Harshvardhan Kapoor, who will be making his acting debut with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Mirzya, in his first interview talks about extensive prep he's put in for the film, father Anil Kapoor and more...
Driving back after my half hour with Harshvardhan Kapoor, 26, I felt as if I was just returning from a similar conversation with Abhay Deol, although that was a decade ago. Maybe this is because, like Deol, also a Juhu lad, young Harshvardhan (Anil Kapoor's son, Sonam Kapoor's brother) grew up in Bollywood, studied in the US, and rightly goes on and on about how he's not into typical "commercial" cinema, and would like to be "remembered 10 years later for alternative films he believed in." The kind of prep he's put in for his acting debut, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Mirzya, however, sounds very Hrithik Roshan - another Juhu 'Bollywood boy', if you may. Either case, it's only fair we start the excerpt of this interview with the obvious first question:
Like it must be with star kids being groomed since childhood (Hrithik, Tiger Shroff etc.), were you always waiting for this 'phata poster nikla hero' kinda moment at the movies?
I never saw myself as a hero. I got exposed to movies from across the world at a very young age - The Silence of the Lambs, Godfather etc. - thanks to my dad's movie collection. And that kind of shaped my sensibility towards films. Then I'd look around, and nobody was really making those kinds of films. I was objective enough to gauge that I wouldn't be able to do the stuff I want to do. As I grew up though, in 2006 Rakeysh Mehra had made Rang De Basanti, there was (Anurag Kashyap's) Black Friday, (Vikramaditya Motwane's) Udaan... These were massive moments for me. They gave one a sense that the urban audience, exposed to world cinema, wanted to see Indian stories, told differently. I went to do a BA in screenwriting from Southern California. By the time I came back after four years, Bollywood had changed - Mehra was doing Milkha, Motwane was making Lootera, Anand Gandhi had come out with Ship of Theseus, Bombay Velvet was being put together. The space for an actor with my sensibilities to survive had been created. Those filmmakers appeared responsive towards me as well. I seemed to fit into their world. This is when I first met Mehra on the sets of Dilli 6.
You did learn acting though?
At University while I majored in screenwriting, my elective courses were in acting, and then I trained under various acting coaches - Bertina Johnson, from South Africa, who came down to Bombay; Alok Ulfat from Dehradun, who Anand Gandhi had put me on to; and Mukesh Chhabra (popular casting director).
Speaking of 'phata poster' moment, have heard some crazy stories about your prep for your first film...
The prep for this film was ridiculous. You'll see it on YouTube in a couple of days. I prepped for this film for one and half years before we started shoot. I play a 'stable boy' who's a part-time polo player, and then is a warrior - both involve being an expert on the horse. I had never been on a horse before. When I came to Mahalaxmi race course (in Mumbai) after six months of extensive training in Delhi, I was pretty good, but apparently nowhere near where I was supposed to be. After this, we found a teacher called Katie Sterns, who operates out of a farm outside Seattle, which is where I lived the resident stable boy's life for six months. This was all physical prep. But, I was also isolated. This I used as emotional impetus while doing scenes in the film.
This level of training is a bit unsustainable for a career, no?
I tried to do that in my next film, (Vikramaditya Motwane's) Bhavesh Joshi, but I realised people don't have the time and money. If I had my way, I would do one film every two years.
You moved to a Versova 2BHK for Bhavesh Joshi, I hear.
I read the script in 2012, when Vikram felt I was too young. The casting didn't work out with Imran Khan and Sidharth Malhotra. I thanked my lucky stars. Eventually, Vikram saw rushes of Mirzya and signed me up. The film had to be pushed by a couple of weeks, which is the time I used to move in with my co-star as flat-mate in Shastri Nagar, since that is what the partly buddy film is about.
Talking about your dad, where in the timeline of his career do you feature, in terms of when you were born and became acquainted with his films.
I was born in 1990, when Beta released. I have very clear memories of watching Parinda on DVD and being blown away. Mr India I saw through childhood, which is a classic. I am attracted to that Anil Kapoor - of Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, Zoya Akhtar's Dil Dhadakne Do, Ram Gopal Varma and Jijy Philip's My Wife's Murder..., not the 'Anees Bazmee kinda world' so much.
There is a natural advantage that film kids have, in terms of knowing how things function, do you feel that?
You mean how a set functions?
How showbiz does, like the lovely Anil Kapoor line someone told me once, "Buzz se buzz banta hai"!
I am very committed to my craft. The only thing I struggle with is, what I find exciting may not be so for the world. And there are so many Indians. People also have certain expectations because of the films we've been making. I just want to bridge that gap, and make new paths.
Your dad in comparison was a traditional earthy guy as an actor, you come across as quite different. Is that something you've discussed a lot?
A lot of people ask me if I am worried about comparisons. When you watch Ranbir Kapoor's films, you don't say he's Rishi Kapoor's son, you talk about Ranbir Kapoor as himself. The only way you can do that is by playing characters that find a place in audience's hearts.
Even before your first film as actor, you've closely noticed how debacles pan out - Bombay Velvet, where you worked as an assistant...
There are many 100-odd crore masala entertainers that have been major debacles also.
Basically, films are unpredictable. At the end of the day, you have to make films on stories that you want to tell. I honestly feel if Anurag (Kashyap) is given another chance, he will kill it!
What changes for you after the Friday of your debut release then?
I really hope people give it a chance, man. We've given it a lot. If they see it and like it, then it gives me a chance to green-light films that I may not otherwise be (able to).
What changes for you personally? You can't be on Tinder now, in case you are!
I deleted my account a couple of months ago. I will activate it soon as I take a trip abroad. I should be on Tinder though, right? Celebrities should be allowed to lead a normal life, although I'm not a celebrity yet.
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