Radiant beauty, distinct voice and a talent that speaks louder than any family tags… That is Janhvi Kapoor.
The daughter of late superstar Sridevi and producer Boney Kapoor, she impressed us in her Bollywood debut, Dhadak, which released last year.
A reboot of the blockbuster Marathi film Sairat, Janhvi plays a multi-layered character that exhibits an array of emotions, proving her worth as an actor.
However, behind this public created image of a ‘star-kid’, there is a charismatic, promising and hard-working individual.
Settling newly into her career, Filme Shilmy catches up with Janhvi Kapoor in a candid chat.
Congratulations on the success of Dhadak, you must be so happy and relieved about this. How has it been like settling in?
Yes, I am… I’m really happy about it.
The film industry as such wasn’t such a foreign place since I’ve been exposed to it all my life because of my mum and dad.
I didn’t really have unreal expectations from the industry but I think that what overwhelmed with is the kind of affection Indian audiences have bestowed upon me.
I really feel like it’s unlike anything else in the world.
I know there are actors all over the world but the way Indian audiences bestow you, it’s a different kind of love you get if you do good work.
Hopefully, I will do good work in the future.
Initially, you were quite shy in the public domain but now you seem more comfortable and confident. What do you feel has contributed to this change?
I think there are many things. I know the kind of person I am and I’ve been told that I take time to open up.
It’s a weird analogy but someone said I’m like an onion (laughs).
I think I just eventually became more comfortable afterwards as it was an overwhelming period in my life.
For a little while, I think I was sleepwalking through the process and I was overwhelmed but tried to put on a face and be a certain way.
It was a lot of things, I feel I’m starting to settle into myself.
Plus, it was also the age, environment and things that were happening in my life.
I’m not saying that it was anything out of the ordinary. People go through things all the time and are put in an extraordinary situation.
But that was my way of handling it, coming into my own and taking the time I took.
Shooting for the film was quite a tough experience for you. How did you deal with those circumstances at that stage in life?
There was no right or wrong way to deal with it because of the way everything happened, I don’t think anyone knew or how to go about it.
I just had a feeling that I needed to be back on my film-set again. It was the only that could (and has) saved me.
It helped a lot that I had a film to go back to and it saved me.
I remember thinking that I will just save everything that I was feeling and save it for the camera.
Now thinking about it in hindsight and since I’ve started shooting for my second film, I have started to feel more at home in front of that camera lens.
That kind of comfort it gives me is possibly the closest thing to comfort that I could get with my mother.
In my head I just told myself, ‘that camera lens is actually my mother watching me’.
Despite everything that happened, I was very sure of the fact that I didn’t want sympathy to play a role in my work environment and didn’t want anything to be different.
I just wanted to have that experience as honestly as I possibly could, which I am still trying to do.
What did you discover about yourself as a person throughout the making of a heavy movie like Dhadak?
I really feel like the pace of the film and of my character Parthavi as we were shooting it, slightly reminded me of my life.
At the start of the movie she is very naïve, sheltered and oblivious to real-life, there were weird parallels I could draw from.
I think I grew up a little bit through her journey and my personal journey, which helped me understand the role more.
It was art imitating life and vice-versa, a little bit.
More than anything, shooting for the film made me feel closer to our culture because I had the chance to live in Jaipur, Udaipur and Kolkata.
Getting to know my culture was a big takeaway.
If it wasn’t for that dream debut, in which direction do you feel your career would’ve gone in?
I really don’t know.
Maybe professionally it may have gone in a different way but I’m so happy that doing this film has made me stronger and got me closer to people like Shashank Khaitan (director), Karan Johar (producer) and Ishaan Khatter.
The entire team who worked on the film is like family to me.
I can’t really imagine how my career would’ve gone in any other way.
Today, I can still pick up the phone on Shashank or any other Assistant Director and I know that they’ll be there for me.
Professionally, I don’t know the kind of decision it was, but personally, it was the best decision for me.
Hailing from a high-profile filmy lineage, did you feel the burden of having to rise up to the family name and public expectations?
I actually never thought about it when I was shooting for the film.
It was only when promotions started and everyone asked me about the ‘pressures’ and ‘burdens’.
It tolled on me a little bit but then when the reviews came out, it tolled on me more because comparisons would be drawn between my mother, family and me.
I guess it is hard for audiences and critics to view you as an individual when your whole life has been in front of your family.
So I don’t really look at it as a pressure and consider it more as a blessing.
I have been blessed with their experience and it would not be good for me to allow the tag of ‘lineage’ weigh me down.
How did you brace yourself for the comparisons made with your mother?
I didn’t brace myself for it but it shook me up a little bit.
But I am happy and it’s only understandable that I remind everyone of my mom because there was a huge attachment to her.
I completely understand that sentiment.
Some people may have enjoyed those similarities whilst others might have been upset that there were more similarities with her… You cannot please everyone.
I’m kind of happy that it hasn’t been as easy as it would’ve ideally been because it’s just motivated me to work harder.
In a way, I am glad that it wasn’t wholly accepted and loved.
There’s a grey area and only the best can come out of it.
There are constant comparisons made between you and Sara Ali Khan. How do you not allow the pressure of ‘competition’ to get to you?
I don’t look at it as pressure. It’s natural.
There can’t just be one female actor at a time in each group.
I love her work so much and I so much adore whatever she’s done in her first two films.
Both of us have our strengths and weaknesses plus we bring different things to the table.
There will be a group that likes her and there’ll be another group that likes me.
So there is room to co-exist.
As far as this whole competition thing goes, this started only because – I think – from a very sexist place in our society that was pitting women against each other.
At the end of the day, it’s not doing to damage either of our careers/lives.
You’ve grown up a lot around Hindi cinema, but what impact did South-Indian films have you on you, given your maternal background?
A huge impact especially Dad would remake a lot of South Indian films in Hindi and we would take all decisions together.
We would watch a lot of screenings. Plus, I feel the majority of songs in our playlist are South Indian.
Even though I don’t understand the language I think the music is so beautiful and kind of work they are doing is incredible.
I mean look at Arjun Reddy and Chandramukhi… There is so much talent out there!
The same way I watch Marathi films, maybe I enjoy watching South Indian films a little more because the language sounds familiar to me and sounds close to home.
Moreover, I enjoy that culture a lot because I’ve grown up in it which has played a great role in my life.
Would you consider venturing into that cinema? If so, whom are you looking forward to working with?
I’d love to it really is a dream.
I would most look forward to working with an actor called Vijay Deverakonda. I think he’s an amazing actor.
I would also love to work with Dhanush.
I’ve also been a huge fan of Mani Ratnam sir!
We will be seeing you in a biopic, period drama and horror comedy next. What has determined you to choose these diverse films?
First and foremost, I think it’s the story, more than anything else.
The fact that they are the kind of films I would want to watch.
Plus, these movies are so different from each other.
The characters I’m playing in each of these films are of interesting, strong and independent women.
These are the characters that I draw inspiration from.
Listen to our interview with Janhvi Kapoor here:
What preparations are you undergoing for each of these films?
I realised that with each film, there has to be a different approach.
I’m also learning a lot about myself as an actor.
For example in Dhadak, we did a lot of readings.
On my next film, it’s important for me to read and understand the script and my character.
However, I prefer not doing readings at all. I rather just go on set and giving it a shot.
It all depends on the environment that is created and the kind of character you play.
It is fun to try out all these things but of course, there’s a lot of strength and physical preparations required for these roles.
The way people are respondent towards good script and good characters, an actor must completely surrender to the material and work hard.
I’ve realised that it’s important to have really well-written characters in our craft because (I believe) audiences like to feel that they can relate to what they are seeing on-screen.
I just want to do good work.
Janhvi has proven that dedication, talent and passion are what pay off in the end.
She has an exciting line-up of films to look forward to including Karan Johar’s Takht, the Gunjan Saxena biopic and Dinesh Vijan’s Rooh Afzah.
Here’s wishing her all the very best for all of her projects.