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Cover Story
April 05, 2016

Verve Exclusive: Naina Bachchan and Kunal Kapoor’s Fairy-Tale Love Story

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Photographs by Amit Ashar. Styling by Shweta Navandar. Make-up and Hair by Meghna Bhutani. Assisted by Reena Creado

The much-in-love couple gets upfront and personal about their shared passions, complementary temperaments and life together…

A year ago, on February 9, 2015, banker Naina Bachchan and actor Kunal Kapoor tied the knot in a private ceremony in Seychelles — far away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi and fans. Back home, the daughter of Ramola and Ajitabh Bachchan and the talented maverick actor raised a toast to their marriage with a reception in the capital. And, having dispensed with the business of celebrations, the couple resumed life in Mumbai.

Day 1: Early one weekday morning finds us at their Juhu home, to share notes and exchange ideas about D-day. Even before the door opens, we hear excited barking and, stepping in, come face-to-face with a bundle of cuteness  Simba, their extremely lovable dog. As Naina and Kunal check out images and we all quickly get on the same page, the couple suggests a location for the shoot — their friend Prashant Issar’s bungalow in Boisar. Once they have shown us a few snapshots of their wedding — under the bright blue sky – and other outings they have embarked on, we agree that they are to the outdoors born and get down to working out the logistics, no mean task this.

Day 2: It’s an early morning start, but no one is complaining. Setting off in three, thankfully sturdy, vehicles, we head out towards our destination. The drive on the Western highway is smooth — but after the turn off from it, and subsequently when we get onto the kachcha road that will take us to the bungalow, we encounter a different terrain altogether. After a bumpy ride we sight the entrance of the bungalow. Naina and Kunal — along with Simba — have also left home early in the morning to make their way to their favourite haunt.

The stand-alone cottages that make up the three-part bungalow overlook the water that flows at its own pace. And, we instantly realise that this is the perfect spot for the couple to get into camera mode. For, it is in this very bungalow that, a while ago, Amit (our photographer for the day) had recorded Kunal’s proposal for Naina — a fact that she laughingly shares with us as the evening winds to a close. She narrates how, when Kunal gave the recording to her, she thought it was a project that he was working on. But, when she listened closely, she realised she was seeing a proposal penned and enacted by Kunal himself.

It is endearing to see how the two seamlessly slip into their comfort zone, often seeking each other’s approval with a glance or a soft-spoken word. Their close camaraderie provides for many picture-perfect moments, and we watch as the two give us a glimpse into a world that is coloured by their togetherness. And, in an interaction that spans hours, they open up about things they have never spoken of before. Excerpts from the exchanges:

TIES THAT BIND
The last year….
Naina Bachchan (NB): Time just flew past. It was perhaps the best and the busiest year of our lives. We are very grateful for all that we have been blessed with together in the last 12 months.

Kunal Kapoor (KK): It has been a completely crazy year, but it was a good crazy one. It’s the sort of year where things start changing for the better, and a lot of things begin to fall into place.

Sustaining a relationship….
NB: Love makes a relationship stronger — from love comes commitment to each other, patience, sharing, caring and all the other wonderful things that make a relationship work.

KK: Love and respect. I think it’s incredibly important to have respect for each other. Also, and this is a little underrated, but laughter is essential as well! Two people who laugh a lot together make for a great relationship.

Shunning the spotlight….
NB: I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision on our part to say that we are going to be a ‘low profile’ couple. Being out of the limelight is a by-product of doing the things that we love the most. But that doesn’t mean we don’t go out and enjoy ourselves or that we deliberately avoid situations where we will be photographed, because we don’t. We are comfortable in both situations and I think if we are doing this cover shoot that should really say it all. It has been a wonderful experience and an opportunity for us to share our story on our first or ‘paper’ anniversary as it is called.

MIND SHAPERS  
Major influences….
NB: Our families have been a huge influence on our lives not only while we were growing up, but they do impact us today as well. I am very close to Kunal’s sisters and their families. He is close to my sisters and brother and parents too. Our friends too have played their own roles in influencing us — it is great that we both enjoy spending time with each other’s friends. It makes it much easier when you genuinely get along and are not making an effort just to please your spouse! And music has also been a huge part of my life – I am a trained pianist in Western classical music.

The meaning of creativity….
NB: It is an abstract concept and it is all about your imagination. Creativity should be applied to any situation. In our respective careers, it means finding the most intelligent and pertinent way of handling the task at hand. In Kunal’s case it would be an artistic solution, in mine a more practical one.

THEIR LOVE STORY
The first meeting….
KK: We met at a fashion show, not at some theatre workshop, as is often reported. It was actually Karan Johar’s fashion show, and she was there with her cousin Shweta (Bachchan-Nanda). The strange thing was that I was not supposed to be there and neither was she. I had just walked the ramp for a show before, and I was leaving, when I bumped into Karan, who asked me to stay back for his show. Like they say, timing is everything. A few seconds here or there and we would have never met each other. The next morning we were both to head back to Mumbai on separate flights, and I changed my ticket to be on the same flight as her. The rest, as they say, is history…

Initial reaction….
NB: When I met Kunal, the first thing that went through my mind was ‘Wow! Tall, dark and so handsome.’ Over time, it was a wonderful revelation to discover that he’s much more than his looks — he is one of the kindest and nicest people I have ever met.

KK: I thought that she was very pretty. And she played the piano for us that day.

THEIR WORLDS
Her favourite Kunal film….
NB: I actually watched Rang De Basanti, Aaja Nachle and Lamhaa after I met him. I love the songs from all his films – Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, Aaja Nachle, Lamhaa and Bachna Ae Haseeno…. They are all on my playlists.

Tryst with the camera….
NB: I always enjoyed live music performances as I played the piano in school, and I loved drama classes as well. I think, if anything, being involved in live performances is something which I have enjoyed a lot more than the possibility of acting on camera.

My father will tell you that, as kids, the minute he would try to take a picture of us, we would all run away and his favourite line was — when you grow up you will thank me for documenting your lives…which we absolutely do today! The family has an amazing archive of photographs and letters too which is all thanks to him.

SOUNDING BOARDS
Common conversations….

NB: Due to the nature of my work, which requires client confidentiality, there are many things that I cannot share. I love to learn about things in his world and share and ideate with him on things he is working on wherever I can…. I feel really fortunate to have the opportunity to be creative because of the work he is involved with.

KK: I actually really enjoy chatting with her about work. I run a start-up, a crowd-funding platform called Ketto, so I love chatting about all that we are planning and working on as we grow the platform. Because she works in finance, she always has her own ideas on how to do things, which gives a fresh perspective….

NB: And I use him as a sounding board. Kunal will always have an insight into situations, relationships, goals and that adds so much to my thinking and my approach to my life.

KK: In discussions, with her there is no sugar-coating her words. She says things as she sees them. So, I know I’ll always get a true and very honest view on things when I ask her for her opinion.

LIFE PHILOSOPHIES
Coping with pressure….
NB: Everyone has stresses in life. One of my favourite things to do in Mumbai is being a part of a board games group — some friends who get together regularly to play the board game Articulate and enjoy a meal and a laugh together. The best stress buster ever! The fights to win points means you are so in the moment that you forget everything outside the game, and we usually lose track of time and end up playing, eating and laughing into the early morning. Our Shih Tzu puppy, Simba, is also a stress buster and the crazy things he gets up to often have us in splits. His trainer recently told us that he pretends not to understand us so we will have no expectations from him and he can carry on doing exactly what he feels like. Until we learnt this, we genuinely thought we had a faulty piece!

KK: My philosophy is really simple. Life is short; don’t do something if it doesn’t mean anything to you. I have only done two movies in the last four years, and they will always be movies that I’m proud of. I would rather do theatre, work on my craft, work on my start-up or learn something new, than do work just because I have to. Stress honestly doesn’t really get to me; nothing really gets under my skin. Very, very few things can rattle me. It’s some sort of default setting of mine.

INHERENT NATURE
On being intense….
KK: Really, am I? I am pretty intense, but not serious. I don’t know…must be the beard and the long hair, or something. People with beards generally look serious and intelligent, you know. Serious, I’m not, and the intelligent bit is relative.

NB: Kunal is all fun — that’s his approach and I guess that’s why he does so many different things. He infuses his life with childlike curiosity and play, something I wish I could do more of in mine. The great thing is that he’s not an attention seeker — maybe it comes from always being the tallest person in the room so he’s already standing out! He has a really close group of friends from his childhood and they all still live really close to each other. When they are together, god help the outsider because they are a riot of laughs like they probably were as teenagers.

TEMPERAMENT TRAITS
Complementary qualities….
NB: We love the same things in life, but are very different in nature which means we come to similar outcomes from different places. I have extensive to-do lists and I am a neat freak, being a typical Virgo. He is a lover of beautiful things and a dreamer of ideas, being a Libran. The combination is what makes us tick as one.

KK: I think she has really brought some order to my life. I think now there is some method to the madness. Earlier there was only madness. And I think I brought a certain amount of calm in her life. I’m like a monk, patient and unfazed; I think that’s rubbed off on her to a certain extent. She is a semi-monk now.

TIME TOGETHER
Shared pursuits….
NB: As far as our interests go, we both love to read and are both curious culture vultures. We love animals and being in the outdoors, so safaris are something we enjoy a lot of. We got married on the beach in Seychelles because we just loved the idea of having an island wedding — it was so simple and true to us. We are also big foodies — we try new restaurants in the places we travel to. We enjoy music, theatre and the performing arts, so we will often go to a live performance at the NCPA or for a play at Prithvi Theatre, which is so close to where we live. We are really happy with the simple pleasures of life! We spend quality time with our families and friends and, of course, Simba. We do go to parties as well, but that is more occasional. We go for drives, to the cinema and love to travel and explore the world together and eat great food.

KK: Thankfully we have the exact same ideas about what we find entertaining. We’ve spoken about how difficult it would be if we found different things entertaining. God, that would have been a challenge!

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