Girl With A Dream
It is that time of the year when the world prepares to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year. But for the moment, as the clock nears midnight, the incessant din of Mumbai’s roads has quietened. The dome of Siddhivinayak Temple, seen from my bedroom windows, shines brightly in the clear winter darkness. At the witching hour, it is almost surreal as I make the call to the Las Vegas hotel where Shraddha Kapoor is staying. I think for a minute that an art film could emerge from the moment – Shraddha Calling Shraddha. Having completed our photo-shoot a few weeks earlier, Kapoor finds her days filled with shooting schedules, dance rehearsals, a friend’s wedding and umpteen commitments before she air dashes to the United States for a schedule of ABCD2. As soon as she lands, she emerges from the chaos to have a long chat that spans continents.
After she finishes gushing about the panoramic view outside her window, we chat about our common nomenclature – both affirming that it is important to have faith and confidence in oneself to succeed. Kapoor says, “My confidence came from my parents. I gradually understood what having faith in oneself meant; the feeling evolved as I grew up.”
All of 25 years old, the actor’s latest cinematic offering – Haider – has wowed the critics and the masses alike. Her co-star Shahid Kapoor, who had turned in a bravura performance in the Vishal Bhardwaj-directed recreation of Hamlet, told me earlier, “It is amazing that she took up a film of that genre so early in her career. It is important to do a film like that if you are finding yourself as an actor, not if you are only on the route to be a star. And all the characters were so complex; she was like a breath of fresh air on the sets with her innocence, simplicity and warmth. I have known her for a long time, much before we shot for Haider. It is awesome to see her grow; she has a bright future ahead of her.”
When asked about Haider, Kapoor states, “I decided to do it because Vishal Bhardwaj was directing it – he is a master at adapting Shakespeare. When I read Haider’s script, it was so overwhelming. I am not so politically aware and I didn’t understand a lot of things. But I felt that I had to be a part of it. And shooting an entire film in Kashmir was fantastic.”
For Kapoor, 2014 has been a special year. Her other release last year, Ek Tha Villain, had her crooning a number, Galliyan, for the first time. Her excitement is palpable: “Last year, Mr Bachchan came for a screening of my film. I got to work with Shahid and my favourite directors; there was a lot of love coming my way from a lot of people…and I got my own car.” And she just loved the dare given to her by a star she dotes on, the Bang Bang hero, Hrithik Roshan!
Hailing from a film family – her father is Shakti Kapoor and her maternal aunt, Padmini Kolhapure – Kapoor did not look beyond the movies as a career option. She states, “It was because I was born in that environment that I automatically fell in love with what my father and my maasi did. I would go to the sets, watch Dad’s films and I stumbled into loving it. My own first performance was when I was in Junior KG. I sang a qawwali song with the whole group. It was amazing.”
Though the reel and the real have blended seamlessly into her life, as a child, they led to many moments of questioning. Kapoor recalls, “When you are a kid, there is a very thin line between what is real and what is fiction or fantasy. So I would be very fascinated when my father would come home with his fake moustache and blingy jackets, with half of his make-up still on. But I would be very afraid whenever there were bomb blasts on the sets. I had a fear of sudden sounds and balloons popping – and that kept me away from the studios for a while.”
I am curious about the impact her father’s performances had on her as a child. For, after all, Shakti Kapoor was known for his comic and bad guy turns on the screen. Kapoor emphasises, “I never wondered if my dad was the hero or not. I thought it was the coolest thing that he was playing the bad guy or the comedian. I felt that it truly set him apart and made him so magnificent at what he did.”
Despite being her father’s daughter, it has taken her a while to meet the expectations friends, families or fans had from her. Her first two films (Teen Patti and Luv Ka The End) did not create more than a ripple. She admits, “I started off struggling a lot. I didn’t expect it to be that way because I was very excited to join the movies. There was a lot of pressure and comparisons. When my films did not do very well, it was a trying period, and I was upset. But I decided to do exactly what I wanted to do; so I take responsibility for every decision that I have made. There were some tough moments; but in hindsight I am glad I started off like that. For those who began with a huge success, facing failure is always frightening. You never know which film will do well and where each Friday will take your life and career. I am grateful that I have had the experience of not doing well early on because I drew something from the lack of success. It definitely helped shape who I am today. Things changed with Aashiqui 2. And now I feel that I am being evaluated solely for who I am and that is a fantastic feeling. It is praise in its own form.”
Even though – and perhaps because – it is not a regular nine-to-five job, Kapoor is enjoying her stint in the industry. “You don’t have a consistent monthly paycheck that you can take home. And a Friday holds your fate in its hand. The uncertainty makes it a roller coaster ride. It propels you into developing a thicker skin with all the kinds of things that come with being a public figure. But if you love it, then you just enjoy every aspect of it. You just accept and embrace the uncertainties.”
Admiring people who dance to their own music, Kapoor feels it needs daring to do what you believe in. She says, “I do not believe in assumptions that limit you as a person. But you need courage to go the whole way for often what you want lies beyond your comfort zone. The key is to breaking out of your comfort zone and enjoying doing that! For that you just need the right people around you to encourage and support you. And, of course, you have to believe in yourself; you have to be confident that you can do something like that even if a part of you fears it.”
One wonders if people look beyond her appearance – that has a certain beauty, innocence and fragility – that has made her a popular choice for brands and fashion designers. Bhardwaj had once said that it was Kapoor’s eyes that made her the best choice for the role of Arshia Lone inspired by Ophelia, apart from the obvious reasons of her being a good actor, pretty and young. He had felt that she had the perfect Kashmiri eyes – expressive and beautiful. Kapoor laughs at the comment. “People are successful not because they look good, but because they have been appreciated for their talent. In the industry, there are several people who are not beautiful by the book but have become successful. I really think that if you look good on the outside, it will only take you that far! You have to have more substance if you want to find your way to the hearts of people and connect with them on a very deep level – and that transcends external appearances and the clothes you wear. It takes a lot more than being just beautiful to have a loyal fan following.”
Young, single and attractive. What role does romance play in her life, as rumours of her closeness to Aditya Roy Kapur have done the rounds. Kapoor bats well on a dodgy turf: “It is all a part and parcel of this industry, like the unpredictability and inconsistency of it all. I have no choice but to accept the rumours, the stories and link-ups – they are beyond my control and will keep cropping up. Aditya, Mohit (Suri) and I have been good friends since Aashiqui 2 changed our lives. I hope that we continue to remain so.”
Any actress to catapult into the really big league has to do a movie with a Khan. To date, Kapoor has worked largely with younger heroes. She admits, “I would love to do a movie with the Khans (Aamir, Shah Rukh and Salman), Farhan Akhtar or Hrithik Roshan. I have been waiting to be offered a film with them. But as an actor, you have to choose from what you have been offered. I just hope that I continue to get the right projects. It has been a great run, and I pray that it continues.”
In the New Year, she is looking forward to ABCD 2, a movie in which she plays a professional dancer. Work in Vegas is poised to complete a day or two before the year ends and she is excited: “I will get to do something that very few people get to do. I am spending New Year’s Eve with my whole crew in Vegas.” I leave the self-confessed daydreamer with her palpable excitement…her shooting schedules and, of course, her dreams.