Despite doing just nine films in 7 years – snail’s pace in Bollywood – and a languid manner, Kunal Kapoor is one of the busiest men in Bollywood.
He is a voracious writer, taking inspiration from everything around him and creating screenplays.
He’s a columnist; models for such brands as Ray Ban and Thums UP!, a qualified pilot who frequently indulges in flying for business and pleasure, is training to become a rally driver and of course makes movies.
His latest is ‘Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana’; developed by the actor and first-time director Sameer Sharma, directed by the latter and produced by hit-maker Ronnie Screwvala and Bollywood’s most left-field filmmaker Anurag Kashyap.
Surprisingly – given the calibre of the individuals behind the film – ‘Luv Shuv…’ is a Punjabi romp described as India’s first ‘Foodie’ movie; aimed at doing to Chicken what Sideways did to Wine.
Kunal plays a schemer named Omi and the movie marks a long list of firsts for the actor; it’s his first romantic lead, his first comedy, his hair’s been chopped and famous beard trimmed.
And, he says, Punjabis have been portrayed as they really are, not the caricatures seen widely in Bollywood.
Above all else, the film is set to be the beginning of a series of films which will feature the actor quite prominently, in roles behind and in front of the camera.
It’s welcome news for fans of the lanky and talented young actor who burst on to the scene with ‘Rang de Basanti’ in 2006 before making sporadic – often critically acclaimed – appearances on screen. The most recent example was ‘Don 2’; his turn as a computer hacker one of the few bright spots in an otherwise average flick.
The UKAsian caught up with Kunal from his base in Mumbai…
‘Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana’ is a Foodie’s movie: are you a foodie yourself? Does cooking count as one of your many skills?
I’m a foodie in the sense that I eat a lot! Being a Punjabi of course, food is in your DNA, it comes naturally but unfortunately I’m a really bad cook. I can’t cook and the best part is that I play a bad cook in the film so it has worked out really well. I love anything cooked at home, as most people do. I’m very much a homebody and Ghar Ka Khana is something that I love, so anything at home is something that I enjoy. My favourite dish is Rajma Chaval.
Why did you decide to cut your hair for the role?
The director of the film wanted a new look and I was really happy that he did. Up until I got a haircut, everyone – from directors and actors to everyone on the street – said that what I had was the look that they wanted. But finally, I met someone – a film director – who said ‘let’s do something new, something different’. So the hair went in stages from long to short and then the beard went in stages as well. It went from a beard to a French beard to moustache and finally it was gone! I’m actually glad it’s gone. I feel unmasked now, like someone’s taken a mask off my face.
This is your first real romantic lead in a movie…tell me about that experience and what attracted you to the role?
I was part of the writing process of the film which had kind of started off with conversations between me and director Samir Sharma. Then the writer, Sumit Batheja, took that forward, so I’ve been a part of the project from the outset. As far as the romance goes, it is rather unusual. This is a character that ran away from Punjab 10 years before the film is set. When he runs away he’s in a relationship with this girl but doesn’t tell her about his plans. And now he’s back and she’s obviously really upset, because she didn’t even know if he was dead or alive and he’s obviously a little guilty. So the romance is quite confrontational to begin with. In a sense it’s a really unusual romance and it plays out in a very natural sort of way eventually. It’s something I’ve not really done before and I don’t think it’s something fans would have seen before either.
You’re very choosy when it comes to films. Was that because of a lack of good roles or you were off doing other, fun stuff?
It was primarily because of a lack of good roles. Some of the films that I passed up went on to become really big hits as well so I can’t say that they were bad films or bad roles but it’s just that they were films I didn’t want to be a part of at that time. I think it’s important for me as an actor that even if I do little work I feel extremely passionate about it. And it has got to be with people that I really get along with because I don’t want to go to a set and think ‘What am I doing here with these people?’ So yes, there’s been little work but it has always been work that I am extremely happy with.
You’ve got an amazing array of other interests…firstly why did you stop writing your excellent column for Hindustan Times and why have you preoccupied yourself with so much other stuff instead of going all out in Bollywood?
I was supposed to write a total of 14 articles for them. I had finished 14 articles and the contract was over so I stopped writing for them but I am starting a blog now so I’m going to get back into writing. While I haven’t been seen in front of the camera as much as my contemporaries, I’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes. I’ve worked on a lot of scripts and in fact, I have 4 scripts ready at the moment, scripts that I have been part of as a writer and they are films that I really want to make. So even though you haven’t seen much of me, it has not been an unproductive time. I’ve spent time doing things that I am really passionate about, which is developing scripts that I really want to make into films. I’m a nosy chap, I love stories and I keep looking for good stories and when I come across a story I write it down, write down a synopsis, write down a 10 pager and then I take it to writers and directors that I want to work with and fortunately enough it has worked out well. The next couple of movies that I’m going to do are all where I have been a part of the development process from the beginning and films that I’m passionate about.
So we will be seeing a lot more of Kunal kapoor in the coming days?
Yes, you will be seeing lots more of me in the near future. I just hope people don’t call up and say ‘God we’re seeing too much of you now!’
What about theatre? You started in theatre and became established in theatre. For someone who began like that, is there something disillusioning about Bollywood?
Not at all. I just think that it depends on how you want to look at it. You can be disillusioned and can say ‘I don’t want to be a part of this’, and complain about it. Or you can seek out work with likeminded people and you can develop stuff that you want to do. So I think it depends on your attitude and as long as you have the right outlook then you’re going to end up doing work that you want to do. Having said that, there are times when you wish there were films that had a certain sensibility that is appealing. But I think that is changing in Bollywood now; audiences are not just drawn to the big blockbusters. A lot of small films are doing really well. It’s a great time for Bollywood and Indian cinema in general.
Finally, will we ever see ‘Kapoor Da Dhaba’ in future
I’d love that actually! It would be my father’s dream as well. For now though, we’ll have to make do with Chicken Khurana Ka Dhaba.
– Poonam Joshi
‘Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana’ is released 2nd November