I don’t see myself as a comedian, I see myself as an actor – Kunaal Roy Kapur
We have loved him as the funny guy in films like Delhi Belly and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, but with his latest flick The Final Exit, Kunaal Roy Kapur is all set to show a new side to himself. The actor explores the dark side as he gets into the skin of a disturbed and dissatisfied character.
Kapur who made his digital debut with TVF Tripling last year, was recently also appreciated for his role in Anuvab Pal’s web series Going Viral. With so much going on, there was never a dull moment in our conversation with the actor. In a chat with Pandolin, he talks about juggling horror and comedy, his directorial venture and more.
You started with Just Mohabbat on TV in the 90s. How have you seen yourself evolve as an actor?
Before television, I stared doing theatre and even during television I continued with theatre. I think the evolution has basically been though understanding and learning. Television taught me a lot about how to face the camera. I was young at that time, so just learning to be on the set and understanding whom to pay attention to and who to avoid was important. It was during this time that a lot film appreciation came in, I started watching films and learning from them. I also started directing for stage. I realized I was growing as an actor and was developing an interest in directing at the same time.
Also, the films that I did, like Delhi Belly and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani were a learning process in itself. I got the opportunity to work with some good actors and I think you are constantly learning from the people around you. I learnt a lot in a film called Loins of Punjab Presents and we had a wonderful director there as well. I think in every film, you find someone or something from whom you can learn and evolve, so the evolution has continued till date.
Delhi Belly became huge, how did it impact your career, did it bring in better opportunities?
I had been in movies and even worked in television before Delhi Belly, but Delhi Belly kicked things off as an actor for me. That was the first time that people got me. Things changed a lot for me post that and yes, it did bring in better opportunities with Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Nautanki Saala and everything else that has come after it, even Action Jackson and Azhar. The whole career as an actor started from there. The roles that have been offered (to me) have been because of Delhi Belly.
I love seeing somewhat serious things conveyed in a crazy way
After Delhi Belly and Nautanki Saala, there were movies of course, but nothing major. What was occupying your attention?
I have been acting; I did a web series last year called Tripling and that was fun. Azhar was good though most people don’t even recognize me in that film, I could barely recognize myself in the makeup! Another one of my web series called Going Viral just released . I have two more movies after this, so a lot of good and interesting work is coming my way. Some of it has done okay, some of it has not done so well, but I am constantly working, so I am happy with it.
You also tried your hand at direction with President is Coming, which got honest reviews. What was the actor to director transition like?
It was a big challenge because I had never assisted anyone. I directed a play called the President is Coming and Rohan Sippy saw that play. He thought we could make it into a nice film and he asked me if I would direct the film. I was very excited about it, but I had never even assisted any director. Though, I had been on a lot of sets as an actor.
I didn’t know how things worked, so I really needed to rely on the resources of other people. I realized that directing is basically using people, your actors, DOPs, the sound person, editor and so on. It is basically the use of people and how you choose to use them and that was a learning for me. At that time, it literally felt like I was doing a crash course on filmmaking. That was a learning curve and it was difficult but I had a good team and it was a lot of fun. I would love to direct in the future.
The roles that have been offered (to me) have been because of Delhi Belly
Let’s talk about your latest film The Final Exit. It is a complete contrast to the light-hearted roles we’ve seen you in. Was that a driving factor to take up the film, create a new image for yourself?
It was precisely that reason because as an actor you constantly want to break out from what you are known for. I love doing comedy and I’ll always do comedy, I don’t think I’ll ever give that up. But it is nice for people to see you in a different avatar. I don’t see myself as a comedian, I see myself as an actor. People end up laughing at what I am doing in films, but I am just acting. Plus, I don’t feel that I need to bracket myself into anything. I wanted people to see me in something different, I’m excited at the prospect and The Final Exit was a step in that direction.
Horror as a genre is not explored much in Indian cinema, were you hesitant about the treatment and subject at any point?
There have been romantic movies that have not done well even with huge star casts. Therefore, I think any genre, if done well, will work whether it is horror or comedy or romance. If comedy falls flat nobody is going to come and watch it. I really think that it is high time that people made horror films. It is a genre that people seem to love in our country, but we haven’t given them something to love in a long time and we are hoping that The Final Exit is that movie.
I wasn’t really hesitant to take up the movie. Ultimately, horror is a director’s medium. You are creating fear and what can be more fun and challenging for a director than to create that atmosphere and mood. Horror is such a pure form of filmmaking and it is underrated in India. In fact, it’s treated as an adopted child or a step child, which is sad. I think if done right, horror can be very exciting and exhilarating.
As an actor you constantly want to break out from what you are known for
You play an intense disturbed character in the film, was it difficult to understand his mindset?
I am playing someone who is very dissatisfied with his life and is looking to fill that void through drugs or intoxication. He is a womanizer, which is very strange for me to play (laughs), but that is the kind of guy he is. He is a trying to fill a certain void and emptiness in his life through all of this.
As for understanding the mindset, it was hard since I am an optimistic guy and I am very content and happy with what have, so it was a little difficult. But that is where working with Dhwanil Mehta (Director) comes in. We read the script a few times over, discussed the character, came up with words like discontent and dissatisfied, which define the character. This helped because when you read the script, it is just dialogues, but you need certain words to understand the kind of person you are playing. Understanding the character was an interesting process.
Besides movies, you have been active on the digital space. Last year it was Tripling and recently it was Going Viral. What drew you to the medium?
I have worked with Anuvab Pal (Creator of Going Viral) for a long time. We have done podcasts together, we also wrote the film that I directed and I have acted in a play that he has directed, so we have collaborated on and off over the years. For better or worse, we are stuck together! (laughs)
He came up with this idea a few years ago and finally Amazon Prime commissioned it and he quickly wrote a season of eight episodes. Before we knew it, we were on the floor. I have always loved working with him because it is a tone of humour that I really enjoy. It is completely crazy, farcical and it also makes a little bit of commentary on our life. I love seeing somewhat serious things conveyed in a crazy way. You are laughing but at the same time there is a certain undertone to it. If you think about it, it is a comment on the society as well, which is what I enjoy about his writing.
He has put together a good bunch of actors and Amazon Prime was a lovely platform to be on and OML was a good production house to be in. Plus, I love the fact that the series is always going to be out there for people to access. There are no weekend expectations, there is no Friday to deliver and Monday to assess; we have time for it to grow and garner appreciation.