working on a film with a cast,” Kapur says, “You tend to become friends, become close. Even if you’re not constantly in touch with them, the bonds are still there. I have a lot of friends in the industry who I chill with, but I hang out with my school friends more. My townie friends,” he tells me. “While we are out there, we don’t really critique or talk enough about films. It’s just not healthy to keep doing that. We end up talking about the film you’re doing, but nothing too much about reviewing each other’s work. My 4am friend is not an industry person,” he smiles.

Dealing with failure

He’s had his share of handling failure, and ARK clearly takes failure in a sporting way. Of course, there’s no denial that it has brought him down when it has. “I think my coping mechanisms have developed over the years. Of course, it takes you a few days. The process of a film not doing well also comes in stages. Stage 1 is optimism. Then the reality sets in…and you have to deal with that. The first part is the toughest, he laughs, saying he doesn’t know why he’s talking about it like it’s comedy, which is also a coping mechanism, we agree. “On the weekend, you’re like what’s going to happen, and then it takes you a few days to realise that…this is not going to happen. Also, right before the film is out, we’re so aggressively promoting it that when it doesn’t work out, it’s like a downer. You need a few days to understand how you feel, be around people who support and understand you, or sometimes the best thing to do is just work hard. The feeling of being upset by failure of a film is natural, and should be dealt with, you let yourself go through that process, or it’ll come out in the worst way later. So, I just do that,” he simply states.

Meaning of success

It’s a simple question to an actor who is appreciated for his craft — what does ARK equate success with? “I think it’s a business. You make films and their success at the box office is undeniably important. If it makes money, you make money for everyone. Having said that, as an actor, if your work is appreciated, it gives you some brownie points. Even if a film doesn’t do well but people have liked your work, that’s success in its own way.

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Taking a break

ARK’s sabbatical between work wasn’t a conscious decision, it happened because, simply put, nothing was exciting him. “I can’t put myself through six months of shoots and work for something I don’t connect with or don’t believe in. It turned into a sabbatical, which I was fine with. I’ve realised its 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. When I got back on sets with Kalank after a long break, I found myself doing things differently. The balance between work and having a life is very necessary,” he says. So was that the only reason for the break, I ask. No personal reasons? “What else could it be?” he counterquestions.

Being a man in 2020

The world, the country is changing, and so is the meaning of being a man in 2020. The idea of masculinity is ever-evolving, with all kinds of questions on “behaviour” that’s okay, that isn’t. Yes, I’m hinting at the Me Too movement, but I’m also hinting at toxic masculinity. He picks up, and says, “I don’t necessarily think in that sense. But if you ask me, it’s all moving towards a positive space. People are championing causes, and certain kinds of behaviour is being flushed out through movements whether in the West or here. We have a long, long way to go, seeing all the incidents that keep happening in our country, but it’s heading in the right direction. Things that are just not okay are becoming clearer, so we’re getting there,” he says. There are enough people in the film industry that have been named in the Me Too movement, so there’s no point of asking an actor, a today’s generation guy, on his thoughts. “If someone’s accused of #MeToo, it’s up to them how they deal with it. I am not sure I’m the right person to tell them how to address it,” he states. But as an actor, would he work with someone who has an accusation on the same lines, I ask him. “I think there’s a law in place to take it’s due course, if the person is proven to be wrong, I will take it seriously. I haven’t been put in that situation yet, but so far I don’t believe trial by press is the way to go,” he candidly explains.

Olive green checkered tuxedo jacket; burnt umber trousers; white shirt; black satin bow tie and Champagne gold polka -dotted pocket square all by Georgia Gullini; Deep comfort technology shoes by Hush Puppies
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Digital streaming and OTT platforms

OTT content has a certain freedom to it, according to ARK, who loves Black Mirror, the first season of Sacred Games, Explained, Abstract, among other shows. “There’s a certain freedom with being a part of a web show, with no box office stress to it. I don’t think of a role that I’d like to play as such, but if something interesting comes my way, I’d love to do it,” he says. At the same time, he feels, there’s not much to differentiate between alt cinema and mainstream anymore. “I think anything now has the potential to be mainstream if the story is something that the audience can connect to,” he says.

Love, sex, relationships

He’s definitely not delving into personal conversations about relationships, or dating. Trust me, I am curious to know. But nope. Super guarded, in that sense. “I don’t want to get into it at all,” he tells me. So we move on to love. Does he believe in the Bollywood concept of love, where there’s a happily-ever-after? “I think there’s space for every kind of love. Bollywood has space for all kinds of love stories, that have even happened in real life. I believe in love,” he smiles his charming smile. Dealing with heartbreak is much like a film, he says, and is quick to add “I’m joking!” “But I don’t have any great advice for anyone. Time is what can heal heartbreak, what else?” he chuckles, and whistles at his line.

Social media vs reality

Social media appearances, whether its celebrities or our dear influencers, is always like the-grass-is-greener-on- the-other-side. However, there are celebrities like Deepika Padukone who have tried to break taboos about mental health by talking about it. So what’s ARK’s social media game like? “Studies show that some claim social media is bad for mental health, but some also say it improves self-esteem. The jury is split on that one. But I feel different personalities react differently to different things. You have to figure out yourself first, and see what works for you and how you’re reacting to it. With social media, you have to self-medicate. I prefer staying away from social media. I really don’t think it’s interesting, or worth my energy,” he signs off, and finishes the last piece of his omelette. Fin.