ARJUN KAPOOR & SHRADDHA KAPOOR
Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar
Arjun Kapoor is wearing a lovely Bvlgari perfume, and just while I compliment him for the same, we start discussing colognes and perfumes, with Shraddha Kapoor joining in as well. I must admit, we could go on and on. Oh and then the Kapoor boy also gives us his cologne to try. But then, we get to serious business, which also was extremely intriguing and a lot of fun. I meet Arjun Kapoor and his half girlfriend Shraddha Kapoor on a hot summer afternoon – and we chat about their latest film amidst more. While Arjun has this knack of being extremely insightful and equally articulate, Shraddha loves to give a deep thought to things before expressing herself. Together, they make up for such a lovely conversation! Read on….
A film on paper is sometimes so different from what it turns out on-screen. How’s it in case of a book? For Arjun of course, this is his second film that’s adapted from a book…
Shraddha: I think the only way in which it’s different is that there’s a new sort of pressure maybe, or an expectation that people will compare the film, performances to the book. But people will have to understand that it’s an adaptation of the book and some things have been changed in the film as well. People understand that they need to start seeing the film for the film itself and then they should form their opinions on that.
Arjun: I have done two films now which are adapted from a book but I’ve not come to the set with any sort of baggage. Eventually it’s just a story waiting to be told to a larger audience. So, you have to make it more appealing to a majority. The good thing is, if you’re getting a second try at something, you can improve certain facets, sometimes you can mess it up also, but it’s a good starting point. You’ve understood what has worked and what has not worked, so you’re also aware of the changes you’re making. In my case, ‘2 States’ got a lot love, it was not compared but it got appreciated for its own identity. I also feel that with ‘Half Girlfriend’, the same will happen. You have to make it so workable for even people who’ve read it that they can imagine you only in it. You have to make it very good, there’s no in-between. It has to resonate with maximum number of people so that they won’t compare it with the book. Also, this time we have Chetan on board as the producer so he’s aware of the changes we’re making. That I think is a blessing. I think adaptations are a good thing, because you’re taking something which already has a foundation in place, especially now where a lot of questions do arise about content. Now when you have something in place, and you know it’s worked to a certain degree, now you just have to push the envelope and make it even better.
Do you think a book also gives a better, more detailed sketch of the characters?
Shraddha: I love reading, so coming purely from a reader’s point of view. The experience that I get when I read, you are left to your imagination and you can go in any direction you want, that has its own beauty and a film has its own beauty. So, a film is already given you a visual medium to feed your sense. That’s a gateway to your film experience – your audio and visual senses. While reading is left to your imagination. Of course, there might be people who feel that a film might not have matched to their imagination.
Arjun: But that’s also a risk you have with every film. But in terms of fleshing the characters, I think both do well. In a book you have your own imagination and in a film, you get to live someone else’s imagination. When you read a book and watch a film, it might not be an exact replica of what you thought of, but you also feel that yes, I didn’t imagine it this way, but this is fascinating. Instead of just saying that this is not how it should be. That this is interesting, this is not what I had thought about. So, you also find layers to a film. You can compare notes and discover some new qualities to it. That’s what happened with ‘2 States’. People enjoyed the ambience, tone of the film and how real Abhishek Verman kept it. The thought of ‘2 States’ could be in different tones but he chose a tone in which people felt, ‘oh this is a relatable, different way of interpreting it’. So I think, with Mohit, he’s chosen a very passionate route to ‘Half Girlfriend’. There’s a lot of pain, angst, pathos, emotion. It’s not just a relationship status. He’s taken the journey and emotions to another level. That roller-coaster of emotions is a lot better than what was there in the book, because of the music and how he’s etched out the characters.
MohitSuri does have a different emotional sensibility, which is a lot more intense, or vulnerable. How was it getting into that zone? Also, when a film requires a greater emotional intelligence, do you have to change the way you feel as a person at that point?
Arjun: I think you have to connect to the emotions at a very real level because certain emotions you can’t fake. You can’t just be a surface level, you have to live with it, or feel the genuine amount of pain for what Madhav is going through. You have to be honest to that moment and experience that pain. You have to let go of yourself and play the character with honesty and integrity. That’s the key to play a character that’s embroiled with so many emotions. You can’t be Madhav and Arjun in the same moment because you have to be honest to what the character is.
Shraddha, can you leave aside yourself for your character?
In some places where it’s possible to dig out from your personal experiences, I try to do that. But for example, if I may add, in ‘Haseena’, there was a lot of stuff that I felt was pretty far away from me as a person. There’s a lot that she went through, and to reach that level of empathy, I really had to think of putting myself in her shoes. And even with Rhea from ‘Half Girlfriend’, a lot of instances, what she’s going through, it’s not easy to dig out something from your life to feel that. But you can try to be as close to experiences and use that in your film. Mohit leaves no stone unturned to make you tap into certain phases of your own life.
Arjun: He knows his characters so well. When he is talking to you about your characters, he is Madhav and he is Rhea. That’s the level of depth he goes into while living those characters with you and obviously it helps. It’s not like you’re living a character alone, there’s another person living the character with you so if you ever go wrong, he’s there to guide you. Being a director is one element, but he lives these characters with you at an emotional level. You will not always co-relate to your character, but that’s the challenge. You can’t always find your personal life as a reflection for your characters. That’s not the only way to act. For example, in ‘Ishaqzaade’, there’s no co-relation I have with the character. I didn’t ever think of him as Arjun, because I can never see myself in his place. Suddenly you’re freed from being confined by the thoughts of what would I do in his place? As actors sometimes it’s a beautiful crutch to have that you’ve been through something which you can use, but you are you, and you still have to be eventually very honest your character.
“The word ‘recharge’ for an actor, is arguably one of the most important words because you need to feel re-energised”
You obviously evolve though and as actors your choice also changes as per that. Not to mention, it’s different when you have more scripts to choose from. How has that been for you guys?
Arjun: Everyday, an actor’s mood changes because you see great work and are inspired. So you push yourself more and are waiting for the correct script. Or you might have done a particular type of film, and are offered something similar. But you’re saturated from that genre, so you can’t do it again. An actor’s choice is dictated by lots of variables. I think, more than just the age, there are too many things that happen around us where you also need to feel excited from the core of your stomach – thinking will I be able to do it? That’s a very good starting point to choose a film. You should feel you can’t do it. Then you get into it with very good energy. And then sometimes you have to get into a character where you feel I can do this very well so let me do it. It’s happens to me. For ‘Half Girlfriend’, I felt, can I do it? Is there a genuineness left within me, because you tend to get corrupted by the work that you do. And then I got ‘Mubaraka’ where I was like, all my life I wanted to just go out there and have fun. This is my chance to showcase my goofy, fun side in front of the character.
Shraddha: Not only for actors, for everyone, we keep evolving, learning, unlearning, making our own mistakes and celebrating our achievements, gaining life experiences, getting hurt, feeling loved, all those things keep shaping us up as people. Today I feel like I’ve learned a little, I know a few things but there’s so much more to learn. I have done a few films but there a so many characters hat have taken from me and given me as well. I do feel different today than I did a few films ago.
Extremely enriched also I’m sure as individuals…
Arjun: Of course, that’s the best part about being an actor. Not just because of the characters you play but the life that you lead, the meeting of people and the journey. Like the boy who’s helped me with the diction for ‘Half Girlfriend’, Shridhar, just to live with him, spend time with him, it makes me realize how vast our country is. You live in a bubble here; you’re constantly put on a pedestal and treated a certain way – so you are slightly disconnected from the grass-root levels. You can’t engage beyond a point in that, you can only read about it or speak about it. When you interact with people, travel for the film to various parts and see the simplicity of life there, you as an actor feel this is who I’m making the film is. They go through difficulties in life, find joy in small things and we crib so much. Overall, those are the things that define your good days and bad days. These journeys keep you on track – that you’re just an actor making a film, but there’s so much happening around you. So, it keeps you grounded, and we’re thankful to experience that.
Shraddha: And through films also, I’ve realised the beauty that lies in anonymity.
Arjun: See, we value the beauty that lies in disappearing, because we can’t. I have become an actor because I wanted to be recognised for the work I’m doing, so let’s not make it seem like we’re upset about being recognised but every now and then, you do wish that you had a moment to yourself.
Shraddha: Every now and then we feel that, and I wish to come back too then!
Since you mentioned about the diction part, what were the nuances and traits you particularly had to work on, for this film?
Shraddha: Most of the characters I’ve worked on come from extremely humble beginnings but this character is from a very affluent family. By nature, my body language is not very feminine but ofcourse when the cameras are rolling or when there’s media there’s a certain amount of decorum which has to come in. I love both sides of myself because there’s one life and you should lead it how you want to. Mohit knows this side of me very well, and he knew it would be challenging for us to get into the zone of a high society Delhi girl so we worked on that. I met 2-3 girls from Delhi; I had a cup of tea with them and was making notes in my notebook. It was so fascinating to just talk to them and make notes. Mohit was very particular that I want to see something different. It was a great experience for me. For basketball, I trained close to a month, we had these wonderful NBA coaches from America and it was fun to play basketball, and I hope it comes across as convincing. But he’s worked really hard through the whole film. He’s done diction classes, basketball classes and he got into the film a lot before than I did.
“There’s a reason why my third film was loved so much and not the first two. You get to learn a lot more from failure than you do from achievements”
Arjun: I signed the film a lot before her so had more time to prep while we were figuring the rest of the things. I had also not worked with Mohit before so I knew how difficult the film was. The basketball was very important, and looking authentic was also very important because that’s where the social disparity between the boy and girl goes out of the window – they have physical contact, intimacy, banter – that’s where the true sides of their friendship and characters emerge. That element isn’t for very long in the film but it was important since it sets the foundation of the characters. I had more time on my hands, so I used it well, and I worked on it for both of us, so that if she joins in late, I could help her as well. And she was also really good, so it worked out well. And for the dialect, fundamentally, Mohit and I were clear that we didn’t want to make it caricaturish of this Bihari guy, or uncool, or play the sympathy card. We wanted it to be as real, believable and simple as possible. Bihar is a very big state, in smaller towns people behave differently, in every part. The ganges cuts through Bihar so it divides it into two different parts, Hindi on one side and less Hindi on the other side. We wanted to choose the Hindi side. He is from a well-to-do, heritage place, the communication skills have to be more in Hindi. We wanted to make sure the basic things were taken care of in terms of the alphabets. We did go into that level of detailing. I didn’t want a single person from that part of the country to feel we have used the accent. The language is a big barrier in India today, where you’re not considered superior if you don’t know English. Here is a boy who only knows 50 percent of English, but here’s a girl who doesn’t judge him for that. I always wanted to play him like a child in the candy shop; he’s a little more animated. His English becomes better, so there’s a curve. The journey, the depth, and the graph – it made it a once in a lifetime character for me.
You’re always on the go, surrounded by people, in and out of character – how do you protect the core you when you’re constantly being someone, sometimes off-screen, sometimes.
Arjun: This is the only time when our lives become so functional, promotions. It’s the only time when our time is not our own but otherwise it’s easier. Apart from that, it’s a lot more open. This is the toughest part for me at least. This is not something anyone can prepare you for – the marketing, the running-around, the chaos. It’s not something you are conditioned for, as an actor. As an actor you are just supposed to act, make films, release them and move on to the next. It’s not a part of the job profile technically. This is madness. Doing an event, reality shows, media interviews – it’s not possible that it doesn’t take a toll on you. For me, during promotions, I shut down. It’s an engineering inside. The rest of my life goes out of the way, even if I’m myself while talking to you. The rest of the time, your friends, family, they keep you grounded. You have to. Because otherwise, you won’t be able to be honest to your profession if you’re so dried up from within and just playing characters. Eventually if that continues, you’ll be withered from within and not be able to get up from bed. You’re constantly just giving. The correct people around, doing things you like and love, all that helps. The simple pleasures of life anyone goes through. The correct people around you will always bring you the feeling of being alive.
Shraddha: I feel like this profession can give you so much and take so much from you. It’s like a roller-coaster ride; there are ups, downs, success and failure. I feel this is such a volatile place and so it can be challenging to be connected to your core. I think that what helps, and I’m figuring this out, somewhere I really feel there’s a reason why my third film was loved so much and not the first two. Not as many people saw my first two films. My first successful film was my third film and I had to really work for it. There was a lot of struggle, I was nearly about to give up and that was a very important experience for me. I think that you get to learn a lot more from failure than you do from achievements. Success is all hunky dory, you see the good. It’s important to have your friends, family around you but I also think it’s really important to not be attached to the success and failure both. It’s just important to stay connected to the kind of work you want to be associated with. Only you can judge that for yourself.
Arjun: I completely agree with her. You also have to find yourself in a new way when you enter this profession. It’s not a profession which has a job qualification or fixed timings right? You discover facets about yourself while you work. You are learning about the craft but at the same time learning things about yourself – as to how perseverant are you, how dedicated are you, your own personality. And you’re doing this while being watched by the world, on a daily basis, even on the set. It’s a journey of evolution constantly happening every day, so if you’re truly going to become better, and only concentrating on that, and then you have no time to look at external factors. Then you just stay within, and focus on getting better. If you’re in it for fame then you might lose yourself. But if you’re in it, to work on yourself, and learning, then it’s a constant education for yourself. That’s what keeps me grounded that I’m constantly trying to be a better version of me. As a human being also, you feel you can be nicer, you’re learning. If you’re caught up with the right thoughts then maybe you won’t lose your core and centre. But it’s easier said than done. You have different phases – and it’s all a part and parcel. Sometimes you’re so much out there that you get fed up of your own human self. You just want to vegetate for a few days. The word ‘recharge’ for an actor, is arguably one of the most important words because you need to feel re-energised, you need to go away, switch off and come back with a switch on with 100 per cent. Everyone has their own process. We both also have an advantage that we’ve grown up in the fraternity. And we’ve faced failures also. In a year’s time I saw my highs and lows. You need to be the same, because people will judge you or change the behavior with you based on success or failure. There are many variables in life which aren’t in your hand, so you need to find constants in the form of people around you.