PHOTOS RAJ CHATURVEDI ❖ STYLING AKSHAY TYAGI ❖ ASSISTANT TO THE STYLIST RAJASI DATAR ❖ HAIR AALIM HAKIM ❖ MAKE-UP STEPHEN JADHAV ❖ TEXT K. SUNIL THOMAS ❖ LOCATION JW MARRIOTT MUMBAI JUHU
There is something likeable about Aditya Roy Kapur. It could range right from the weak-in-the-knees kind of palpitations that seem to afflict some of the women in the production crew of this cover shoot, to the slap-his-back-and-chill-with-a-beer vibe among the guys (he prefers whisky though, as he reveals later).
Perhaps, it is his smile. It is the stuff that careers are made of. Shy, yet with enough power to launch a charm offensive, it appeals variously to different demographics. It makes teen (and post-teen) girls go weak in the knees while his lanky frame, good looks and nimble footwork (his grandparents, on his mother’s side, were dancers) makes him the ideal ‘toy boy’ material. Ironically, for a male idol who’s the heartthrob of millions of girls, ARK’s understated persona gels with the menfolk, too. Aashiqui 2, after all, was a phenomenon not just among female viewers, but for scores of young men, too, who could identify with the intense all-or-nothing anguish and emotions of its male lead. He may be dashing on screen, but off screen, at event appearances and magazine photo shoots, he is approachable, and real. And that is what appeals to men as well.
Aditya Roy Kapur is non-filmy when it comes to throwing starry airs, but one thing you can’t ignore is his physical presence. All 6.2” and 82 kilos of him, toned by years of playing sports (his childhood dream was to be a cricketer), this is not a guy you can ignore easily, movie star or not. At the entrance to JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, when Kapur walks in, he causes a domino-effect of sibilant whispers across the spacious lobby. He is taller and bigger in a muscular kind of way than he looks on screen, just as good looking with hair less curly, but as voluminous as ever. The eyes behind the ubiquitous designer sunglasses seem to look for a way to escape the weight of multiple stares on him.
Minutes later, ensconced in a heat-proof, ‘stare-proof’ suite in one of the upper floors of the hotel and surrounded by his PR team, make-up man, and favourite stylist, he is more at ease. He checks out the clothes, commenting on how stylist Akshay gets it right and agrees without hesitation to a ‘different’ look Akshay wants to try for this shoot. As the shoot progresses, ARK’s walls disappear, to the extent that sitting in another suite down the corridor with him as he sips black coffee after the shoot, he chats like an old buddy. It is hard to imagine this is the same ‘star’ who caused a flutter in the lobby when he first arrived.
I love it and I hate it that I have lost my anonymity
“I love it and I hate it that I have lost my anonymity,” he sighs, “not being able to do a lot of things I used to do when I was growing up in the city.” What he misses the most is having omelette-paav outside Churchgate station. “I can have it sitting in my car with the windows rolled up, but that’s no fun!”
A refusal to take himself seriously, a rare quality in Bollywood, sets him apart. He is clear about his likes and how he would like to spend his free time. The chilled out persona is evident in his fashion sense, both on the shoot and off-camera. “To be honest, I’m not known for adventurous fashion styles at all,” he confesses. The high point of his fashion adventurism would probably be the cut-off trousers he wore during the promotion of his last film Fitoor earlier this year. “To me that was really stretching it!”
A career as a film actor was also probably stretching it for the ARK of a decade ago. “Initially, I didn’t have a fascination for films,” he confesses. Surprising, considering that he comes from a filmi khandaan, his grandfather Raghupat was a film producer, his older brother Siddharth (Roy Kapur) is the CEO of UTV Motion Pictures and is married to actor Vidya Balan. “Acting was always around (in my house), but it was never something I saw myself doing. I was always the sports kid. I wanted to be a cricketer. That was my dream and I was quite good at it. I keep saying I would have made it to the team if I had continued it. Unfortunately, circumstances led me to a different role.”
Kapur’s tryst with acting came about via the small screen, when as a student at Mumbai’s St. Xavier’s College where he played the guitar, he became a veejay on Channel V. Getting noted for his comic timing as a TV star meant he began to get calls for auditions, many of which he ignored. “I was still in my teens and just wanted to chill. But every now and then, a bout of nervousness would kick in.” It was during one such phase that he did go for an audition and life changed after that. The audition was for Vipul Shah’s London Dreams, starring Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn. Kapur auditioned for the supporting role of a young rock star and with his expertise on the guitar and the whole VJ thing, it was a shoo-in.
The laid back youngster didn’t take that as a debut, rather as a paid vacation. “I’d been abroad only once before that and here I was getting to go to London for a month and play a guitarist in a film (and get paid)! I didn’t think of it as my ‘launch’ then or give it due importance.”
But change had kicked in. “I realised it was an interesting profession and a fun job…and had scope. I preferred it to being a veejay. Gradually, I became a less reluctant actor.” Vipul Shah liked the young man so much that he cast ARK in Action Replayy, his next film, in the pivotal role of a young man who travels back in time to ensure his parents (played by Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai) fall in love with each other. “That one film led to another and another...”
Having put the acting bug in him, Lady Luck then stepped back. While both London Dreams and Action Replayy did not set the cash registers ringing despite the marquee names, his next, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish proved to be a dud, good reviews notwithstanding. It would be three long years before his next release.
Aashiqui 2 (2013) was billed as a sequel to the 90s blockbuster of the same name by Mahesh Bhatt, but only in genre, the plot and characters were all different. Critics loved Kapur’s portrayal of Rahul, a singing superstar battling alcoholism, a career going downhill and his doomed love for singer-on-the-rise Arohi (played by Shraddha Kapoor). Importantly, its music and its two lead actors became a rage among movie goers. In less than a month, the film breached the 100-crore box office milestone, an incredible feat for one starring newcomers. The songs Tum Hi Ho and Sunn Raha Hai topped music charts, becoming romantic classics almost instantly.
Aditya Roy Kapur had arrived as a bonafide movie star.
At the end of the day, (you have) to know what you bring to the table…so, it’s important to zero in on what is different about you. If you are different, you become irreplaceable.
His career trajectory since then has been mixed. There have been high-profile ventures, but while multi-starrers like Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) and Dear Zindagi (2016) were runaway hits, the former even earning him award nominations, his ambitious solo ventures did not make the cut. Surprising, since they looked so good on paper - Daawat-e-Ishq (2014) starred Parineeti Chopra and was produced by Yashraj; Fitoor (2016) was an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations while Ok Jaanu (2017) was the official remake of Mani Ratnam’s OK Kanmani. All three films went under. He has not signed another one since. What is happening?
ARK confesses that number crunching, box office receipts and the rat race is not where his heart lies. “I don’t waste time wanting what someone else has. At the end of the day, (you have) to know what you bring to the table…so, it’s important to zero in on what is different about you. If you are different, you become irreplaceable. When I’m not shooting, I (don’t) sitting around from morning to night reading the gossip columns trying to keep abreast of everything…you can get burned out in a sense, and it is unnecessary.”
For Aditya Roy Kapur, life is so much more (see ‘quick takes’). “I am ambitious, but I have a life outside of films. I enjoy doing other things.” Just as his biggest hit Aashiqui 2 was a sequel to the original only in genre, his future plans could also take a turn beyond conventional expectations. “Sometimes you need to wait for work to come to you. But, it’s also a lovely time to be in this industry, where you can make lot of things happen.”
I am ambitious, but I have a life outside of films. I enjoy doing other things.
ARK, the sequel, could still surprise us all.
Coffee or tea?
Shots or cocktails?
Cocktails. But if it’s cocktails or whisky, then I’ll take whisky any day.
Home food or takeaway?
Love home food, but I haven’t been able to find a good home cook.
So, contrary to your role (as chef in Daawat-e-Ishq), you are not a good chef?
I’m not, I’m not, I’m not! It was all acting. Though, I did learn how to make rumali roti. Which is quite tough, because you have to fling it in the air….but I haven’t made it ever since!
Been years since I watched TV. Now I end up watching Netflix or YouTube, binge watching shows in one go.
Favourite vacation spot in India?
Other than Goa?
Any particular spot in Himachal?
I don’t want to give that away.
Favourite vacation spot in the world?
There is no one spot. Though I had a nice time in Hawaii. It’s the most time I’ve spent abroad (in one place), I think.
Who are you reading now?
P.G.Wodehouse. He’s really funny!
Any particular person you go to for advice.
My brothers. And my mom. Sometimes, she doles it out even when I don’t ask for it!
A Bollywood personality you find intimidating?
Amitabh Bachchan. Always.
A Bollywood actress you would love to hit on?
Oh no, we should never have to hit on anyone. If you wish for something, it might as well fall into place!
One role you wish you had done...
Maybe, Yoda from Star Wars.
One role you wish you hadn’t done.
You’re playing safe...
No, I swear. Everything adds up somewhere.
Strangest thing that’s happened to you in Bollywood?
Can’t think of anything. Strange things happen in Bollywood all the time!
Where can we find you when you want to get away from it all?
You won’t be able to find me! (laughs)