Interview: Uncle-nephew duo Anil and Arjun Kapoor’s real-life role get reel in British Punjabi family entertainer Mubarakan

By ANAND PILLAI

The first thing that catches your eye when you look at him is his big eyes and the size of the man. He is a big guy. The size perhaps may belie the vision he has set for himself. Apparently, he has set his sights on success with such tremendous focus that he sees only the eye of the bird, just like Arjun (of Mahabharata). It’s a sheer coincidence that we are talking about a person having the same name as the ace archer of the great Indian epic. Yes, you got that right. We are talking about Bollywood actor Arjun Kapoor.

He may have the best surname in Bollywood, his father Boney Kapoor may be a big producer, Arjun might have had initially the advantage of being a star kid, but that was long ago. Since his debut in Ishaqzaade in 2012, this well-read actor has come a long way, carving a niche for himself in the industry with hits like 2 States, Gunday and Ki & Ka. Undeterred by a few flops in between, he pulled himself up by his bootstraps to make a mark for himself in the industry. His “never give up” and “bounce-back” attitude has made him one of the most saleable actors in Bollywood today. He is looking forward to his next release – the much-talked about romantic comedy Mubarakan (Congratulations).

The movie, directed by the No Entry and Singh is King fame Anees Bazmee, also stars Arjun’s uncle Anil Kapoor, Ileana D’Cruz, Athiya Shetty and Neha Sharma. For the first-time superstar Anil Kapoor is teaming up with his nephew Arjun Kapoor. Produced by Sony Pictures Networks Productions, Ashwin Varde and Murad Khetani’s Cine1 Studios, the film will hit theatres on July 28.

Mubarakan, shot mainly in London, centres around a Punjabi migrant family living in the UK. Both Anil and Arjun will be seen sporting turbans in the movie. Arjun plays a double role in it. For the promotion of the film, the soft and gentle, yet articulate actor got candid in an exclusive telephonic interview to Asian Style Magazine on July 11.  

Anand: More than 80% of the film is shot in London. What was the experience like shooting in London?

Arjun Kapoor: Well, it’s the first time I have shot in London as an actor. We shot in the winter. It was amazing. I think it helped the film – the way it looks. The whole beauty of shooting in London in that atmosphere has really enhanced the prospects. The enthusiastic crew and the local people there and the location – everything was great. I think anybody who shoots in England, it’s beautiful. I think we got very very lucky that it turned out to be an outstanding experience.

What is it that attracts Indian filmmakers to London?

I think it’s the relatability and diversity. Even though you have so many cosmopolitan cities across the world, London is one place where the Asian foothold remains very predominant even with the western influence. Somehow the story is relatable even though it is based abroad. For an Indian audience, I think the way London is looked at is almost like a home away from home. I think that’s the one connect London has always created. It never feels like foreign land even though it is a foreign land. It has all the elements of being a foreign country, but when you dive in a bit closer you realise the connection with the Asian community is very huge.

What message are you trying to convey through the film?

Well, it is about joint family, immigration, egos, fights and other issues. But eventually love is what is more important and having the humility to connect with family comes above everything else. That’s the most important message.

How was it working with your uncle Anil Kapoor? Were there any inhibitions?

Oh, that was absolutely fantastic. The excitement was there. There were no inhibitions. I somewhere knew that I had earned the chance to stand in the same frame as him, so I was quite excited about sharing screen space with him. Also, incidentally, in the film we are playing the role of Chacha (uncle) and Bhatija (nephew) that obviously created more excitement than apprehension.

You are playing a double role in Mubarakan. This is not the first time you are doing such a role. You have already played a double role in Aurangzeb. How different is this one?

Aurangzeb role was more about swapping one from the other and one pretending to be the other and there was a mistaken identity and trying to create that dynamic of two brothers who are kept apart. The Mubarakan one is about two brothers who are constantly together in the entire film. And it’s not about mistaken identity but two different characters who share screen space together at all times. In that sense, it is very very different.

How easy or difficult is it for you to play double role?

It’s definitely not easy. I can tell you that. It is difficult because of the complexity technology brings in as well as your performance and having a co-actor. Doing it for comedy is even tougher.

Speaking of comedy, how challenging was it to make people laugh?

Well, it was exciting and challenging. I have never done an out-and-out comedy. So, for me it was very exciting. I was like a child trying to do more and more and get better and better. I really enjoyed myself.

Tell me one funny side of yours which your fans are not aware of?

I am actually a party person. It’s difficult to pinpoint one incident.

Are there any British cast in the film?

Yes, of course. We have British cast in the film. They are through the film. That’s because we wanted to make sure everything looks real and authentic.

How was it working with them?

See the thing is with actors eventually you find a common ground and you end up connecting and affiliating with them because of the work you are doing and so it doesn’t feel very different. They just happened to be from England and that’s the only separation. When you are on set everybody becomes the same.

Most of the new generation Indian kids (be it Punjabis, Gujaratis, Malayalees, etc.) in Britain don’t know their mother tongue. They speak English fluently but not their own language. How important is for an individual to remain culturally rooted and stay connected with his original identity?

Well, I think if you are born and brought up outside India then it becomes difficult to hold on to Hindi if it is your mother tongue. In your growing stage English becomes your mother tongue. But, of course, it comes from what the parents feel is important, the parents may feel it’s not about the language but understanding the culture. I know a lot of people who struggle to speak Hindi but still understand the cultural importance of where they hail from. But any child that is born and brought up in an environment that is not Indian might not be able to pick up the language because Hindi is not an easy language. Even if you can understand and communicate just the basic of it – I think it’s enough. I don’t think your cultural rootedness is only about speaking Hindi. It comes from a wholesome 360-degree perspective. Obviously, it is appreciated if you can speak more than one language because that allows you to communicate with lot more people but I don’t think that is the only way of knowing how culturally rooted a person is. Eventually tolerance is very very important. Knowing the parents feel a certain way, appreciating and understanding the grandparents, the festivals, being part of the bigger picture for the family and not just for yourself, I think that is what creates a culturally rooted environment. You may be born and brought up in England, but if you can be open enough to adapt to the fact Diwali is important, so you must take out time for it and spend time at home with parents, then even if you don’t speak Hindi all the time, your parents and colleagues who are Indian will appreciate you regardless. Believe in the culture first. It’s not about speaking the language alone.

Do you speak Punjabi well?

I manage but not so much. I understand Punjabi but unfortunately, I am not very very fluent.

How was it working with director Anees Bazmee? What have you learned from him?

Firstly, he is a fantastic writer. He has been around for the last 40 years in the industry. He is truly a genius when it comes to the genre – entertaining people, making them smile and laugh is no joke. He does it so well. It’s been a big learning curve for me. He is so sorted as a director. He is fully charged, comfortable and excited. He was always ready to lend a helping hand.

I heard the music of RD Burman in the trailer. Why is it that RD Burman still sells today even after almost 25 years of his passing away?

Well, we used a bit of the Yamma Yamma… tune (from the yesteryear multi-starrer Shaan). It was our tribute to Pancham da (RD Burman). His music is evergreen and everlasting and will always survive the test of time.

What’s your message to our readers? Why should they go and watch Mubarakan?

This film is a family entertainment. From age 8 to 80 you can take all your family members to theatres. It’s a clean and simple film. It deals with all your emotions that you feel deeply in your core. If you have grown up watching all those Hindi entertainers, you will definitely enjoy this as well.

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