WHAT HE HAS INHERITED FROM DAD ANIL KAPOOR IS CONFIDENCE UNADULTERATED. AND YET, HARSHVARDHAN KAPOOR WANTS TO RIDE HIS OWN PATH, WRITES SUMAN SHARMA
You’d be foolish to label him a newcomer and expect the usual jitters of a rookie. He was born to be in showbiz. He’s the son of Anil Kapoor. He’s the brother of Sonam Kapoor. He has a legacy to live up to and a gene pool to draw extraordinary talent from. Harshvardhan Kapoor knows he’s an actor. Most importantly, he knows he’s good. His family’s glamorous lineage is just an added halo to his impending stardom. Once Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mirza hits the screens, Harshvardhan’s prominence seems a natural outcome. His confidence is sky high already. He’s prepared to take the world by storm. In his very first film, he tackles a double role and he seems to be secure about his performance. And while he may appear self-assured, he’s not an attention addict. Even though he’s at ease under the spotlight, he prefers the shadows to relax and throwback. He’s not the wild thing on the party circuit. He’s wise beyond his years and that’s what makes his dynamite.
Here’s a first look at the newest Kapoor sensation…
How did Mirzya come your way?
Mirzya is based on Mirza-Sahiban, a romantic tragedy part of Punjabi folklore. The story, though set in 2016, moves back and forth. I met Rakeysh Mehra on the set of Delhi 6 when my sister Sonam Kapoor was shooting for it. My features appealed to him. He told me he was working on a film called Mirza-Sahibaan (the earlier title of the film) and that Gulzar Saab was writing it. He said, ‘You are the only person who can do it’. I replied, ‘I’m too young and untrained. I don’t feel ready enough to take on this responsibility’. Those days I was studying film in Los Angeles and later graduated in screenwriting. Then Rakeysh got busy with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Later, we reconnected for Mirzya. After two years I was ready to start this journey.
Mirzya is a tough role for a debut. Tell us about the discipline that went behind it.
I’m playing a double role so I had to prepare for both the emotionally complex characters. One is contemporary and the other period. We approached it like two different films. For both the characters, we had different costume designers and make-up artists. Adil Hussain (English Vinglish fame) is one of the greatest horse riders ever. He is an archer and a polo player as well. I had to learn horse riding from him. I lived in Delhi for six months. Every morning and evening, I’d ride for two hours at the farm. I’d send the videos to Rakeysh. He’d say I wasn’t good enough and that I had to be fantastic. I even met Allen Amin (action director) in Mumbai to get my moves correct. Then I started riding lessons at Mahalaxmi Race Course. After nine months of training, they said nobody in India could train me to be the kind of horse rider and archer they wanted me to be.
They began scouting for the best horse riding and archery coaches in the world. They found this girl
in America called Katie Morwen Stearns. In 2014, I went to Seattle and lived with Katie for a month on her property. She has 20-25 horses. Every morning, I’d go clean the stables. I’d pick up all their shit; put it in a big plastic tub. Then I’d clean their feet, bathe and feed them. Only then would I have breakfast. Then we’d go riding for hours. I learned every minute detail about horse-riding. I actually became a stable boy. Then I returned back to Mahalakshmi Race Course and played polo for three-four weeks. After a year and a half of horse riding and archery and physically changing my body, we started shooting. I also learned acting from Tina Bertina Johnson in South Africa who’s an incredible acting coach. I also trained with Alok Ulfat, a theatre actor from Dehradun and Mukesh Chhabra.
“My dad’s (Anil Kapoor) feedback on Mirzya was that there’s no actor of this kind in the country yet. He believes I’ve charismatic eyes and a unique persona. He says I should just chase the kind of films I want to do and not get distracted by what others are doing“
Tell us something about your co-star Saiyami Kher.
She was born and raised in Nashik. So she’s unlike Mumbai girls. She’s athletic and sporty. She’s a good cricketer, a fantastic swimmer, she plays badminton and she’s also learned to ride for the film. Unlike, other actresses who are feminine and delicate, she’s a tomboy.
When was the ﬁrst time you saw yourself on the screen?
After one particular scene, Saiyami and I were emotionally exhausted. Rakeysh came to us and said, “I’m going to break the golden rule, come to the monitor and see this take. What you guys have done, is incredible.” For someone who never shows the takes to his actors, this was something special.
Are you nervous given the fact that the expectations around a star son are high?
Honestly, I’m not nervous because I’m confident about what we have achieved. I’m objective when it comes to myself, I can be critical as well. I believe I’ve achieved everything I wanted to in every moment of the film. I’ve won that battle with myself. It’s a beautiful and heartfelt film. I’ve exceeded my own expectations. I’m positive that people will appreciate our work.
“My idea of romance is spending a lot of ‘alone time’ with the person. Most young couples like to go out with friends. But you just need to spend time together, go through experiences together, grow together. I believe in meaningful gifts, which show you care”
So there’s absolutely no pressure to prove yourself?
No. Because I know what I have to offer as an actor and as a person. When I look around me, I don’t see that in other people. I know my limitations and I know my unique abilities. I believe people are going to enjoy this journey with me. I believe I’m off to a good start and I am collaborating with two of the people I’ve grown up idolizing – Rakeysh Mehra and Vikramaditya Motwane (Bhavesh Joshi). People in our country are ready to see good films. The budget and casting don’t matter. What matters is that the audience gets to watch what they have never seen before.
What advice did you receive from dad Anil Kapoor and sister Sonam Kapoor?
I’m not someone who follows advice. I listen to what people say. But I do my own thing. I’m strong headed about what I want to do. I’m not scared or nervous about people seeing my rushes. Sonam said, “No, wait for the final cut.” But I want people to share their opinion, their perspective. Like I said, I like to listen. My dad has watched Mirzya. He loved it. And that meant a lot.
What was his feedback?
His feedback was that there’s no actor of this kind in the country yet. He believes I have charismatic eyes and a unique persona. He says I should just chase the kind of films I want to do and not get distracted by what others are doing.
How do you regard Sonam as an actor?
When Saawariya was released, I was 17. I was like wow she’s working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Sadly, Saawariya didn’t work. But as actors, they had been through a lot of hardship. People were critical about the film. They couldn’t spot her potential. But I could. Neerja is one of the best performances in recent times and not because Sonam is my sister. I loved her in Raanjhanaa and Delhi 6 too. Hers was a nuanced act.
What kind of relationship do you share with your sisters Sonam and Rhea?
Ours is a friendly and creative kind of relationship. They are dear to me. I have their names tattooed on my back. I am very, very close to Rhea because she spends more time at home. Sonam is more outdoors and her life is hectic. Rhea is honest and critical of me while Sonam is like a proper elder sister, emotional. Rhea’s more like a friend.
“I believe I’ve achieved everything I wanted to in every moment of Mirzya. I have won that battle with myself… I know what I have to offer as an actor and as a person. When I look around me, I don’t see that in other people, I know my limitations and I know my unique abilities”
Are you more like your mother Sunita Kapoor or your father?
I’ve a bit of both. But I guess, I’m more like my mom, my eyes are like hers. I’m inclined towards business like her. I’m also into nutrition and health and I’m disciplined like her. Dad is eager to work all the time. But I can happily do one film at a time. I’m calm and patient when it comes to working. Dad’s philosophy is ‘Hamesha Kuch Karte raho’. That’s not my thing.
How much credit would you give your mother for an intact family?
All the credit, because it’s difficult to keep creative people together. You need someone who’s solid and all about the family. My mother has sacrificed a lot to keep us together. It’s all really about her. Also, my childhood was simple and non-filmi. I didn’t have a troubled childhood. I’ve been fortunate.
What memories do you have of your father as a child?
Not too many. The ’80s and the ’90s were his busiest phases and I was growing up then. We used to go on outdoors with him. But we did our own thing. We’d enjoy the city instead. I grew closer to him when I entered my teens and my love for cinema became evident. It then became the centre of all our conversations and dinner table talk.
We hear that girls are already crazy about you…
Aren’t girls crazy about anyone who becomes an actor?
Okay, have you experienced heartbreak?
I experienced a bad one while in college. I messed it up. It was towards the end of the college term and I was about 21-22. I didn’t deal with it in the best way. I left America and came to Mumbai because the girl was there. Then I tried to fix it but it was too late. That was hard for me to digest as you become attached to someone. You make mistakes, you’re young and stupid. But that hurts the other person so much that you can’t fix it. It’s too late, it’s gone. I got depressed. But Mirzya happened and I moved on.
How do you view love today?
I am a little cynical about love. Right now, it’s difficult for me. It’s not the time to be in love because there’s so much happening. Love is not something you can chase and look for. It’s something that happens. But love can make your destiny and design your life.
Do you believe in love at ﬁrst sight?
No, I believe in infatuation, attraction, and lust at first sight. That can lead to love.
What is your idea of romance?
My idea of romance is spending a lot of ‘alone time’ with the person. Most young couples like to go out with friends. But you just need to spend time together, go through experiences together, grow together. I believe in meaningful gifts, which show you care. It’s also about how much you can sacrifice for the other person. Because in today’s world everyone is so selfish. So being selfless and conversing with each other are the two most important things in romance.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m an introvert, I’m not social, I like to stay at home. My idea of fun is to go out for dinner with one person
or perhaps in a small group. I don’t like crowds; I don’t like parties so socializing is difficult for me. But
I love sitting down and talking to people and getting to know them.
Finally, what’s your dream?
I want to do the kind of films, no one has ever done before. I want to be the reference point for young actors to do alternative films. I want young people to not be cynical about Bollywood, I want them to believe that it’s possible to be both an artist and successful by being different.