Kunal Kapoor: 'Veeram' is my most emotionally challenging role so far

Updated: Dec 05, 2016, 10:38 IST | Sonil Dedhia

Fresh off 'Dear Zindagi', Kunal Kapoor talks of playing the anti-hero for Malayalam filmmaker Jayaraj's 'Veeram', which is based on Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'

Kunal Kapoor learnt Kalaripayattu for his role in Malayalam film Veeram
Kunal Kapoor learnt Kalaripayattu for his role in Malayalam film Veeram

His appearance in Gauri Shinde's Dear Zindagi as an ad film producer Raghuvender has managed to resonate with the audience. And now, Kunal Kapoor, the man with the easy dimpled smile has moved on to his next film — Tigmanshu Dhulia's Raagdesh, a film based on Indian National Army trials slated to release next-year."

The other project that he is busy with is the role of the anti-hero, for Malayalam filmmaker Jayaraj Rajasekharan Nair's (often referred to as just Jayaraj) Veeram, which was screened at the recently concluded International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa and opened to rave reviews. The film, which is a historical drama, is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Shot with a reported budget of more than Rs 50 crore, the film has been made simultaneously in Malayalam, Hindi and English. In a chat with mid-day, Kunal talks of his selective appearance on screen, shooting for Veeram and how marriage to Naina Bachchan (Amitabh Bachchan's niece) has changed him.

Dear Zindagi is your third release in four years. Are you being selective about your roles?
I don't think I have ever been choosy about my work. Any actor would love to do as much work as possible. It's just that I didn't get enough scripts that were exciting. I don't want to take up work for the sake of being visible. Also, some times the industry typecasts you. So, I was offered roles similar to what I portrayed in my earlier films like Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, Aaja Nachle and Bachna Ae Haseeno. Now, I am doing some good work with my next release, Veeram. I am also in talks with a few other filmmakers. So, hopefully, you will see more of me in 2017.

How did Veeram happen?
Jayaraj sir approached me with the film and it was a dream come true to get a chance to work with somebody like him. I heard the script and immediately and gave my nod because the director saw me in a completely different way. It is a role which has so much transformation, layers, shades and complexities. The big question was how to bring a new perspective and at the same time retain the soul of the characters, but Jayaraj sir has done a fabulous job. This is the first time I am playing an anti-hero in a period film, and shooting in three languages so, there are many firsts for me with this film.

The film is based on William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Would you say that you have pushed your limits with your roles in Veeram?
Macbeth is always a challenging affair. My character starts as a celebrated warrior and ends up a ruthless tyrant. There are many different shades that I had to bring to this character. Also, with the film often being shot in three languages simultaneously, we'd finish the scene in Hindi, then repeat it in English followed by a take in Malayalam. Yet, we finished the entire film in 45 days. We shot almost 18 hours a day.

You went through a lot of physical transformation as well.
Yes, there was a lot of discussion of how my character would have to look on screen. Jayaraj Sir wanted me to gain muscle in order that I looked physically intimidating, so I had to bulk up. I hit the gym and put on almost 12 kg. I also learnt Kalaripayattu and got weapons training with urumi (a sword with a flexible whip-like blade) which helped me in the film as my character uses a lot of weapons. I had to make it look as natural as possible. Veeram is probably the most physically and emotionally challenging film I have done so far.

There have been comparisons to Bahubali.
It's unfair to make comparisons as the two are different. The scale, story and characters are poles apart. It's typical of what a lot of people do to compare something that is successful to something that comes after it. It's easy to put certain films in a box and find similarities, but this should not happen.

It's now been almost two years since your wedding. How has life changed?
Naina and I knew each other for six years before we got married in February 2015. So, she has always been comfortable with my profession. We constantly try and take time out for each other and spend as much time together as possible. Whenever our work permits, we take off for a holidays. So, it's been a great journey.

Does she complain if you are unable to give her time due to work commitments?
Not at all. She is happy that I have been doing some interesting work. She knows how much acting means to me and, therefore has been supportive of all the decisions that I have taken. Marriage has brought a lot of stability in my life.

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