Harshvardhan Kapoor has invited me over to his place in Juhu, Mumbai’s movie star suburb. I show up a few minutes early and decide to take a stroll down the shaded lanes, lined with palatial bungalows, radiating money and power. What must it be like to grow up in a space like this, with a rich, influential father who has made sure, in his own career span, that his next few generations are going to have it easy? Would this new Kapoor kid turn out to be an entitled arse, or am I in for a surprise? I’m guided into an ostentatious study, every surface done up in polished wood. A bookcase, lined to the ceiling in fat leather-bound volumes, immediately grabs my attention. When Kapoor walks in – an hour late, just like any debutant should – I point at the bookcase and ask him if he has read any of them. “They are artificial. That is just a front for a lot of liquor,” he says. Well, at least he is honest.
Do you like mirrors?
It depends on the situation. Actually, I think I have outgrown the need to see myself often. On sets, I am really irritated. Once all the make-up is done, I don’t really have the urge to look into a mirror because there are so many other things to concentrate on. And, honestly, that should be the last thing on your mind. A bunch of people, who are very good at their job, have been hired to do precisely that. Not to make sure that you look good, but that you look good enough for the character. But again, if I were stepping out for a press event, then I would look in the mirror a lot more.
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Do you enjoy looking at yourself?
That’s a very good question, actually. It depends on the kind of world I am set up in. In Mirzya, for example, there are two worlds – period and contemporary. In the period set up, where I am playing a warrior, I really enjoyed looking at myself because of what the team had achieved, and we R and D-ed on the look for years. The beard, the man bun, the eyes, the tattoos – it’s an artistic achievement. I didn’t care much about the contemporary look, on the other hand.
Share a compliment that has stayed with you.
A lot of people who have seen the film have told me that I have very honest eyes. I don’t really need to speak much to keep people interested onscreen. I think that’s a very big compliment.
Do compliments matter to you?
That’s everything. That’s why we work. We work to make people happy, to emotionally move people. Anybody who says that they are not working for other people’s appreciation is lying. You are not working for yourself, but ideally you would want the reach of your work to be wide. You want more people to come up to you and say, ‘That moment really stayed with me.’
Share some of your favourite memories with us.
Walking into [Rakeysh Om Prakash] Mehra’s office and being told that I was doing Mirzya; when I found out that Gulzar saab had written the film — he hasn’t written a film in the last 15 years; we are competing at the London Film Festival and for them to say that my film is breathtaking is a huge thing for me. The last film from my family to be there was Slumdog [Millionaire] and this is my first film. Also, finishing college in the States.
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Like most second-generation actors in the industry, Kapoor completed an education in departments of film-making other than acting. He has a Bachelor of Arts in screenwriting and a clear goal to be effectively different from his father. That is a healthy goal to have, when his cousin, Arjun Kapoor, has made it his life’s mission to earn his bread by mimicking Anil Kapoor’s trademark histrionics. Kapoor is, very obviously, trying hard to not be a part of the family’s 1990s hangover. Even though he has a mere five-year age difference with Arjun and Sonam, he clearly wants me to believe that he has a more mature and evolved taste. For starters, he is a Terrence Malick fan, and we spend a good ten minutes arguing about Johnny Depp versus Brad Pitt.
How much of you is your father and how much is your mother?
Very hard to say. I saw the film again last night with a couple of friends and somebody said that you are the complete opposite of your father. Hopefully, you guys will see the film and say the same thing. You can’t relate it to any of his performances.
And that’s a good thing.
That’s a great thing. On the other hand, as a person, I really don’t know…
How similar are you to Sonam [Kapoor]?
I am not similar at all. I am very patient while Sonam isn’t. I don’t mind sitting at home and doing just one thing for two years, she wants to do new things constantly. I don’t really care about how I look, she’s the opposite. I am more blunt and straight up, she’s more sensitive. I can also be sensitive, but it depends on the situation. I am very objective about my own work, she gets emotionally swayed.
Are you affected by the legacy of your huge family?
Not really. In terms of creative expectations, I am not worried. Where I am kind of worried, to be honest with you, is in terms of commercial expectations. Because I think that’s unfair. You can have creative expectations from me and I think eventually, I will deliver. But in terms of commercials, no one is in control of that. The making of a film and the release of it are two very different things. There are so many factors that are not in my control. I think it is unfair to have commercial expectations.
Which are some of the best films ever made, according to you?
I am a big Terrence Malick fan, so, Badlands, Days of Heaven, Tree of Life, Knight of Cups… I think once you buy into the vision of a director, you start liking anything that they do. It is something very similar to what Mehra has attempted in Mirzya. Locally, Rang De Basanti was a big film when it came out. Udaan was a big film for me too.
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But then again, the fellow is 25. How many 25-year olds have any clarity about their careers? How many of them have the weight of such a hefty family name to live up to? I almost want to ask him whether he wished he were not a Kapoor, but I stop myself. I look at where we are sitting, this mansion he hopes will become his one day, the upbringing he has had, the opportunities he is getting and the roadblocks he will never have to face. Heck, he is on the cover of a magazine without a single release to his name, has already worked with Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra, is shooting his second film, Bhavesh Joshi, with Vikramaditya Motwane and already has a third lined up. Would all that really happen to him if he were not a Kapoor?
What are your insecurities?
People generally are not excited by the same things I am excited by. My sensibilities are slightly different. It is not the kind of stuff that may grab you right away.
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Do you enjoy the process of eating?
I am not a big eater, neither am I one of those people who live to eat. I am very methodical when it comes to my food. I very rarely crave things. I eat in terms of what I have to do for the films I am working on. I am not a big sugar guy. If I eat something fried, I will just feel horrible after. Not that I’ll turn vegan or anything, but I am fine with my chicken and brown rice and stuff. I don’t spend too much time thinking about what to eat.
I have recently developed a fondness for single malts. So I feel very cool right now. I did go through a phase of vodka and water, because it is very calorie free and all that.
Also, it gets you high faster?
I am a boring drunk, really. Generally I’ll have two drinks and decide to go home. I am not a party animal. I am more of a stay-at-home kind of dude, with my single malt and water. That’s my thing now.
So, I am guessing, you don’t enjoy dancing?
No. But I will have to start exploring it like any other skill set. I will have to identify a style of dancing I enjoy and take it from there.
What’s the one film you wish you had been a part of?
Delhi Belly, Lootera, Dilli 6 and Dev D. Also, some of the early Brad Pitt films and recent Ryan Gosling films. Those two actors are huge role models.
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Is there something you are dreading about becoming famous?
I don’t know if I will become famous. Nobody might show up on Friday morning. I might just be sitting all by myself with a single malt. But yeah, I want to be famous. Anybody who says otherwise is lying. And if they are not, please make me meet them. If it is a girl, I will ask her out. But, I guess the only thing you can really dread is that you put something out there, it comes out unconsciously, and people misinterpret it. Everybody exchanges messages and pictures, that’s life. See, I am human, right? I am allowed to say what I want and I am allowed to look bad. Also, this whole thing about keeping your relationships private — like come on, you are a celebrity, people are going to be curious. So, I don’t mind that. If I want to take a girl out to dinner or buy her a drink, I will not compromise on that and go to a shitty place because there won’t be any photographers there. But yeah, I am dreading the misinterpretation and the judgment.
Is that also why you had to get off Tinder?
I really want to be on Tinder. I am dying to be on Tinder. I am going to take a trip abroad just so that I can download Tinder and be on it. But you have to be careful on social media, you know.
What are you reading these days?
I took to reading just after shooting Mirzya. I read Keep Off The Grass by Karan Bajaj and Johnny Gone Down by the same author. I like to buy books myself, trust my own instincts. I want to take some time off soon, take a trip with a couple of books and an iPhone — and a Tinder account.
Would you really be reading anything at all?
If you could wake up one day and be somebody else, who would you want to be?
I would like to be Ryan Reynolds right now. Just because he made Deadpool. That is such a cool fucking film. And he’s married to Scarlett Johansson?
Well, he was married to Scarlett Johansson. I would like to be married to Scarlett Johansson and then Blake Lively. That’s not bad.
I would love to judge him (his choice of books and love for Brad Pitt and Terrence Malick, mostly), deliciously bitch about him with my friends, but then again, Harshvardhan Kapoor stands on the brink of a lifetime of public scrutiny. There will soon be blog posts about his airport fashion and his drunk party face, and whether he is ‘good friends’ with a certain co-star. Heck, his Wikipedia page only just came up. I think I am going to let him enjoy whatever is left of his anonymity.
Photographs by Rohan Shrestha
Styling by Peusha Sethia
Creative Direction by Kapil Batus