BY ANUJ RADIA
Ishaan Khatter, The half-brother of actor Shahid Kapoor and a dance expert from Shiamak Davar’s academy, now strides his way into the world of cinema with Beyond The Clouds.
Comparatively to some of the other Indian film debuts, Ishaan’s has to be one of the biggest and most prestigious.
After all, it’s not every day you get to debut in a film which is helmed by an internationally acclaimed and Oscar-nominated filmmaker like Majid Majidi. That too, backed with music by award-winner, AR Rahman.
The movie narrates the story of 19-year-old Amir (Ishaan Khatter) who, when on the run from the cops, finds his estranged sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan). Tara, in a bid to protect her brother, lands up in jail.
In a candid chat with Asian Style, Ishaan Khatter opens up on his career, dance and family.
Ishaan, ‘Beyond the Clouds’ is a tale of human relationships, how much could you personally resonate with the film’s narrative?
A whole lot. I felt like there was a lot to this character that I could relate to on a personal, especially towards my character’s emotional graph in the film.
But at the same time, there were characteristics of this boy that I had to build and create. I did feel that there was a lot I could resonate with, emotionally.
How would you best describe your character ‘Amir’?
I would say that he is a young, energetic and robust enterprising boy. Amir is somebody who finds ways of making a living. He has this rough exterior that he’s built which is almost like a defence mechanism.
Amir is hard on the outside, but inside he is just a young boy who has his emotional chord very strongly connected to his sister Tara [played by Malavika Mohanan], from whom [the sister] he has lived apart for a few years – when you see him in the film and the narrative begins.
He was orphaned at a very young age, so he’s had to be independent and fight his way through life.
Majid Majidi is a highly acclaimed filmmaker. How did he mentor and guide you throughout this journey?
At first, I made it a point to spend as much time around him as I could. He predominantly speaks Farsi and can speak Basic English, so we would have a translator on-set at all times.
I found that spending time with him and getting to understand him – as a person and filmmaker, helped me to develop this synchrony with him and understand his vision.
I feel that Majid sir guides you in ways that are often a mystery to an actor. One does not realise how he moulds the actor and pushing buttons for an individual to perform in a certain manner.
Majid sir is someone who is extremely focused and meticulous. He, naturally, has this leadership quality and everybody wants to adopt that.
His method of working with actors is very spontaneous and his text is so strong. It’s his choices as a filmmaker like to shoot on live locations rather than built sets.
At often times, he does not have junior artists in the shot and will allow his actors to interact in a real environment. That encompasses a natural feel to the scene.
Ishaan, if you could literally look ‘Beyond the Clouds’ what do you wish to find and why?
Ah, that’s interesting [laughs]. I would hope to find a new dimension to myself and be able to interact with my future self.
How does Shiamak’s dance skills contribute to your development as an actor?
Oh, a whole lot. I feel that dancing and music, in general, are huge contributors to my sense of timing and instinct as an actor. The rhythm plays a huge part in everything.
I was born and brought up in a household where my mother [Neelima Azeem] who is a Kathak exponent, she’s a student of Pandit Birju Maharaj. She has travelled the world, representing our country. She was in a postage stamp at the age of 14 – so it kind of runs in our blood.
Those early impressions of understanding music and dance alongside observing the arts and culture have really formed us into the performers we are today – especially my brother and I.
Learning from Shiamak was a delightful experience. It was one year of very intensive training. He [Shiamak Davar] has been a teacher to my brother for years.
I think it was a really special thing for him, to watch me grow as a dancer. The overall experience with Shiamak was extremely enriching, physically, for me, as a performer.
I learnt a lot of tools that has stayed with me ever since. I also developed my physique and learnt a lot about training.
That year was integral for me to grow as a performer.
Your brother Shahid Kapoor is also an excellent actor. How supportive has the ‘Bade Bhaiyya’ [Big Brother] been in your life?
A lot! He is been like a father and he’s a paternal-figure in my life. Shahid is almost 15-years older than me and he’s looked after me ever since I was a child, in more ways than one.
He’s always been there to advise me and give me guidance. He also shares his journey as a performer with me.
Since we are both passionate about the same thing, we really bond over that. So, we really do have a very special bond.
Who is your inspiration in cinema and why?
I watch a lot of cinema and it would be very difficult for me to pinpoint one inspiration. But I definitely like to say that cinema itself is the inspiration.
The diversity of cinema as an art-form and the fact that there are films worldwide that have such a connection with the audience and have convey so much.
As I watch a lot of world cinema, cinema itself has a very big influence on my life. There are actors all over the world that do something beyond their capacity and I find that very inspiring.
So, I have a long list of actors whom I am inspired by and names are added to that list every day [laughs].
Since you grew up in a family of terrific actors was this profession always on the cards for you?
As far as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated and passionate about the performing arts. When I was growing up I took more serious steps in order to develop myself as an actor and dancer.
This profession, acting, was always something I wanted to do. What was lovely, is that I grew up in a very liberal household and I was never pushed into this direction.
Nor was I inhibited from following my instincts and pursue acting because they were understanding and of course, I come from a family of artists.
I’ve always been passionate about this.
Listen to our interview with Ishaan Khatter right here:
Overall, it is not easy to breakthrough into a competitive and cut-throat industry like the Indian film fraternity.
But it seems as though Ishaan has truly put his heart and soul into his work in Beyond The Clouds.
His next venture Dhadak is an adaptation of super-hit Marathi film Sairat and from the posters, it seems to be equally intense as the original film.
Produced by Karan Johar, Ishaan will be featuring opposite Sridevi’s daughter – Janhvi Kapoor – who makes her Bollywood debut with this romantic drama.
One looks forward to seeing what this potential new Bollywood heartthrob has to offer in his upcoming projects!
Beyond The Clouds releases in cinemas from 20th April 2018.