After essaying macho characters in his earlier films, Arjun Kapoor, turns into a romantic, cool dude in his latest film, 2 States. In an interesting conversation, the actor talks about his career choices, his bond with his mother and his future plans.
It’s a lazy, sunny afternoon, but the atmosphere at Dharma Productions office in suburban Mumbai is bustling with energy. While people are running around to complete their work, Arjun Kapoor walks in, looking uber cool in a pair of casual denim shorts, funky white sneakers and a steel grey hoodie with neon detailing. His presence is like a breath of fresh air, as he juggles between talking on the phone and waving back at a few fans standing outside the building. He disconnects the call and walks straight towards the interview room, without any fuss. One look at him and you can tell that Kapoor is unperturbed by everything around. “It’s been a super hectic year, you know. But I am loving it,” the actor says with a smile, as he settles down for a freewheeling chat with a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee. The 28 -year-old actor talks about his recently released film 2 States, equation with his mother, Salman Khan and Alia Bhatt and why he will never make a debut on social media platforms.
Most debutants play it safe by picking romantic films as their launch vehicle, while your first three films were full of action, which is quite interesting.
As an actor, I think that is exactly what worked in my favour. I did not choose the conventional route and I must give credit to producer Aditya Chopra, because it was he who believed and saw something in me to offer a role like that of Parma in Ishaqzaade. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever imagined to pull off a role like that. Interestingly, I had signed 2 States immediately after I started working on Ishaqzaade. So technically, it would have been my third film. But then, Gunday happened and was released before 2 States.
What finally compelled you to choose a romantic – drama like 2 States?
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The reason why I chose this script was because I love romantic-drama genres in general. It gave me tremendous happiness to finally play a character that I connect to, especially at the emotional level. I just had to play myself here! Bala from Gunday, Ajay and Vishal from Aurangzeb or even Parma from Ishaqzaade are all very volatile people. Their world was not relatable to me. I mean, I haven’t grown up in a small town nor have I been a refugee in the ’70s. So, for those characters, I did not really have a reference and had to understand and create them from scratch. For a change, I met a character in 2 States where I could safely say ki, arey yeh toh mere jaisa hain.
Did you read the book, 2 States before or during the making of the film?
Honestly, I didn’t read the book (smiles). I know that the characters had become immensely popular, but I decided to give my own interpretation and nuances to the character that I have played. Somewhere, I felt that reading the book would have created a different image in my mind. As an actor, I wanted to add unique mannerisms to Krish, to make it look more relatable.
Parma, Vishal and Ajay, Bala and now Krish Malhotra, which of these characters were you most comfortable with?
I love all my characters! (smiles) I can’t really choose one stand out element in Krish alone, since all of them are different in their own way. In fact, even choosing a favourite would be wrong. It’s like asking a mother to choose between their two babies. Today, I might feel like I am closer to Krish. But in retrospect, I may believe that Parma is my first love since it was my first on-screen character. They all have an individual place in my heart. I have lost a part of myself while essaying those characters and have given it away to the audience.
Krish is like most youngsters, extremely endearing, soft spoken, but completely confused about love. Is that the reason why you could relate to him?
Yeah! (laughs) If I ever meet Krish Malhotra, we would be very good friends. It was challenging, in a way, to play a character that I can relate to so much and do it with utmost sincerity. If you notice, in the film, Krish doesn’t talk too much and speaks a lot through his expressions and eyes. But I enjoyed the process.
You were shooting for Gunday and 2 States almost simultaneously and both the characters are poles apart. How challenging was that period for you as an actor?
It took a toll on me at a personal level. As you rightly said, they are two very difficult films and different characters in their own right. But with the response that I have got for both the films, I think all the hard work has been worth it. If this film works, I will consider it to be a blessing. But even if it doesn’t, I know that at least I tried to put my best foot forward.
The film deals with cultural barriers within relationships. What is your personal opinion on that topic?
For me, barriers never exist. I have grown up with a very liberal mindset within my family and surroundings. You can never do a bio – data check before falling in love. In the film, you could see that we have shown how parents react to cultural barriers and don’t allow cross-culture marriages to happen straightaway. It’s fair enough to a point, because our parents love us and they want the best for us. We need to value our traditions, and our parent’s blessings are a must when you get married. Personally, culture will never be a barrier for me, when I tie the knot. There might be other factors, but I will never consider someone’s religion or culture before falling in love.
You had earlier mentioned that in Gunday, your biggest takeaway was the friendship with Ranveer Singh. What about 2 States?
(Laughs) Oh yes! Our bromance is still the talk-of-the-town. But in 2 States, I made two best friends and that is the biggest thing I could ever ask for. You can make acquaintances while shooting, but true friendship is extremely rare. I bonded really well with both Alia Bhatt and Abhishek (Verman). I didn’t know either of them when the film started and today, I can safely say that they are amongst my closest, most amazing friends.
Any particular genre of films that you would like to explore?
There are so many genres that I am yet to experiment with. Be it crime thrillers, espionage dramas and even an out-and-out-comedy. There are varied genres and I am just at the beginning of my career. Abhi toh starting line cross bhi nahi kiya hain career mein. I have years to go before I can satiate my appetite and work in all the genres to my heart’s content.
In 2 States, we saw you falling head-over-heels in love with Ananya (Alia Bhatt). Did something similar happen with you during your school days?
Oh yes! (laughs) My condition was so much like him. I was very quiet as a kid, more like a mumbling-fumbling idiot. I played it very cool by telling my friends that I am not affected by this girl, whom I actually liked. I used to do mad things in front of her. While talking, I would get totally tongue-tied and twisted, making a complete fool of myself. I have experienced all that, but I was very young. So, I don’t know if it was real love or just some random crush that most kids of that age experience. I actually didn’t end up having a girlfriend till I was in my late teens.
Who has been your biggest source of inspiration and strength in life?
Beyond a shadow of doubt, it has to be my mother, who has been both my strength and weakness. I have reached where I am because of the sacrifices that she made in life. I am an independent person, yet very emotional. Only my mother could understand my emotions, even before I could say a word. I grew up in a surrounding where I knew that my mother was going through a difficult phase. I think that’s why, I didn’t discuss my problems with anyone and have been good with handling everything on my own. She was my best friend. I think my personality is a lot like her in many ways.
You have always been pretty vocal about your mentor, Salman Khan.
My relationship with Salman (Khan) has always been written about. I have always maintained that I love him and he knows where he stands in my life. I have immense love and respect for his entire family, which will never change. I will always be indebted to him, because it was he who looked at me and believed that I can become an actor, at a time when even I didn’t see one in myself.
Your mother, late Mona Kapoor, was very active on Twitter and so is your sister, Anshula. Even your contemporaries joined the bandwagon to connect with their fans. What is holding you back?
Personally, I believe that as actors, we give so many hours from our daily life for shooting, work, travelling, promotional activities, talking to the media among others. You need some space or time that you can call your own and unwind. Also, I am very vocal about my opinions and don’t think it makes sense to get argumentative over a keyboard. I would rather prefer meeting people, instead of wasting time typing things out. That’s the primary reason why I have refrained from coming on social media platforms. Also, I tend to get addicted to things very quickly. So, I think I might get way too active and not concentrate on other beautiful things in life.
How different are your characters in the upcoming releases, Tevar and Finding Fanny?
Both the films are in a completely different space and the audience will get to see two different personalities in these films. In Tevar, I play a kabaddi player with an extremely rough look. The outfits, hairstyle and accessories that I will be seen sporting is not mass inspired. I am wearing metallic balis, my hair has coloured streaks and the look designed by Kunal Rawal is that of a regular guy who roams around in ganjis, kurtas, track pants and sneakers almost throughout the film. My character in Finding Fanny will surprise people the most, as I will be seen speaking in Konkani and English. Although we shot the film in Goa, the story is set in a fictitious place and is totally crazy. We had a blast shooting for this one. After this, I haven’t signed anything else. I have worked so much in the last few months that I want to relax, think about the scripts coming my way and then take a call.
Any regrets during your journey in the industry so far?
Not at all (smiles)! All the choices that I have made so far have been my own. Nobody forced me to do anything. I have always followed my impulse and instinct. Within this short journey, I didn’t know that so much love and adulation will actually come my way. I got a chance to interact with fans before the release of 2 States and was overwhelmed with the way people were standing with posters and trying to get an autograph. Every moment of my journey in Bollywood has been worth it. It has been more about living and letting things happen as they come my way.
How do you handle the criticism, if any, that comes your way?
I think if we don’t have critics talking about us, we are not successful enough. (smiles) You need haters to be loved and if you are loved, you will obviously have people who hate you. Criticism is an important part, as long as it’s professional and does not get too personal. You can’t personally hate me without knowing me. Also, those who compare me to other actors can do so, as it’s a habit that will never go away. But, I will never lose sleep because of comparisons. I believe my work will speak for itself. You stand out in a huge crowd because of your talent, and not because of how much you talk about yourself.
As an actor, is there any department that you feel you still need to work on?
Everything! There is no end to learning as an actor. You always need to get better in front of the camera. It’s one of those few professions where you get better with time. I have always believed that the more experienced you get, the more you are in control of your craft. I need to work on each and every aspect, be it on the sets or even on a normal day.
Your contemporaries are planning or have already donned different hats, be it as a producer, singer among others. Any plans of doing something similar?
I think it’s too early for me (smiles). I am less than two years old in the industry. Abhi toh chalna seekha hoon, toh bhaagne ki tayari shuru kaise kar doon (laughs). I would like to enjoy this phase, before I take to direction, which I will at some point in life. But I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.