MW Cover Story: What Makes Aditya Roy Kapur A National Heart-Throb
He is known for his understated and subtle acting, his fitness goals set the stage on fire. Aditya Roy Kapur has proven himself, time and again, to be a versatile performer, and is now set to be Bollywood’s next action hero and rockstar
It was 2014, at a popular pub in SoBo. It was December, and there was a nip in the air. The pub was dimly lit, mood was laidback, and the retro rock music was Jim Morrison-approved, who was staring from the neon graffiti-illuminated wall. A tall guy, with a mop of curly hair tamed under a baseball cap dressed in casuals, quietly saunters in, plonks himself on one of the bar stools, orders a beer, his gaze brushes past the pool table, and makes himself at home. He seems to be one of the regulars. And he seems to look a lot like the newest collective crush of the nation, Aditya Roy Kapur.
We dismiss the idea. He was the antithesis of all things one would associate with a celebrity, let alone be a Bollywood heart-throb, the Aashiqui 2 star. In fact, he was so low-key that he easily passed off as that lonesome college kid who had just walked in to grab a beer, play some pool, and enjoy the music after wrapping up his class assignments.
This is exactly how ARK rolls. The 35-year-old, who claims to be an ambivert who ‘is absolutely fine with solitude’, has always strived to strike a balance between normal life and the trapping of his celebrityhood. He keeps a low profile and some days, he even gets by unnoticed. Although, according to him, he has mastered the art of hiding his face under his cap, it is not easy, given his ‘towering’ personality and dashing good looks.
But ARK is not willing to give up on these small joys of life, not just yet. And he is even okay if he is spotted by fans — for he has worked hard to get to this point where he is not only a known face but also one of the most desirable men in Bollywood today.
It is this underrated charm and the endearing boy-next-door vibe that was to become the USP of Aditya Roy Kapur — both on screen and off it. When Akash in Ludo rolls a joint on the balcony listening to Shruti drunk talk, half amused, and then calmly passes her a glass of water as she pukes her way to glory, he is that friend you know, you have met, you have been with, or you want to be with. He is relatable; he is one of your own people, someone you can just chill with — be it that of Avi in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani or that of Adi in OK Jaanu. It is the relatability that he brings to his characters that makes the audience invest in his stories, and women go weak at the knees.
Known for his understated and subtle acting, he has proven himself time and again to be a versatile performer. If he has his comic timing on point in Ludo, he is equally good in intense, brooding roles such as Rahul in Aashiqui 2, his breakthrough performance, Dev Chaudhry in Kalank, Noor in Fitoor, and Advait in Malang. In fact, Malang saw the emergence of an action hero, and his two upcoming films are bound to enforce the image further. Om: The Battle Within and Thadam are both out-and-out action thrillers, and ARK is looking every bit of a ‘macho man’. Although he is a self-confessed action movies fan who grew up watching Sylvester Stallone/Arnold Schwarzenegger-starrer Hollywood blockbusters with his dad, he had never envisioned himself headlining one. “In fact, as a kid, I wanted to do those things in real life instead,” he quips.
It’s no secret that ARK has a dedicated female fandom lusting for him. In fact, while he was in Delhi shooting for the Hindi remake of the Tamil film, Thadam — a film that will see him playing a double role for the first time — he broke the Internet when he treated his fans to an impromptu performance at Gurugram’s Cyber Hub. The videos that went viral saw him slip into his Aashiqui 2 avatar in real life, and strum and croon his way to the hearts of millions.
We meet the man of the moment to check out what exactly he is up to.
You are looking extra hot and intense on the posters of Om: The Battle Within. Your other upcoming film, Thadam, is also a high-octane action thriller. Even Malang was an action film. Are we looking at the rise of a new action hero?
Actually, action movies were my first love. While growing up, I was an action movie freak. My dad and I used to sit and watch back-to-back movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jackie Chan, I have seen their entire filmographies. But acting was never on the agenda, and I had never even dreamt of becoming an action hero. I got into movies by chance, and the movies I got initially were romantic movies, so eventually people started viewing me through that lens. And since I also didn’t get into films with a crystal clear plan on what kind of movies I want to do, it took me time to venture into this genre. Sometimes, I really think about what actually took me this long to get to something I have always loved so much. But better late than never.
And you totally look the part.
Yes, that’s what I am being told. People are saying that ‘yaar tu toh isi ke liya bana hai’ etc. Om is out and out action, Thadam is more of a thriller, but it also has a lot of action. I am absolutely enjoying it. With new genres come new challenges, which keep things interesting for an actor.
How was the physical preparation for it?
I have already done it a couple of times. I won’t say it gets easier, but you get more aware of the process, and you streamline it a lot better. This time around, obviously, for Om, there was a huge requirement in terms of physicality but also, there was a lot required in terms of action. So, it was kind of a double whammy, where I had to build as well as train. And I think action is an antithesis to putting on muscle because you end up losing muscle when you do a lot of martial arts. Doing two hours of dancing or two hours of martial arts depletes you, especially when you’re on a low-calorie diet. So, that was the challenge — to do martial arts and gymming — you have to ensure that you have enough energy, but you have to burn fat. It was tricky. But then it’s part of the fun of a new genre, a new challenge, and kind of learning new skills as well, which I thoroughly enjoy.
Thadam would see you play a double role for the first time. How challenging and exciting was that?
It’s been fun as the two characters are sharply contrasting form each other. It is a different cup of tea. It is a whole different process, slightly schizophrenic at times (laughs). When you sign up for a film and you are preparing for that particular role, subconsciously all your efforts start to gravitate toward that. With this one, you have two characters, so you are constantly oscillating between the two. It is different, but I can elaborate on the process better once it is over. The idea is not to set out to make the two characters different from each other but to understand both equally well. As these two characters are different, if you do your homework well, they will look different as well.
Your last release was Ludo, which was a goofy comedy. Would we get to see experimenting more with the genre?
I love comedies as well. In fact, as much as I love action movies, I would absolutely love to explore comedies as a genre in future. I don’t want to pigeon-holed into a certain genre. As an actor you run the risk of getting repetitive. I like to constantly do different kinds of roles. And comedies are something I would totally love to do more.
Tell us about your process in Ludo, and how was it working with Anurag Basu?
It was a fun character to play, and it never felt like hard work. And I think that is important for comedy — when you just let it flow, and hopefully it does. The situations were so relatable, and naturally got you to react in ways that were very real. Also, when you have someone like Anurag Basu pulling the reins, you feel that you are in safe hands, and that makes all the difference. Working with him was an extremely liberating and unique experience. He likes to have spontaneity in his actors, he loves to keep them on their toes and throw new things at them. He thrives to find the unknown. There’s a kind of instinctiveness with which he makes his movies. As a director, he is so much in control of every possible aspect of film-making that doing things on the spot and on the fly comes easy to him; he knows exactly what he wants and also how to get it. As actors, that’s very enriching and exciting, as we are all trying to create something beyond what is already on the page. Sometimes, the actors can maybe be too prepared, but sometimes you have to leave some room for something to happen on the set. It was a new thing for me. I was doing things based on my initial understanding of the scene without exact dialogues, and it was happening. I was surprised. Going forward, as an actor, I want to incorporate this in my own process — how you prepare for a scene but to leave that extra room for spontaneity. However, I know that this approach will definitely not work for all kinds of genres, and each requires its own process.
You made your debut in 2009, 12 years ago. How much, according to you, has Bollywood and Indian cinema really changed, especially with the OTT boom?
I think with OTT coming in, it is a great time for everyone across the board — writers, directors, technicians, actors. There is so much more varied work happening, there are interesting stories being told. As a consumer, there is so much to choose from. And as actors, it is amazing because there are so many different kinds of material being written now that are not necessarily made for the big screen in a certain way — we didn’t have this option even a few years back.
Also, it is great for repeat viewing. When I was younger, I used to watch the same movies over and over, we had VHS tapes then. Now, thanks to the movies being available on these platforms, you can watch them any number of times. Also, look at the reach. Now your movies are available across the globe.
Now that theaters have opened up, how do you see the future of Bollywood, which was almost being written off thanks to the OTTs, in the post-pandemic world?
I think the cinematic experience is too unique and too ingrained in us to go anywhere. Yes, due to the pandemic, theatres had to be shut, and that was a pretty big setback, but I don’t think cinema or Bollywood is going away anywhere. It is so amazing what happened with Sooryavanshi, it had such a great response, and that proves it all.
It is an actor’s job to play various characters, and you have sampled different genres rather successfully. What makes you pick a role?
Honestly, it is not about the role, but the movie in its entirety. It has to do with the script and the director and his vision. You pick different films for different reasons. Sometimes you are so in love with the story that you can’t resist being part of it. The idea is to constantly keep trying different things and push yourself into newer avenues so that the actor in you is constantly on his toes, and doesn’t become complacent.
Which of your characters is the closest to Aditya Roy Kapur in real life? And which one is more challenging to play — a character that is like you, or the one that you have no clue about?
That is a very tough question to answer. I have never sat down and analysed it that way. I think there are aspects of me in almost every character that I have played; there are antics of me in all.
To answer the second part of your question, I think it is tricky to play a character that comes from a similar background, social strata, and headspace as you. Because you want to do justice to the character, and you then need to mark out the differences so that you don’t slip your own persona onto the character, and turn it into you. Whereas if it is an entirely different character from what you are, there is a very sharp and clear idea of what those differences are.
Today, you are a popular star, and enjoy a huge fan following. How does that impact your life? Are you now totally comfortable with the paraphernalia of the stardom?
I enjoy the adulation and the frenzy, but I don’t want that to stop me from doing the things I want and love to do. I am quite rebellious like that. Earlier, I used to be out and about all the time. And that is one thing I have tried to fight for. Yes, at times it gets tough, but I still do it. I still go for gigs, I went for the U2 concert — I wore a mask, pulled my hat down, and did it. If you are there and people realise that this guy just wants to chill, sometimes they let you be. But yes, only sometimes. When I am in Bombay I love to go out, I go to pubs and bars every now and then. Sometimes you are hounded for selfies and you oblige, but some days you get really lucky, and manage to have a great time.
Delhi recently got a first-hand experience of your rockstar self in real life. How did that happen?
We were shooting in an amphitheatre and there was a band present. It was a scene that required a band. They had their guitars plugged in, everything was hooked up. I always gravitate towards musicians. I was chatting and jamming with them in-between shots. Then eventually, they gave me the guitar and I started playing, and then they wanted me to sing. So that’s pretty much how it happened.
You have installed a recording studio inside your house during the lockdown. Is there a possibility of a career in music?
Yes, I’m taking solid steps now towards it. I was procrastinating for quite a while. But now I have started working on it with a friend, and putting some stuff together — these are things I’ve been working on for years now. For me, it was a real challenge to find dedicated time between my acting projects and invest in this. The music thing takes up a very different mind space. But I’m definitely keeping this on my priority list and over the next couple of months, the second I get some time off, I’m going to jump straight back into the studio, and hopefully in a few months’ time, I’ll have something that I will put out there. In fact, I worked on a couple of things during the second lockdown.
You seem to be quite comfortable being on stage. Your brother Kunaal Roy Kapur has his roots in theatre. Does stage acting interest you? Would we ever see both of you working in a play together?
Oh, my brothers and my mom, they’re all very much into theatre, and I have watched them all on stage. But I was always into sports, and the stage wasn’t my thing. I did take part in a few school concerts but that was about it. I have been on stage only a handful of times. It was much later, after I became a VJ, that acting really happened to me.
So, you would much rather be a rockstar on stage than do theatre?
I would say so. I’d love to perform on stage. I would be much more comfortable doing that. Acting on stage, doing theatre, is a whole different ball game. But it can really help you as an actor, and it can be quite intimidating. But maybe one should try. Now that you are asking me this, I think why not? Maybe it will happen. But you will see me on stage soon for sure, with my music.
The last two years were extremely uncertain times. How did you cope with everything, especially since actors don’t even have a WFH option?
I think everyone in the whole world was in the same boat. It was not like a situation where you’re singled out. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to be okay, then you’re not thinking about yourself but about people who are going through much, much tougher battles. It was a situation of life and death, and at that point your own little troubles, issues related to your career didn’t really matter, considering the state of things around. Everyone did their best. For me, the silver lining was that I got to spend a lot of time with my parents and my family after a very long time. But I don’t think it was especially hard for me as an actor, because as an actor, you are either really busy or you can be really free, and I have gone through both phases in my career. I was lucky that I had a couple of releases in the lockdown, and that was cool.
What projects, characters are you looking forward to doing in the next few years?
I am itching to do a comedy, and something that has shades of grey or even an out-and-out negative character. I got a taste of it in Malang. I have heard a lot of actors say that playing a dark character is fun, that it is liberating when you don’t have to be the good guy, so I would enjoy doing something like that.
What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion to me is something one is comfortable in.
If you had to pick only one designer to wear for movie premiers for the rest of your life, who would they be?
A Tom Ford suit.
If you were to style yourself for an event, what would you wear?
That’s why I don’t style myself for events, because I don’t have a good answer to this. Maybe a pair of jeans, a shirt, shoes, and a watch.
What style do you prefer: formals or streetwear?
One destination that has your heart and soul?
Which luxury car do you aspire to own?
One luxury purchase you just can’t get enough of?