Home Bangalore The reluctant rockstar

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Shraddha Kapoor’s acting career had a rocky start. Her début in the forgettable Teen Patti in 2010 was followed by a dumbed-down part in a dumber film called Luv Ka The End (2011). By then the daughter of Shakti Kapoor was beginning to question her choices, including giving up an American college education to pursue her childhood dream of being a Bollywood star. But then things changed dramatically and irreversibly with the romantic drama Aashiqui 2 (2013). Shraddha’s fragile appearance and her surprisingly tuneful voice set her on course for some plum roles. Critics were bowled over by her Ophelia in Haider and the younger audiences lapped up her dance moves in ABCD 2 as gleefully as her martial arts in Baaghi. The 29-year-old’s calendar is now chock-a-block with projects starting with Rock On!! 2, which releases this November—a project she claims she wanted to be in ever since she saw the first film, though the team presents her as a rather reluctant musician. She’s also shooting for Half Girlfriend, has OK Jaanu preparing for release and will soon start shooting for Haseena, based on the life of underworld criminal Haseena Parkar. When we meet in her sea-facing Juhu apartment, where she lives with her parents and brother, Shraddha is curled up on the sofa. She’s only slightly distracted by her whimpering dog that’s been consciously locked out of the room. Excerpts from an interview:

What did you enjoy most about being a part of
Rock On!! 2?

The whole experience was twentyfold more than I had imagined. It’s difficult to say what I enjoyed most. While it was like a miracle that we got to travel to and shoot in Shillong, I think one of the best things about being in this film was how I was taken in with so much love and affection by the band. Both the director and I are the new band members and we were nervous about being a part of Magik, the band. But Farhan (Akhtar), Arjun (Rampal) and Purab (Kohli) made us feel like we belonged. That instills a confidence
to do your best.

Like Farhan, you too have sung your own parts. How was the experience?

I was very nervous about recording. First of all, I was getting to sing my own songs. Then you have to do a good job (Shraddha trained with jazz singer and vocal coach, Samantha Edwards, but also recalls sessions with her nana, Pandit Pandharinath Kolhapure, as a young child). But Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy pushed me. I did not think I would be able to sing, or maybe not to a certain level, but they pushed me with a lot of
love and affection.

Your upcoming slate of films is rather diverse.

Yes. Half Girlfriend, directed by Mohit Suri, is going really well. This is the third film for Mohit and me (after Aashiqui 2 and Ek Villain), so it’s like home ground, yet we both have evolved a lot. He’s a good friend besides being a director. Half Girlfriend has been shot in Delhi, Mandawa, Cape Town and New York City. After finishing that, I will start promoting Rock On!! 2 and then Haseena will start shooting in December. OK Jaanu with Aditya Roy Kapur is a remake of (Tamil film) OK Kanmani, and is directed by Shaad Ali. That releases next year.

It’s interesting that you have learned a new skill for each of your films: riding a motorbike for Ek Villain, basketball for Half Girlfriend…

I picked up those specific skills because the film needed it. It all begins with the director telling you how prepared you need to be. Also, the audience can spot a cheat. Of course, there are other times when the audience cannot point out a cheat, but that is the magic of the filmmaker where he can execute something and make it look real and authentic. I have been very excited to learn something new with every film. Even as a kid, I was always very adventurous and wanted to be physically engaged. Any physical preparation affects your mental prep, too. The longest I took was for ABCD 2. That took a few months because I had to come across as a professional dancer. I did 15 basketball classes to prepare for Half Girlfriend, which was enough to be able to do certain things that would make me look like a player. For Ek Villain, I learned to ride a bike and I had to be skilled enough to ride with my legs up. It’s a different thing that as soon as they called cut, I fell right off the bike! But at least it was a good take. For Baaghi, while I didn’t have to do as much as Tiger (Shroff), all the dance training helped with the martial arts training.

Do you regret giving
up on education?

It would be greedy to say that I wish had also finished my education. Although I do believe it is very important, and would not advise anyone to drop out of college, I did it to act, which was my childhood dream. So I don’t feel so bad. But when my first two films did not do well, I did question whether it was a wise decision. I now try to compensate as much as I can. I am a curious person in general and watch many documentaries and read as
much as possible to self-educate.

Do you feel that star kids have it easier in our dynastic film industry?

With all due respect, I feel that an opportunity may come easier to a star kid but sustaining the love of the audience has nothing to do with your background. The audience’s love is based on the work you do and how you connect with them. Many have managed to make that connection and
many haven’t.

What makes you tick?

I love spending time with family and friends, I enjoy a good book, and watching documentaries and movies. If I had time, I would travel more. I enjoy food. I used to be very interested in gardening, but now I don’t have time for it. I used to grow things in my balcony, like tomatoes and chilies, and liked getting my hands dirty. I also doodle. I really like getting involved in household and grocery-related things. I am always checking what vegetables are in the house and if there is fish for my father. I enjoy getting things done for people. It’s fun. My director, Mohit Suri, teases me saying I would make a very good production manager.

Rock On!! 2 is scheduled to release in November.

-Udita Jhunjhunwala

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