From award-winning films to failures, Kapoor has seen it all. He talks about his latest release, the questions that came with it, and his hopes from the world of cinema.

Mumbai born and based film-maker Abhishek Kapoor has made meaningful yet entertaining movies with characters and stories that strike a powerful chord with the heart. Whether it is the iconic Farhan Akhtar-starrer Rock On!! (2008), which he wrote and directed, or the 2013 gem Kai Po Che, Kapoor’s craft beautifully combines the best of commercial and parallel cinematic elements.

abhishek kapoor

Other than his award-winning works, one can hardly recall or gauge that this nephew of legendary actor Jitendra (Kapoor) has had his fair share of failures that came with in the form of his acting debut Uff! Yeh Mohabbat (1996), as well as directorial venture Aryan (2006).

In fact, he has beautifully captured his journey in his recent Instagram post (look up his handle @gattukapoor) where he says: “15 years ago, it all started with a belief… Despite being confronted with failures up & close early on, that self-belief somehow remained unwavered come what may. By trusting yourself when no one else would, you harness some superior powers guiding you on your way. It’s like divine intervention… But over and beyond this comes the acceptance I’ve found from my audience. Without which I would have never had the courage to pursue such bold stories with conviction. Your love gave me room to grow and evolve as a storyteller. As the country celebrates my latest venture into yet another brave new world, I promise y’all to keep raging with the same passion and only better myself with every film I make.

The woods are lovely dark and deep

But I have promises to keep And miles to go before I sleep…”

Currently basking in the glory of his recent release, Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui featuring Ayushmann Khurrana and Vaani Kapoor, the director sheds light how he deals with lows and highs, and the challenges he faced while filming in the pandemic.

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui

You began your career as an actor and then went on to direct a movie. Despite letdowns there, your resilience resulted in mega successes in the form of Rock On!! and Kai Po Che. What would your advice be to youngsters today, who get frustrated fast, and often given up on their dreams?

The progress you make shouldn’t be relative to anyone or anything else. It’s important to focus on your own graph without getting bogged down by the noise around. Keep honing your skills, and embrace an optimistic worldview. It’s okay to be restless and raring to go, but do not be harsh on yourself if things don’t go your way. You’re young and you’re learning as you go. Having identified your calling at a young age is an achievement in itself.

kedarnath

So what is the best way to deal with the highs that come with successes and lows that follow failures?

I believe that one should take all the responsibility for their work, but not the credit for it. While I’m grateful for all that I have today, I can’t help but credit my success to the powers beyond me. Moreover, it’s important to always keep looking ahead. When you have your eyes set ahead, there’s no time to dwell on past success and failures.

Speaking of looking ahead, let’s talk about your current release, Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui. How did you choose the subject of this film and do you think audiences are ready to consume the kind of progressive content that you are rolling out through your work?

I think as creators, the onus to push the envelope is on us. We can’t evolve as an industry if we continue being pawns to the trappings of mainstream cinema. Since time immemorial, transgenders have been reduced to humorous or horror-inducing tropes. CKA has been able to serve as a conversation starter and this, itself, goes to show that it’s high time this sense of acceptance dawned on us.

fitoor

Would you then subscribe to the view that an actual transperson would have justified Vaani Kapoor’s role better?

I don’t think it can be looked at in isolation. Maanvi as a character serves the high purpose of bringing awareness in society. Vaani’s performance is winning acclaims all over for the heartfelt vulnerability she brought to the part. To imagine a transgender actor in her shoes is something all of us would like to see going forward. But at this stage, we got to give the credit where it’s due, and not shy away from accepting the revelation that Vaani has proven to be in the film.

What was the most challenging part of directing this film?

Shooting in Covid times was a bit of a hurdle. I believe it was one of the first films to start and finish in the first lockdown. Living in an eco-bubble, shooting with limited crew, keeping a check on protocols, ensuring everyone’s safety while also keeping the schedule in check was quite a challenge. But I’m glad I had a team that was raring to go against all odds, and give this project all they’ve got.

kai po che

In terms of the subject, which has been the film that’s closest to your heart, and why?

With each film, I find myself emotionally drained at the end of it, because it demands that kind of devotion. So purely because CKA is the latest entrant in my filmography, I’ll have to go with that. But not that I love my other films any less.

How do you think cinema has evolved since the time you debuted in the industry?

It is not the same industry anymore. The audience and their tastes have evolved. The lines between parallel and commercial cinema have blurred. There are new voices coming in, who refuse to fit into the conventional moulds, and want to do it their way. Producers are willing to take brave risks, and people have started to look beyond the superstar phenom, and value good talents. It’s a great time for Indian cinema.

rock on

Did coming from a family, where you have Jitendra, as your maternal uncle impact your career choice in any manner? How has it shaped your career or your perspective?

When I was young and relatively new to this world, I was under the assumption that it’s going to be a rosy ride ahead. But that was definitely not the case. Being from a film family, being launched as an actor could come easy, but becoming a star who’s accepted by the masses has to have that X factor. You can’t predict that. I had to learn that the hard way.