MUMBAI—One week before his newest release, “Half Girlfriend” on May 19, Arjun Kapoor completed five years as an actor. The gregarious, funny and a shade mischievous actor is full of beans as usual when India-West met him for an interview at the de facto office of Balaji Telefilms, co-producers of his film.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Before we get on to “Half Girlfriend,” are you or are you not doing “Mr. India”’s remake or sequel?
A: I think that it is a bad idea to remake something which is so iconic. If you must make this mistake, then the team must be solid. A sequel is a better idea, but again the team must be very strong. The magnanimity of the creatives is so much! In any case, I know there are plans, but my father (producer Boney Kapoor) will be the right person to address them. I do not know whether I will be involved.
Q: In this film, your character aspires to National level basketball. Do you like the sport or did you learn it only for “Half Girlfriend?”
A: I would play it in school but in a center or defending position as I looked like a basketball then! But now, I have learned more nuances about this difficult yet amazing sport, and I love it. And I no longer look like a basketball!
Q: What is the connection between basketball and your character?
A: Madhav Jha, my character, is unique. He’s too selfless by today’s standards. He wants to aspire to National level in this sport so that with the additional marks he gets admission in a good college, does Sociology, and with his degree, go back and help his village Simrao. At 20 to 22, he wants to build toilets in the local school and help his people in other ways too.
He is not a conventional film hero even in love because there is no mad, romantic passion. For him, love is a part of his journey, which at one point also means that he stays in New York. And yet he is totally grounded and frank enough to tell his principal that just because he is a shade weak in English, he is no lesser than anyone else. He shows the way most of us tend to be – we always get impressed by someone who knows English and look down on those who do not.
Q: So you do speak Hindi or the Bihari dialect?
A: The language is the most fascinating part of my character. I am from a royal family, and so I do not speak “Main (I)” but “Hum (We),” and yet in my life, I think as “We” rather than as a selfish “I.”
But we have taken care to make a correct representation of Bihar, which is never followed in caricatural versions of Biharis in Hindi films. Bihar, after all, is the center of the first university in the world – Nalanda – and scholars and visionaries like Samrat Ashok, Samrat Chndragupt Maurya, and Gautam Buddha.
Q: How do you rate Shraddha Kapoor as a co-star?
A: Her standout quality is her persevering, ‘Never-Say-Die’ attitude. But we have known each other for long even if this is our first film together.
Q: This is your second film as a Chetan Bhagat book hero. This time, he is also co-producer. Have you read both “2 States” and “Half Girlfriend?”
A: Abhishek Varman (director of “2 States”) advised me not to read the book as he had cut off significant chunks - that too, funny and entertaining ones! – from it. Besides curtailing length, he wanted to snip off those bits that did not show growth in the characters. This time too, Mohit Suri (director of “Half Girlfriend”) came to me with a bound script. So I did not want to get into a confused zone.
Q: Would an ardent actor like you do a role just to enjoy it, like the complete comedy “Mubarakan” you are now doing?
A: I am passionate about the process of filmmaking and have enjoyed every film I did. Just being part of a film gives me happiness. Therefore, “Mubarakan” is also as rewarding as “Half Girlfriend” but it is not like a break after it. The journeys though are different.
In any case, comedy is way tougher, so I cannot do “Mubarakan” to relax after an intense film! On the other hand, I have to put myself out there and show this side of my talent – that there is this fun and energy within me. It’s another facet of my acting that must come out. Comedy always connects with families, and they become your very important repeat audience.
But the Anees Bazmee (writer-director)-Anil Kapoor-ensemble cast-mad comedy space is an alien genre for me so far, so I have to bring in something of my own that is also not repetitious. It’s a challenge. I play twins, one of whom is brought up in London and one in Chandigarh. So there is no mistaken identity as happens with dual roles.
Q: How was the rapport with your uncle Anil Kapoor at work?
A: I was scared that problems might arise as he is family, but let me tell you that we discovered new sides of each other. Being together in London and working together every day brings you closer somehow, as you come to know the other person’s strengths, weaknesses, and thought processes. He was always my inspiration for 30 years, and my uncle, but now there is a kind of friendship too between us. And it’s great to be friends with someone to whom you look up.