Karan Kapadia as a leading man - An Exclusive Chat!

Karan Kapadia came out with his debut film, Blank, with Sunny Deol in tow. An unconventional debut, of sorts, Blank saw Karan Kapadia make an absolutely stellar impression on critics and audiences alike. Despite the familial connection, Karan Kapadia comes across as a guy who is making it on his own – and read on to find out why we have that opinion. My chat with him was fun and informative, and very refreshing:

Karan first of all congratulations!
Blank released and your performance has received rave reviews.  Our reviewer specifically mentioned how much of a stellar performance you had so congratulations!

Thank you!

Karan, you’ve done several interviews where you’ve talked about wanting to become an actor since you were in your early teenage years, and battling with anxiety, so really doing it on a step by step basis. Is anxiety something that you still conquer daily and if so, how do you conquer it?

All I know is that it’s definitely still prevalent today. Sometimes people really underestimate mental barriers and it can be a huge obstacle, especially when you want to be creative and express yourself, expressing with your voice and stuff like that. So it’s definitely something I still battle with till date but it’s gotten better with time. I used to be extremely anxious earlier, so after doing a bunch of short films, I started when I was about fifteen years old and it started getting better. The more you put yourself out there, whether it's on stage or in front of the camera, I think you get more confident each time you perform. So I don't know if it ever completely goes away, but it’s definitely getting better.

It’s refreshing to have someone who is essentially a newcomer, although you’ve done short films and been an AD in the past, mention that anxiety is something they deal with. Especially since mental health issues aren't always highlighted in social media, more so with Indian celebrities. We are seeing more of the awareness now. So,  when you’re in front of the camera, what happens? Does something change? Does something switch? What happens for you?

To be honest, I don't really know what it is. You know, anxiety and mental health issues are such a big thing and they should be discussed I think on a wider scale, at least in our country. There are very few people who have spoken up about it - like Deepika Padukone with depression a few years ago. From that, you could really see how many people it had an impact on and I think people should definitely talk about it.

When I was in school, I often wanted to take part in plays with my friends but I could never do it because there was this thing stopping me from doing it and I always regretted it. And I missed out on some important experiences. So I would urge everyone to just put themselves out there. When I am performing, till date or even giving an interview, I still get really anxious, but I don't know what it is, once it sort of starts and you get into it, you sort of get more comfortable.

With me it's different, even when we’re about to shoot, my rehearsals are absolute rubbish. I can't be very expressive or vulnerable or do it the way I want to in rehearsal. But once that camera starts rolling and you know you have to do it, that sort of brings it out of me. So until I’m in that position where I have to do it, sometimes for me, I can't let go but that too is getting better with time. So I hope that this is something that I can conquer in the coming years.

You quite candidly said that in rehearsals you’re quite rubbish, you can’t give your 100%.

I can’t, I want to but it just doesn't happen. It's getting better but it just doesn't happen until I know it's the final thing and I have to do it.

So how do you deal in scenarios where, in short films some directors are very much into doing rehearsals, blocking, or trying to figure out where everything is going to be placed and as an AD you’ve probably seen all of this. You’ve seen blocking, you’ve seen rehearsals, you’ve seen that rehearsal take before the shot. So how do you deal with expectations of a director or AD where you’re expected to deliver in a rehearsal? How do you deal with that?

I think it becomes a little more complicated when you’re performing on stage because then you don’t have much of a shot with it. It's interesting because I just had an audition recently in the afternoon and when I went, they wanted to do rehearsals and blocking, so I asked them to just show me the blocking and then go for a take because you know my rehearsal honestly won't be that great. And then because of my anxiety and stuff, I started working myself up thinking what if they judge me after my rehearsal. So I just told them, let's go for a take and after that, since you can take multiple takes anyway, in your audition, you can request them to take 2-3 takes/shots at it. So I said let me do one and then you can tell me where I went wrong or what exactly it is that you are looking for that I couldn't deliver. So you know that's the approach I take. But if they are really insistent and they really want rehearsals, I just warn them that listen, this is a rehearsal, this is not how it's going to be in front of the camera, trust me, it will be a little better than this. So yea, you just have to tell them that, have a conversation about it, explain yourself and then I think it sort of works itself out.

You have mentioned that this Blank is not really a lunch, and it isn't. When you have a certain background, however, there are some expectations that come with being on screen. How do you battle that, knowing that you have some fantastic people around you, Dimple Kapadia Ma’am, Twinkle Khanna, Akshay Kumar. How do you balance this and push through so that your talent stands out? How do you mentally prepare for that?

Like you said, it was not a typical launch so that expectation isn't that much, or that pressure isn't that much. Ever since stuff related to Blank started coming out in the public, people didn't really know who I was, so I never felt that pressure as I was never associated to a particular legacy or reputation to begin with. Even in this film, because none of my family members are involved in any capacity in terms of the making of the film, I’ve never felt that pressure from people or from myself to live up to something, because I was very proud for doing this on my own. And the reason I wanted to do it on my own is because then the responsibility of whether the film is a success is solely on my shoulders, and I don't feel guilty that so and so invested money in me, or I didn't live up to expectations. So I don't think that did happen to me, at least in this film, because this was my own journey and I didn’t feel that anyone else was responsible but myself and the people involved. 

There is no doubt you are surrounded by some extremely fantastic actors and even writers such as Twinkle Khanna. I know you dabble in writing a little bit, what do you take from these people? What is that one important lesson that you take when you look at who you’re surrounded by? What do you implement in your life? 

In terms of the craft itself (acting) everyone’s approach is so different, what may work for one may not work for another. What I have learned from them is that it’s never too late to sort of reinvent yourself. Like for example, my aunt did a film and then she got married and then for ten years, she didn't do anything. And then she made a comeback at a time in the 80s when, for a single mom who’s just come out of a rocky marriage, it was a big deal to be a leading lady - and she did it so convincingly. My sister dabbled in acting and interior designing, and I think she’s found her true calling in her late 30’s, early 40’s. My mom was an actor first and then mastered costume designing because that is what she was best at. So I think what I've learned from them is that it’s never too late to try different things and reinvent yourself, to keep your head up and try different things and not give up. Sometimes things may not work out the way you want them to, but that doesn't mean you give up. You either keep at it or try something else. So I think reinvention is something I’ve learned most from the women around me. 

How wonderful. So, when you think of how everything has panned out and how your mind frame is right now currently, what does it feel like? Does it feel surreal like this has finally happened?

It does feel surreal but it never feels the way you imagine it to feel. It's always different. But yeah, it feels incredible. It's amazing to watch yourself go full circle when you watch yourself on screen and think you’ve made a film finally, especially since this was my dream as a little kid. So when I see it happening there is definitely a sense of fulfilment, but I’m also so excited to move on and move forward because I’ve been associated with this project for so long that now I do want to try different things. Apart from that, I’m extremely proud and happy that the film has finally come out, regardless of reviews or what people have to say - we are still proud of the film we’ve made, whether the reviews are good or bad and we don't have any regrets. So there is definitely a sense of pride, more than “oh no, I made it, I’m in a movie”, I’m just feeling proud you know, for everyone and of everyone.

Now with Blank, obviously Sunny Deol is a huge part of it. Now when you are in the same frame as somebody who is as powerful as he is, to be quite frank with you, although we have let go of many trappings of what a Hindi film hero is these days, we don't see it very often although we come across it every now and then with a movie like Simmba. But we’ve got more people who just like the normal everyday guy/girl next door type of looks. So when you’re in front of somebody as powerful as Sunny Deol, is there any hesitation or intimidation? What is that like?

I wasn’t intimidated but I was a little nervous because my first conversational scene in the film was with him, and as I said, I have problems with anxiety. So definitely there is, to begin with. But like I said, once I started doing it, after a few takes I got comfortable and after that, there was no looking back. Having him in the film excited me more than anything because there are so many first-timers involved in this movie (the director, the DOP and myself), so it was really good to have someone who was so experienced on the set. And in a way it forces you to be on your A-game, there is no scope for complacency. So I really cherished and revelled in the fact that he was in the film because that meant I was bringing my A-game every day. So I would say I actually looked forward to working with him as opposed to being intimidated.

Now I know you’ve said this a million times but its a first-time director, first time DOP. Is this refreshing for you? Because you have done short films, it's not as though you haven't been in front of the camera. Is that refreshing for you or is there some hesitation in you? Because sometimes we will see a first time director and then we will see a pretty established DOP. The DOP sort of works well with the director and says this is what can work, this is the better shot, so to speak. When you found out it was a first time director and DOP what were your thoughts and how do you sort of take that initially and what was your comfort level? 

Like you’ve said, with all first-timers, there has to be a lot of trust there because I’m working with a first time director and DOP and the first time director is working with a first time actor and a first time DOP, so it's a risk for them as well, from different aspects. So I think there has to be that trust in one another and as far as Behzad is concerned, we were assistants together back in 2010 so I've known him for 8 years and I know what his sensibility is like in terms of cinema. So obviously there is this trust. In a way, it was also good that I had known him for so long because in terms of my performance he could really be blatant and honest with me. Like if I was doing a really bad job he would say Karan, this is rubbish, get rid of this. So there was no beating around the bush. Since I knew him so well, I knew his criticism wasn't coming with malicious intent and he just wanted what was best for the film. So I think knowing Behzad for a long time really helped. And even those guys, myself included, this is our first feature but we’ve been working for a long time. Myself for 10 years, Behzad and R. Dee, the DOP, same if not longer. I think we’ve all paid our dues, we’ve done short films, Behzad has directed ads, been an associate, R. Dee has done music videos for films so I think we’ve all sort of paid our dues. We were so hungry to work together, that there was a lot of trust and the relationship we all shared was really good and we were pretty much like a family. I was never hesitant to work with first-timers because I really liked the vision and we could relate to one another in terms of our journey and the point we wanted to prove.


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Armin Sethi

Bollywood Film Fame Canada has been a source of original content consisting of real conversations, reviews, and news of everything film, music, and entertainment for 15 years.

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