By:Harneet Singh for Screen India
With your debut Saawariya just round the corner what’s your state of mind?
I’ve gone through a see-saw of emotions right from excitement to nervousness to fright. Right now, I’m completely blank and emotionless, which is a good thing otherwise my nerves would have cracked by now.
Did you always want to act?
I always wanted to do something related to films. For a long time, I was debating between acting and direction. However slowly and gradually the feeling crept in that I want to act.
So whom did you tell first: mom or dad?
I don’t think I ever really told anyone. Everyone sort of expected it. It came out during a routine conversation at the dinner table. When I told them, both my parents said, “We always knew that.” So I never really had to tell them.
And how did you go about preparing to become a Hindi film hero?
Well, I went through the mandatory diction, dance and horse riding classes. I also did a two-year course at the School of Visual Arts in New York and studied acting at the Lee Strasborg Film Institute. Then I came home and assisted Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Black.
But at the back of your mind you wanted Bhansali to cast you in his next film?
(Laughs) Well that thought was there at the back of my mind. I’ve always been a Bhansali fan. When I was studying in America, I got a few acting offers but I always harboured the dream of working with Bhansali. So I flew back home, made a resume and went to his office to apply for the post of an assistant director for Black. Of course I was hoping he’d see me and tell me that he wants to cast me in a film. And believe it or not but when he met me, the very first thing he told me was that he sees an actor in me. Destiny stepped in at the right time, I guess.
Are all those stories of Bhansali being a tyrant on the sets, true?
It’s all made up. It’s true that he is a genius and a perfectionist. It’s also true that he expects the same level of passion and perfectionism from his team. Films come before his life. So he wants to make sure whatever he is doing is the best he can do. He never shouts without a reason.
So you admit he shouted at you?
Oh yes, plenty of time. And I’m very grateful to him for that since today whatever I know about acting is because of him. He’s truly my mentor. We spend a lot of time together, go out for dinners and films and every time I learn something from him.
From what we can see in the promos, you dance well. Did the jazz and ballet training came in handy?
It’s true that I’ve been trained in jazz and ballet but I didn’t really perfect the dance forms. I’m really not a good dancer. If you like what you see then the credit should go to Mr. Bhansali because he’s a genius in shooting songs.
Which actor do you think dances the best?
My dad (Rishi Kapoor) and Hrithik Roshan.
Speaking of your dad, which is your favourite Rishi Kapoor film?
Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai.
And your favourite Raj Kapoor film?
Is it true you were very scared of your dad when you were growing up?
Yes I was quite petrified of him. He was very strict about a few things, like he used to insist that I eat green vegetables. I didn’t really get to know him when I was growing up because he was very busy. But once I started assisting him during Aa Ab Laut Chalen , we really bonded well. Every night after pack-up he would take me to fancy restaurants. He’s quite adventurous in checking out new cuisines and that’s something he has instilled in me.
What’s your co-star Sonam Kapoor like?
I’ve known her since we were kids. Her grandfather and my grandfather were friends, our parents are friends so we ended up being friends by default. I never imagined that we’ll make a debut together but I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful and loving co-star than Sonam. There is nothing materialistic about her. Sonam is all heart.
Was it awkward to work with Salman Khan in Saawariya especially since you had a famous brawl with him a few years back?
There is no truth to that story. I love Salman to death. He treats me like a younger brother. The whole incident is hogwash. I never got a chance to give my side of the story. The fact is that Salman and I never fought.
Have you prepared yourself for the intense media scrutiny that an actor’s life involves?
Well it’s not something that comes easy. It hurts when people write lies about you. But my mom (Neetu Singh) has been very supportive. She always tells me to keep a cool head. I guess, eventually I’ll get used to it.
So what’s the status with you and Deepika Padukone?
I knew her as a friend, that’s all.
You used the past tense, are you guys no longer friends? We’re not in touch these days. I guess she’s busy promoting Om Shanti Om while I’m busy with Saawariya.
You’ve earned a reputation of being a party animal. Is it a fair one?
Actually no. I’m a homebody. I admit that there was a phase when I was totally into the party scene but now I’ve mellowed a bit.
Recently when you made an appearance on Star Voice of India, girls kissed you on your cheek. How was it?
(Laughs) It was quite heartwarming actually. An actor always dreams for a moment like this to happen, you know, one day when you come out and girls queue up to kiss you but when it really happens then it feels quite surreal. But it was nice.
What was immediate reaction when you saw yourself on screen for the very first time?
I couldn’t believe it was me up there. I pinched myself and spoke to my mom.
Confession time. Is it true that you drop the towel in a scene in the film?
Well, you’ll see that when you see the film. I’m not going to say anything beyond this.
Ok then another confession, is it true that you still get pocket money from your mom?
Yes that’s right. I get Rs 1,500 per week. What to do? I’m still not earning so I have to survive somehow.
I’m sure it helps that you don’t have to pay the rent?
(Laughs) You bet. Thank god for small mercies.
What does stardom mean to you?
It means nothing to me. It’s just the work and the journey towards stardom that matters to me.
Saawariya in one word?