Self-awareness is not Bollywood’s strongest suit. So, Arjun Kapoor comes as a breath of fresh air. Born in the Other Kapoor family, his father’s departure from his mother’s life to marry the late actor Sridevi was tough on him. His obesity made him an easy target of bullying. Kapoor will only diplomatically say that he’s been to hell and back. Widely appreciated for his debut in Ishaqzaade (2012), and his subsequent films Aurangzeb (2013) and Finding Fanny (2014), he says sometimes it takes a director like Dibakar Banerjee, with whom he made Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar (2021), to make you submit to the character and underline the fact that you take your craft seriously. “I was dying to get out of my comfort zone. You get caught up in being considered a mainstream hero so you don’t get the right offers. I grabbed it,” he says. Ten years in Bollywood requires a lot of staying power. That comes from the audience, he says. “Ishaqzaade was me asking a question of the audience. I want to connect with all sorts of audiences. In 10 years, I have resonated with every section at some point or the other,” he says. And somewhere he has connected with the kind of man we have now. He agrees: “Somewhere the personal and professional have intertwined. I am not a macho man, I am not the one to save the damsel in distress. Pinky in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is fighting toxic masculinity or Kabir in Ki & Ka (2016) wants to be like his mother, or Krish in 2 States (2014) is standing up for his mother. I’m not lost but I don’t mind being found,” he says. His gift of the gab has helped, though he says he was a reluctant talker when he started in the profession. “I wanted to be reclusive. Then I got told the media thought I was brash, I had to free my mind. I just opened that side of me. My mother [the late TV producer Mona Shourie] taught me well, my father [producer Boney Kapoor] is quite a talker,” he says. The opportunity to be part of a possible blockbuster franchise with Ek Villain Returns, where he had to work on his body to look good enough facing off John Abraham, made him work long hours and consistently over a period of time. Coming up next is Kuttey, directed by Aasmaan V Bhardwaj, Vishal’s son, where he is part of a dream ensemble that includes Tabu and Konkona Sen Sharma, and The Ladykiller with Ajay Bahl. His easy relationship with his older girlfriend Malaika Arora makes him a tabloid favourite but also the subject of social media criticism. “You have to be thick-skinned in this profession,” he says. “People will say nasty things about you all the time. You just have to take it in your stride.”
The Rajas in Maharani
The joys of an ensemble cast are many, and perhaps Amit Sial, who plays Navin Kumar to Sohum Shah’s Bheema Bharti in the second season of Maharani on SonyLIV, puts it best. “We all fit so tightly like freshly mounded aata,” he says. Sial and Shah were reunited with the rest of the fine cast after a year and cannot stop talking about how bereft they are now that the shoot has ended. In a way, it’s like a touring theatre company that reunites every year for one more tour. They have a special word of praise for the lead actor Huma Qureshi. Shah says: “In Season 1, I would always sit to one side pretending to be in the zone but she would be laughing, cracking jokes. And the camera would start, and she would be transformed into Rani Bharti.” As for the actor, Pramod Pathak, who plays his secretary Mishraji, Shah says if he would ever become his real-life secretary, he would enter politics.
Scene and Heard
One of the most marvellous things OTT has done is to give work to the underserved. Vijay Maurya, who came to Bollywood to act via theatre with Satyadev Dubey, and then discovered he enjoyed writing and then direction, will be behind the scenes of Crash Course, Amazon Prime Video’s new thriller set in Kota, directing old friend Manish Hariprasad’s script. The casting coup is Annu Kapoor as the antagonist as well as Siddharth Kak, the beloved host of Doordarshan’s Surabhi which ran from 1990 to 2001. Maurya will also be seen in Darlings, whose quirky dialogues he has written, given he spent many of his growing up years in Kurla, Mumbai. And if you’ve not had enough of him, he is also in Rangbaaz Season 3, a political thriller, currently on Zee5.