Zahan Kapoor may be new to the Hindi film industry but he has been trained under the best at Prithvi Theatre allowing him an extra edge over others who can be counted as his contemporaries. He made his Bollywood debut in Hansal Mehta's Faraaz as the titular character. Since then, people cannot stop raving about his acting prowess and charming looks.
In an exclusive interview with PeepingMoon.com, Zahan, who is the late Shashi Kapoor's grandson, spoke about choosing a rather unconventional debut and playing a character based on a real-life incident (Dhaka's Holey Artisan café attack in 2016). He also reacted to claims of getting lesser screen space in Faraaz than his co-star Aditya Rawal and why the nepotism debate doesn't affect him.
Excerpts from the interview:
Faraaz was an unconventional debut. Did you ever expect it?
Faraaz wasn't something I manipulated or manufactured, it came to me out of good luck and good fortune. Hansal (Mehta) sir was absolutely the filmmaker I was keen on working with at some point but it so happened that he saw me in Prithvi Theatre when he was developing the story. He approached Mukesh Chhabra asking about me and my craft. After that meeting, Hansal sir and Mukesh felt I am the perfect choice for the role.
Is it tougher to play a real-life character than a fictional one?
Yes, it is tougher to play a real-life character and it is a huge responsibility to do so. Especially in a film like Faraaz. We wanted to do the film with the most empathy possible. We did a tremendous amount of research, I was lucky enough to go to Dhaka in Bangladesh in 2019 April for research. At that time, there was no script also, it was just the story. Hansal sir was keen on jumping into the process and wasn’t much into finding an outcome that was exciting. I was able to learn about the craft. I hope we are able to do justice to it because I know the responsibility is huge.
Can you share your experience from the Dhaka visit?
In Dhaka, we met families, and survivors, and even acquired the rights to the book titled Holey Artisan: A Journalistic Investigation. It was an incredible journey to be privileged to do this job. We’re artistes and can interact with these people, share their stories on their behalf, and learn about the resilience of the human spirit. The entire journey of Faraaz instilled a great sense of confidence and awareness in me. I understood that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. This is not about my image, it is about a story bigger than me.
Did your theatre experience help you perform effortlessly in front of the camera?
I would like to believe so. I also feel an actor has to develop and hone his craft. I wanted to make sure that my foundation is strong so I did workshops, trained well, did rehearsals and even watched plays of stalwarts like Naseeruddin Shah, Makarand Deshpande, and Sunil Shanbag when they were working and making great content. It teaches you rigor and discipline. Due to my theatre background, I am more prepared for opportunities that will come my way. If I am given an opportunity, the only thing I can do is make sure I am capable and worthy of it.
You started your career with a two-hero film..
I am choosing the story and the director. If the director believes in the story and wants to tell it, it can be in any way. It can be an ensemble film, a single hero film, a big-budget film, or a small-scale one too. I would like to be able to serve the story in as many ways as it needs to be from me. If it requires me to learn new skills like how Faraaz did, I am happy. I would not like to be caught up in things like image and perception. I want to keep doing my job.
Does screen time matter to you?
I hope the impact happens.
People weren't happy that your screen time was lesser than Aditya Rawal’s in Faraaz…
Ya, that’s ok but that’s the design of the story. It is an interesting choice to let a character emerge. That’s the truth of this story. Faraaz wasn’t a trained soldier like Vicky Kaushal's character in Uri: The Surgical Strike who came to do a mission. Faraaz was a normal boy with the world at his feet and his whole life ahead of him. He found himself caught in this situation nobody ever predicted. It is truthful to the story that he would emerge like this. It is Hansal sir’s vision and he gave it the dignity it deserves.
People call you a 'nepo kid'. Does it bother you?
I understand the conversation and I think it is fair. All I can say is I can offer you my personal story which is a combination of understanding and being aware of these things. However, my parents were not in the center of the industry. We were living in our own world and doing our own thing, I had an upbringing not bubbled by that world. I’m grateful for that as I’ve been given greater exposure to life and the world but I’ve also received the education and understanding of the craft, the industry, and how tough it is. The only thing I have in my head is to be dedicated and do the job, study, and work hard. I wish to be worthy of every opportunity, keep working and make the most of the opportunity. I wish to make people know that I am earning it and not because of privilege and fortune. It should be because I am Zahan and I'm here to contribute and participate.
Do you feel the box office jitters?
It does but I feel one shouldn’t think much about it. Every film has its place.
Do you read reviews or ignore them & continue doing your work in the best possible way?
I choose to ignore it and do my best in every way possible. The reviews (of Faraaz) seem favourable. We’ve all surrendered ourselves to the story. I’m happy that we can share our work with the world.
What's your takeaway from the film?
Faraaz is a story about the human spirit. It is about how humans are capable of empathy, love, and doing what’s right when the time comes. I take that with me. I take the legacy of Faraaz and what he has given to the world seriously. We have been lucky enough to help tell the story.