Vaani Kapoor, who debuted with Yash Raj Films’ Shuddh Desi Romance alongside Sushant Singh Rajput and Parineeti Chopra, surprised audiences and critics alike with his taboo-breaking performance in Abhishek Kapoor’s blockbuster Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, co-starring Ayushmann Khurrana. The kind of appreciation and adulation that she received for playing a transwoman trying to live her life on her own terms and conditions was something that the actress had probably never experienced before in her career.
Kapoor is now in the spotlight for her latest film Shamshera, which stars Ranbir Kapoor in the titular role. Directed by filmmaker Karan Malhotra, the film also has Sanjay Dutt in an important role. During an interview, Vaani Kapoor opened up about her character in the high-profile period drama, how different it is from all the characters that she has essayed before in her career, her experience of working with a filmmaker like Karan Malhotra, and so much more. The actress also talks about how she is planning to break her long-held image of a “glamorous girl”. Keep on reading…
The film is set in the 18th century, so what kind of research did you do to perfect your part? Did you read any books to prepare for your character?
Of course, when I heard the script and the title Shamshera, it was about him. Karan did not choose me so that I could only dance in the film. There are many glimpses in the trailer but when you see the film, you will see that my character Sona has an arch. I mean there is an evolution. Her journey gets discovered too as the film progresses and how she becomes Shamshera’s strength, his emotional strength, you know. And a part of hers and the equation is that at times it turns out to be her weakness too. Just in general, you know, there is a lot of her to offer in the film. You have just seen her in a song and the trailer but when you watch the film, you will see that she has a graph where she, from a flamboyant, charming character to becoming a realistic character, which the audience can connect themselves to. And the way she connects to them on real and emotional grounds. So, I think it was a beautiful character. I have not played anything like this before and I never was a part of such films in the past. It was very unique and refreshing to me.
How was it to work with Karan Malhotra?
The fact that Karan Malhotra saw me in this film, was a huge thing for me. I have envisioned myself but the filmmakers did not until Karan Malhotra came into my life. After Shuddh Desi Romance (2013), I was only offered the desi roles. After Befikre, everyone thought that “Oh, she is modern. So, let’s just give her modern roles. We cannot watch her in a desi avatar”. Karan Malhotra, as a director is one of a kind who saw me as a perfect Hindi cinematic heroine and has portrayed the same in this film. And when I say this, it doesn’t mean that I just performed one song and came back. There is a lot of emotional connect and relatability and there is a lot more where the audience can connect themselves to Sona.
You have surprised everyone a lot of times in your career. Your last film Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui and the role played by you was like “What is it?” What kind of surprises will you throw at us in the future?
Yes, I really hope I keep on getting such projects. What happens is as an actor, you can only pick from what you get. That is exactly what has happened in my life. Whatever projects are offered to me, I chose whatever suits the best for me, whatever excites me the best. Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui was very special to me and Shamshera too is very special to me because it is an entirely different character, the character of Sona played by me in the film. I have never played such a role before. I aspire that I should be a part of such kinds of films. For example, I don’t wanna typecast myself. So, I just hope that I keep on getting films, I hope I get the opportunities to be part of good films. I can surprise people then.
Do you believe that audiences are becoming smart when it comes to watching and reviewing films?
Do you not want an audience to be transported into a different world through cinema? Do you not want that as an audience? We all want that. Like when I go watch a film, I want to be transported into that world, feel the connection with those characters, that world, that story. Learning about what has happened in their lives which I may not have experienced in my life and I am about to experience that. That can change something within me. So that is what the intention is.
Apart from Yash Raj, we have seldom seen you working for other productions. What kind of strategy would you like to apply to your films in the near future because you surely would have been offered a lot of films and you must have denied them too?
It’s not that I see the name of the production house to choose my work. Whatever work comes to me, I always see and analyse what works for me and what doesn’t. As an actor is there anything that excites me and that is what I look for. Like Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui excited me and a lot more films are offered to me but I did not connect or associate with them as I did not feel good about it inside. So, I try that I be selective and choose quality work over quantity. I think we all as actors chart different causes for ourselves. This is a well-thought decision that I have taken to be true to myself. The kind of person I am and the things that make me feel good, I feel I make sure I expose less and do good work so that I get much better work. So, I think there is no strategy as such but I try to pick whatever best that I can from whatever I have been given.
Shamshera is a male-oriented film and it is the thinking that actresses are typecast as a glam girl in such films. How do you see it and how will this film alter that thinking?
I think it is but obvious that because the story is not revealed, you are thinking in that direction. Because when the film was narrated to me, she was not a glam girl. She has an arch, a graph in the film where there is an evolution when she starts her journey and where she ends it and the way she discovers her own strength, and how she becomes the strength to Ranbir’s character. There is a realistic thought process involved and how she thinks like any other woman, how she understands and enacts in a given situation. There are many incidents in the film where you will feel that and I hope you do. Because the song is out, it might become a perception but you won’t carry that notion with you when you will see the film. When I was narrated the film, Karan and Ekta had made sure that the girl has substance, you know, she is not just an objectification, she is not just a prop in the film and I think I have taken home a lot from this film. Of course, there is a Ranbir Kapoor, there is a Sanjay Dutt sir, and there is a Karan Malhotra making the film. That all adds to me, that adds value to me. Because subliminally, I am taking a lot from them, you know, as an actor, as an artist. But the fact that this film, this story has given me a lot as an actor to observe, to understand, to learn. Impressing the audience is obviously no mean feat. I have never done it and I hope I do it because connecting to the masses is even more difficult, you know. playing a serious, hardcore character, an intense role can be taken into consideration but when you are doing a part where you feel that this role has less weightage or the scene has a subtle presence and when you grab their attention in that scene. If you can make the scene look interesting, not boring, that is a bigger challenge. But in this movie, Sona has an arch, I think once the film comes out, I hope you connect.
Shamshera is currently running in cinemas near you!