Harshvardhan Kapoor talks about the 18 months he took to ‘become’ his character in Mirzya, a musical no one is likely to forget soon.
When Danny Boyle offered Anil Kapoor Slumdog Millionaire, he wasn’t really sure about taking it up. It was his 16-year-old son, Harshvardhan, who convinced him to accept the role. Similarly, it was the young Kapoor who drove Anil to accept the silver-haired patriarch’s part in Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do. It’s probably this lucidity and perception that prompted Vikramaditya Motwane, who is directing the young actor’s second film, Bhavesh Joshi, to say that “he hasn’t met a 25-year-old with as much clarity”.
The litmus test
It wasn’t that Harshvardhan always wanted to be an actor. In fact, he was vacillating between writing and direction. That’s why when Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra offered him Mirzya six years back, he knew he wasn’t ready. “I felt I was too young and wanted to complete my education. It was my first priority.” And no, he didn’t go for an acting crash course as is the norm these days. He just decided to go the whole hog. He finished his BA in screenwriting from Southern California Chapman University, where he also did a programme in acting. It was somewhere in the middle of doing the programme that he decided ‘this is it’—acting came naturally to him. “I thought this was where my potential lay,” he reminisces.
But then he didn’t just stop with that, mind you. The fastidious young man intended to further sharpen his skills. Back in Mumbai, he took different acting courses. He plunged into what he likes to term as “unchartered territory”—he trained under Alok Ulfat, a theatre actor from Dehradun who has worked with a lot of actors from NSD, for three months; another three months with casting director Mukesh Chabbra; and a month-and-a-half with a South African acting coach, Tina Bertina. Then he texted Rakeysh Mehra that he was ready. It was a month before Bhaag Milka Bhaag got released. In May 2013, the preparations started.
“All these things added up, along with a few auditions that I had done earlier. I prepared a year-and-a-half to get into the skin of my character in Mirzya—archery, polo, riding on a bike standing and horse riding for 18 months. The film was impossible to shoot otherwise. So by the time I was facing the camera, I was quite ready,” he says.
Harshvardhan calls Mirzya an “amazing experience” and the director as someone who pushed his boundaries. He plays a double role and he thinks Mehra has adapted a new way of telling a story through music. “Mirzya is a film I would love to see as an audience. So is Bhavesh Joshi.”
Is it how he intends to approach his role every time? “Yes, even for Bhavesh Joshi I have tried this approach. Let’s see how that turns out. Sometimes directors don’t have that kind of time, you know. I think you make the most of the time,” he adds.
Learning to adapt
Not many know that Harshvardhan assisted Anurag Kashyap in Bombay Velvet last year. “We have been in touch for a long time and he is a very talented director. I wanted to do a big film and see how the director executed it.” He is also known to be a recluse. Won’t that clash with his stardom? “Yes, I prefer to be on my own trip. Sometimes it does clash. Surprisingly, I am enjoying these Mirzya promotional interactions. I guess I can adapt my personality depending on the situation,” he smiles.
Harshvardhan doesn’t consult his father regarding his choice of films either, as he believes as an actor one needs to make one’s own choices. But he recalls the one piece of advice his dad gave him—not to take both failure and success too seriously as the former can result in loss of confidence and the latter can make you big-headed. “No matter what, keep your chin up and believe in yourself,” he says.
I am not surprised when he admits that he has never been to any of his father’s movie sets till date. At home, invariably the dinner table conversations will be about movies. There are three actors and one producer in the house, after all.
Films seem to be the epicentre of his universe. Even in school, despite being a good student, he admits he never really enjoyed the curriculum much. It was at film school that he started enjoying the process of learning. What about books? He isn’t a voracious reader, he admits. But recently he has acquired a taste for it. “I am currently reading Karan Bajaj’s Keep off the Grass.” Given a choice, he just wants to do one film at a time. And cinema being a director’s medium, he hopes to work with the best in the business. At some point, he definitely wants to be a writer-director.
Finally, is this the best time for an actor to make his debut in Bollywood? “I think it’s a double-edged sword—it’s a good time for people to expect experimental films and different ways of telling a story. But then it is still very hard to accept newcomers because it is not very cheap to go to the movies. It’s very expensive and there is also a lot of content available on the digital platform. It’s a lot harder to draw people into cinemas.”
Mirzya is scheduled to release today.
By Neelima Menon