Bollywood actor Kunal Kapoor, who shot to fame with Rakeysh Ompraksh Mehra’s Rang De Basanti, will now be seen in a completely new avatar in his upcoming film Veeram. He will be seen playing the role of a warrior and for this he has undergone a drastic transformation in his looks in the film. He will also be seen in Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Raagdesh, which is based on INA trials of heroes from pre-Independence and independence era. In an exclusive conversation with the IndianExpress.com, the talented actor talks about how he gained his muscular physique in Veeram, his love for writing and how he became an actor.
Your warrior look from Veeram has been much appreciated. Tell us about your character in the film.
I play a character called Chandu Chekavar. He is one of the most famous anti-heroes in the history. There is a lot of similarity between Chandu Chekavar and Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Our story happened 300 years before Macbeth. Chandu’s actions are governed by different reasons and director Jayaraj has merged the two stories beautifully together. So, this is an old-new take on Macbeth.
You’ve undergone a drastic change in your physical appearance for Veeram. What regime did you follow to gain this muscular physique.
Well you know formerly I was very very lean and I have always been into my fitness and Jayaraj sir was very particular of what physicality and the look he wanted for the character. So for that I had to gain a lot of muscles which was about 11-12 kgs of muscles. I think its the biggest I have ever been. And to get there actually it was really very challenging because it was 4-5 months intense workout in the gym. And also Jayaraj sir wanted the character to look like warrior and not like a person who has recently developed muscles in the gym. So we mixed up lot of gym work with functional training and besides that we also did Kalaripayattu. So there was lot of martial arts training for three-four months and a lot of weapon training as there is a lot of fighting sequences in the film. So there was training in sword fighting and there is flexible sword called Urmi which I trained in as well because the climax fight is with the Urmi. So it was of course very physically challenging and emotional challenging as well because when you are playing a grey charcater like Macbeth, which is very complex, very layered and has very interesting journey as well. And Macbeth starts off with somebody who is considered a great warrior and then turns into somebody that is temptated by ambition in power and finally he goes into being completely a reckless tyrant. So it’s a really interesting journey there. And we shot the film in three languages – English, Hindi and Malayalam. So that was even more challenging.
You’ve also learned Kalaripayattu for the film. What challenges did you face while performing the martial art form?
The challenges were there before we started the film. I was taught by an expert who would come down from Kerala and I would train for three three hours in the morning with him. We shot the action scenes for 17-18 hours a day because we wanted to finish the film in a particular amount of time.
You’ve also learned Malayalam for the film. Are you open to more films down south?
Well as an actor, I am open to anything that is interesting. Whether it is down south, or a Punjabi film or a film from a completely different language or a country. What was really interesting about this part is somebody of Jayaraj sir’s calibre come and said that I want to do something completely different with you. And that is very exciting for any actor as you are constantly looking to play different characters. So I am open to anything that is interesting anywhere in the world.
After Luv Shuv Tey chicken Khurana in 2012, you appeared in Kaun Kitne Pani Mein in 2015. Why did you stay away from the camera for such a long time?
Well you know, it is a catch 22 sort of situation. As an actor, I have done only three films in last seven years. But I love to do more films and represent something and I enjoy the most being in front of the camera and to be in a studio. I have been shooting for the last 20 years of my life. I started off as a production assistant, then became an assistant director and then an actor. So I am happiest when I am shooting a film. But the sort of scripts or the parts that I was looking for, weren’t coming my way. So really it was a toss up between whether to do more work or choose the work that I believe in. And I think it was the right thing for me to do because right now I am doing three films and working with three directors that I wanted to work with for a long time. There is Tigmanshu Dhulia (for Raagdesh which is based on the INA trials), Gauri Shinde (For Dear Zindagi) and Jayaraj sir. So the patience has paid off.
You started your career as an assistant director of Aks in 2001. How did acting happen to you?
I was always inclined towards acting. When I was an assistant in Aks, I was always in front of the camera if a character artist was needed, I would stand up for him. If there was some dialogue rehearsal happening, I would be doing the dialogue rehearsals. So acting was just a natural progression. For me, the most interesting thing being the assistant director was it gave me a chance to understand the whole business of film making that since nobody from my family is from the industry. So it was a wonderful learning experience. Not only as an actor but also just a person to experience the whole thing.
Was Bollywood challenging for you as an outsider?
Yes, of course. There’s obviously not many opportunities available for you. So it’s always a bit of a battle. But having said that, I was very lucky when I started off as assistant director. I was working with Rakeysh Ompraksh Mehra and he was casting for Rang De Basanti at that point of time. And I requested him to allow me to test for the film and he did. I did a couple of tests and I got Rang De Basanti. And it was possible because I had access to Rakyesh when he was the director of Aks. But having said that it’s always a challenge being an outsider to get the opportunities and scripts that you are looking for. And also the story you want to tell. I actually I enjoy writing a lot. And I write a lot of scripts and I am working on them. So to get the opportunities to make those scripts and get it converted into films, that is also very challenging.
You said you love writing and want to direct a short film. So currently is there any script in your mind.
Well there are some scripts. I think everybody has something that comes naturally to them and I think writing is something that comes incredibly naturally to me. I remember I started writing when I was 12 or 13 years old. I wasn’t writing scripts then but I enjoyed writing a lot. And over the years I had a chance to develop a lot of ideas into scripts and fortunately I had people who are interested in those scripts to direct, to write with me and to produce as well. So I am currently working on scripts and bunch of them are ready now and hopefully they will come out in production soon as well.
You are in Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi and will be playing Alia’s boyfriend in the film. Tell us about your character.
Well I think it’s little early to talk about the film right now but it has been a wonderful experience working with both Gauri and Alia. Alia as an actress is absolutely amazing. She is somebody who has taken a lot of risks in her career with the kind of movies she has done. And she is somebody who is very wonderful to work with. She is always incredibly well prepared. She is really professional and she is a wonderful actress and it was lovely working with both of them. And Gauri was amazing. First time I got a chance to work with a woman director and I think it amazing how she approached the film and the sensitivity she looks on the characters and relationships, I think it’s absolutely amazing.
And you are also reuniting with Shah Rukh Khan in this film.
Right, but you know I and Shah Rukh Khan don’t have any scenes in the film together. It’s a bit of shame because the first time I worked with him was in Don 2 and I really enjoyed that experience. He is a wonderful actor to work with. So it was unfortunate that we don’t have any scenes together.
So do you have any director on your wish list?
Well there are so many of them. I think I am really fortunate to be an actor at this point of time because there are wonderful directors who are making films right now. And there are so many of them I would like to work with. There is Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya, Zoya Akhtar, Farah Khan, Dibakar Banerjee and so many others who are doing wonderful work. So yeah I would definitely look forward to work with all of them.