The Gen-Z star is expected to have it all. They’re not only actors, but brands. They’re not only performers but influencers. Janhvi Kapoor, in an exclusive session on FC Front Row, spoke about the importance of prioritizing one’s work as an artiste over everything else that comes with it, processing rejections and dejections and her wish to work in commercial movies with substantial roles.
Anupama Chopra: Is being an artiste in contemporary Hindi cinema made up equally of being a star, actor, influencer and brand, or is one thing more important than the other?
Janhvi Kapoor: It depends on the individual and what prioritize. I believe that nothing speaks louder than your work, what you do in front of the camera and the choices that you make as an actor. But I’ve been made to realize that, especially in our country, it’s a wholesome package. You do have a responsibility to uphold a pubic image and of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a social media following because it’s a great way to earn money through brands. However, it’s important to remind yourself that it isn’t the job, it’s a consequence of the job, the perks of the job. What you’re really here to do is to perform, do memorable work and hopefully, touch people’s lives through your work. It’s very easy to feel a sense of importance when you do well in these other aspects of the game.
AC: You’ve mentioned often in your interviews that you really want to be a better actor; you want to win a National Award. So, what is the riyaaz that you do? Do you do specific things to hone these skills?
JK: I had a very methodical approach to it. I did my dance classes, I saw a number of movies a day, I got Hindi tuitions, I spoke to filmmakers, I went to as many shoots as I could. But I think nothing teaches you better than being on the job. Keep yourself open to experiences and be observant. You need to have educated opinions about people, lives, politics and your own culture. So, educating yourselves as human beings is very important.
AC: You just spoke about having political perspective. But the truth is, in this country, it is dangerous for actors to have political opinions. So, do you mean to have a political perspective only for yourself and not really to share it with anyone?
JK: To each their own. Whether you choose to share it or not, your political perspective will inevitably revert in your work, the scripts that you choose and the way you interpret characters of certain social classes – their wants, their desires, their actions. Even if you don’t verbalize your political opinions, they will reflect on your work. And that’s important, especially to be a wholesome artiste. What is art if not a reflection of humanity? As artistes, we do have a responsibility to show a reflection of where our society is at and where it should be.
AC: I saw an interview when you talked about how you started watching Pakeezah and Mughal-E-Azam on a loop once you were signed for Takht. You started Kathak classes and threw yourself into the process without even knowing your role. Then, Dostana 2 got derailed. When you’re so enthusiastic about a role and it doesn’t happen, what is the disappointment of that and how do you actually power through it?
JK: It’s heartbreaking. I have this horrible habit of dreaming, fantasizing and visualizing [these movies]. In fact, just a few days ago, I was expecting to get signed on a film that I was really excited to do but the dates didn’t work out. Again, in my head, I had finished shooting the film, worn all my costumes, done all the comedy scenes and had a blast. It’s a heartbreak but a huge part of the job. Until I’ve signed the film, and am on the set – for Dostana, I was already on the film set – so until the film is nearing release, I don’t think you should believe that it has happened.
When something like this happens, you have to make the most of what you have. I was on set when I got the call about the dates not working out, and as soon as I hung up, I was told that my shot was ready. I was like, ‘I’m going to kill it in this shot. If nothing else in the film, they’ll see this shot and they’ll feel that they should’ve made the dates work.’
AC: In a lot of hardcore commercial movies, women have three songs and three scenes. It is the hero’s burden to carry the movie. Is that a film you would be willing to do if it’s with a mega star?
JK: I’ve realized that I like being the center of attention in my film sets. I like it when the director is focusing on me, discussing my scenes and character arcs. It gives me a lot of security as an actor when I have a well-written, well-defined character on paper. I don’t know if I’m good enough to take a half-baked role and make it amazing on-screen. Having said that, I would love to do three songs but maybe not the three scenes. I’m looking for something with three songs and perhaps 30 scenes.
I’d gone to meet Zoya [Akhtar] sometime in the middle of the last lockdown and was telling her that I’m only doing roles where I’m the protagonist and the story revolves around me. I’m not getting the chance to dance, do comedy, do commercial cinema. She replied, “So basically you’re pissed because they’re giving you good roles and not treating you like a piece of meat?” (laughs)
But I want to do it all. It is important to widen your horizons. I really want to do comedy, and a love story. I’m great at being in love on-screen. Not so much off screen.