In the seven years since you made your debut with Saawariya, your acting has met with mixed reviews. But you have rarely opted for 100-crore formula films.
Over time, I have realised I am not capable of pulling off these mass entertainer roles. I tried it with Thank You and Players. They were easy characters to portray and fun films to shoot, and also very tempting because I got offered some ridiculous amount of money to do those films.They came at a time when I had just about started off. Now, I haven’t borrowed a penny from my parents since the age of 18 and it was tough to refuse such films because I really, really like nice things. Also, when you know such films are likely to do well and that they can make people a little nicer to you, you can’t turn such offers down. But when I did the film, I couldn’t identify with that space; I felt the journey needs to be more rewarding. My decisions have held me in good stead over time and are shaping my career now. I still might not win any awards or may not have six 100-crore films in a year, but whatever I have achieved is on my own, (of course, my dad’s there); it’s because I’ve worked hard.
So do you consult your father, actor Anil Kapoor, when choosing scripts?
I have some 500 people working for me. I have agents who are constantly fighting with me to do certain films and they got me some good work last year. Of course, my dad’s there and his experience in the industry counts. But when it comes to opinions, I trust my sister Rhea over all others and I would go with what she says. We’re a year-and-a-half apart and grew up together, so she knows me very well and understands what I’d be comfortable with. Also, we’re partners at work, so what I do affects her too. Her suggestions always factor in my business as well as my personal interests. But then, the final decision is always mine.
You often dismiss yourself as an actor.
I can’t take myself seriously as an actor. I have a long way to go and it’s the truth. I have to work harder to become a good actor. I regularly do workshops before a film shoot begins because the audience can tell when you aren’t prepared. I am not an actor, so I can be a star. I want to do this the rest of my life and not stop when I am 30 or 35 years, after marrying some rich industrialist.
Fashion’s become integral to your status as an actor.
It just happened. When I came to the industry, people were still wearing saris with bikini blouses and Swarovski-style dresses. That wasn’t my taste. I love vintage and history, and I know fabrics because my mom was a designer. I treat fashion as art, so, to me, a painting is as valuable as a Cristóbal Balenciaga gown and people loved that. But that wasn’t me trying to make a statement; it’s the way our parents brought us up.
Can you elaborate on that?
Mom and dad are extremely well-travelled and have made sure their children appreciate art, travelling, different cultures and religions. Fashion is only one facet of what we’ve been taught. If I know who Elsa Schiaparelli is, it’s not because I am into fashion, but because I was encouraged to take interest in art, world history, architecture etc. When we were younger, mom used to read to us a lot. We’d travel a lot because of dad and while we’d go to the run-of-the-mill Disneyland, we’d also visit museums. I remember I was 14 when we went to Austria; we visited Salzburg and Innsbruk, and got educated about Mozart along the way. My mom reads a lot, so I had borrowed from her collection and read Ayn Rand at 14 and was over it by 17, an age when most people only begin to get fascinated by her.
Does it bother you that you are rated higher as a fashionista than as an actor?
That’s not true anymore. It was at a point, before Raanjhanaa and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, perhaps. But it didn’t bother me. I’d rather that I be known for my fashion sense than being part of gossip and rumours that my parents might read in the papers.
Do you let that thought dictate all your decisions?
All the time, especially what I say on a public platform. I realise people, especially young, impressionable girls, listen when stars say something. I can’t afford to be irresponsible. I don’t want people to think they need to be a certain way to grow in this industry. I want them to know that I don’t look good all the time, that I wake up a disaster every morning and have a team of stylists, make-up artistes, and photo editing softwares at hand to make me look the way I do. That I’m not naturally skinny and have a nutritionist and trainer chasing after me. I don’t want people to save their pocket money or salaries to buy some stupid lipstick I’ve spoken of because the truth is that I get a lot of the dresses, bags free; it’s a perk of my job.
What made you sign Bewakoofiyan? Because in the promos, Rishi Kapoor and Ayushmann Khurrana appear to be at the centre of the film.
When I got the script, the country was hit by recession, especially the rapidly-growing middle class. I went to regular school and many of my friends are people who were bearing the brunt of the economic crisis. It felt relatable, still does. As for the promos, the two men have snappier dialogues and a repartee, so it lent well for the first look. I think the producers want people to come into the theatres, so they used my bikini scene and cashed in on the glam factor. But I have a strong part in the film. I play a nerdy banker who has to sustain both her father after he retires and boyfriend when he loses his job.
Instead of the biggies, you are choosing to work with new actors, such as in Dolly Ki Doli.
And I am very excited. All the people in it are fabulous. Arbaaz Khan, after making the biggest commercial blockbuster in the Dabangg franchise, has invested in a small, script-driven film. The director, Abhishek Dogra, is a debutant and very passionate. And I have very talented actors like Rajkummar Rao, Pulkit Samrat, Varun Sharma and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub opposite me, neither of whom is insecure about the fact that the film revolves around my character Dolly. I just hope to learn from them and have a blast shooting the film like I did with Ayushmann in Bewakoofiyan.