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A son rises

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By Arjun Kapoor with Parineeti Chopra in Ishaqzaade Karishma Upadhyay Will Arjun Kapoor make it big? Tell
  • Published 9.05.12
Arjun Kapoor with Parineeti Chopra in Ishaqzaade

Having worked as an assistant director on films like Kal Ho Naa Ho and Salaam-e-Ishq and co-produced Wanted and Milenge Milenge, Arjun Kapoor was all set for a career of making movies. That was until Salman Khan told him that he should become an actor. Salman’s persistence led to Arjun losing 50kg in four years and auditioning to play the gun-toting uncouth Parma in Habib Faisal’s Ishaqzaade.

A year after he started preparing for the role, Arjun sits down in a conference room at the Yashraj Studios in Mumbai to talk about the film, his family and the fraternity. “Would it be okay if I have lunch while we talk?” he asks very politely as a takeaway bag from Indigo Deli is handed to him by his valet Firoz. So, what’s for lunch? “It’s grilled chicken and mashed potatoes. But I have to be careful about not finishing all the mashed potatoes or I’ll just feel fat for the rest of the day. Subconsciously I would want to hit the gym immediately and I will keep obsessing about having overeaten,” confesses the debutant. Then, “Chalo, let’s start the interview.”

Do you feel the pressure of the Kapoor surname?

Arjun at 140kg in 2008

I had actually never thought of this until journalists started asking me this question. When I decided to become an actor or even when I was shooting the film, it wasn’t something that crossed my mind. If I am talented, it won’t matter if my surname is Kapoor or not. No one is going to watch Ishaqzaade because I am a Kapoor. My father (Boney Kapoor) is a producer so I guess no one is going to compare me to him. And, any comparisons with Anil (Kapoor) chachu would be ludicrous. He is in a different league altogether. I am proud to be a Kapoor and I want to make my family proud but at that this point, my surname is incidental.

Salman Khan has a huge contribution towards this shift in your career path...

It was on the sets of Salaam-e-Ishq where Salman bhai told me that I should be an actor. So that’s when it all started. On the sets of Wanted, I used to be around him all the time because he wanted me to train all the time. He would make me work out early morning or cycle with him to the location. That’s when I really started losing weight. I was 19 at that point and I had thought that I would be a director. Obviously that one moment with Salman bhai altered the course of my career. At that point, I thought I could give it an honest shot but I wasn’t aggressively pursuing it. During that journey I also got to know myself better. I realised that I had the will-power and dedication that was required for such a mammoth task. I had never worked so hard in my life!

At what point did you think that you could become a hero?

When someone like Salman shows that level of confidence, that transforms you. My journey didn’t start with one moment or even a day. It was a constant progression as I saw a difference in my physicality and thought that, maybe, there is something in me that is watchable. Once my weight reached a decent level, I started acting classes. It took me four years to get to that ‘decent’ weight. Obviously once Aditya Chopra told me after an audition that I was signed for this film, I thought ‘maybe I can become an actor’.

So, the decision to act depended ‘heavily’ on your physical appearance?

Considering I weighed about 140kg, it didn’t matter if I thought I could act or wanted to act. What was more important was would people want to watch me act! When you watch someone like Hrithik Roshan on screen, it’s depressing because he looks beyond perfect. That kind of a body is not genetic or doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a lot of hard work. It took a long time for me to believe that I could look like an actor and then that I had the talent. But the fact that Salman bhai showed the confidence in me was quite a boost.

What is your workout regimen now?

I work out for about an hour or hour-and-a-half. I do cross-fit. When I was losing weight, I used to work with Salman bhai but now I work out on my own. I couldn’t be dependent on him for the rest of my life. He taught me the basics of training like weights, diet and cardio. Cross-fit is very interesting because it strengthens my core. Though I am a big foodie, I follow a simple diet and I have made small changes like switching from white to brown foods, reducing the number of yolks and having skimmed milk instead of full milk. I had given up rice for three years and I didn’t really miss it at all but of late I seem to be craving rice every single day. You need to make lifestyle adjustments to lead a healthier life.

What are your earliest memories of being on a set?

As a kid, I believed that every film being made was my father’s! Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja was the biggest film being made at that time. He was also producing Prem then. Mr. India had just released and my father was the biggest producer in the country. The house was like a film set. The earliest memory was going on the sets of Roop Ki Rani with 500 dancers standing behind Anil chachu for the song Romeo naam mera.

I saw the film a million times at trials and rushes before that. I still believe that if that film was made now it would have worked. It was one of those typical summer blockbuster masala films.

What was it like when you faced the camera for the first time?

Even though I had prepared a lot, it wasn’t easy. Habib (Faisal) Sir (the director) had put me into preparation six months before so I could become Parma. So the first day of shooting shouldn’t have been as daunting as it was. That one moment in front of the camera felt like the first moment of the rest of my life. I was overawed. I had to ride a bike into a garden where Parineeti (Chopra) and Gauhar (Khan) were standing. The crew had already been shooting together for a week before I started filming, so everyone was in sync with each other and I felt a little off. After that first day, I settled down immediately. When I look back, I think I could have done those few scenes that I shot first much better.

People believe that industry kids find it easier to get a break in Bollywood...

Up to a point I agree. Being from the industry you get to interact, work and learn from the best. This kind of access is difficult for an outsider. The one most important advantage that industry kids have is that we spend so much time on sets and around stars that we are never overawed by it. But beyond a certain point, you have to have the talent to make it. Talent and hard work are not genetic. As far as I am concerned, I didn’t take the easier path. I might have had a Salman Khan egging me on, but I auditioned for Ishaqzaade. So, being from the industry might open doors but you still have to walk through and shine.

From Shah Rukh Khan to Akshay Kumar and Ranveer Singh, they have all come from outside but their talent has spoken and how! At the same time, there are many people from within the fraternity who have tried to make it and haven’t. I don’t think there are any guarantees.

Why did you pick a film set in such a different milieu for your debut?

I didn’t choose the film. It chose me. Aditya Chopra told me to audition for Habib Sir and so I did. That’s when I realised what the film is all about. But I thought if Aditya Chopra thinks this is the right film for me to debut with who am I to argue with him? (Laughs.) Virus Diwan, which is also a Yashraj film, was supposed to be my debut but it got delayed for some reason.... When I started working on Ishaqzaade, I didn’t have the confidence that I would be able to carry off Parma.

Considering you are surrounded by such established people from the industry, who do you go to for advice?

I haven’t reached a point where I have needed advice. If you’ve grown up within the industry, you learn from people around you all the time. Obviously, I talk to my father but that’s just a father and son talking.

Finally, how have you been dealing with you mother’s (Mona Kapoor passed away in March after battling cancer) loss at such a crucial time of your life?

I still don’t know if I am coping. Life is going on. I have a movie releasing and I am going to enjoy this for her.


How do you maintain the scruff on your face?

By throwing away all my razors.

What kind of jewellery do you wear?

My mother had given me some precious stones to wear as rings that I have now put on a chain along with a tabeez that I wear.

What cologne?

I go through phases. Right now my favourite for the day is Dior Homme Sport. My absolute favourite for the night is Tom Ford’s Black Orchid.

What do you drive?

A Honda CRV.

What are you reading currently?

Only newspapers and magazines. I am not a books kind of a guy though there is a Meluha lying on my bedside.

What is on your iPod?

Ishaqzaade for obvious reasons. I love Bollywood music, so that’s what you’d find on my iPod.

What’s in your fridge?

Lots of cold cuts, multi-grain bread, eggs and one tub of Baskin Robbins Cookies and Cream ice cream.

Who is on your speed dial?

My best friends and my cousins. Also, my valet and driver Firoz. I can’t imagine life without him.