My first memory of Janhvi Kapoor is from the promotions of her debut film, Dhadak. A shy girl who would fill in silences with giggles and hilarious anecdotes, she was mesmerising on the first day as she is four year later. But a lot has changed in her since the first time she stepped on a set, four years ago.
In conversation with cover star Janhvi Kapoor:
Confidence is the visible change in her. She’s very comfortable in her skin and she’s driven by a fierce passion for her work that takes the top of her list of priorities right now. But amidst the ambition to better herself every day, she finds moments of reality and humour that make her more relatable for anyone who meets her. She’s someone you will always be happy to have around you.
Talking about what has changed for her professionally and personally and what makes her take pride in her work today, Janhvi spoke candidly in an exclusive chat with LSA India, about her passion for the craft, the hard work she has to put in everyday and the warmth which she feels when appreciated for the work she’s done. Excerpts…
What have you been up to lately?
I just got back from the Maldives. I had a couple of days off, which I haven’t had in a while. And to be very honest, it’s making me extremely agitated and anxious. I need to be back on film set.
How long has it been since you were last on sets?
We were supposed to shoot for Mr. & Mrs. Mahi end of November, but Raj (Rajkummar Rao) got injured, so that shoot got cancelled. I think early November was the last time I was on a film set, and since then I’ve just been doing a couple of brand shoots and training for cricket.
From Dhadak to Mili, how much have you changed as an artiste?
I think I’m a lot more confident, for sure. I’m a lot less apologetic, and I feel more confident about taking ownership. I know what I bring to the table and what I have to offer. There’s a lot more self-belief. You fill up your bank as an actor to reach into the character that you are playing, and that bank invariably has been filled for me because I’ve seen a lot in the past four years. We all have, with the pandemic. So a bit of wisdom has also been achieved, and that makes me feel like I have more to offer in my craft.
What upsides or downsides did the pandemic have for your personally?
I haven’t reflected on what it did for me as an actor. Logically and monetarily speaking, there was a lull. It’s caused a huge shift in our business, there was the boom of OTT platforms and in terms of the kind of cinema that’s being consumed. Also, we didn’t spend a lot of time on set because of health concerns. Things like that obviously played a huge part of the last two years and I think a lot of learning and growth as an actor could have happened with the time that one could have spent on sets. But it turned out to be a learning curve for so many of us as human beings because of what we experienced and what was happening in the world.
Cinema went through a long lull when nothing seemed to be working. Your films, regardless of this period gained a lot of good reviews for the content and performances. Are you consciously carving a niche for yourself with movies like Good Luck Jerry and Mili?
I find it hard to look at my career and my choices from an objective point of view because I operate from a very personal space. I want to do the kind of films that I would enjoy watching and have the kind of growth that I think I would benefit from as an actor. By ‘benefit’ I don’t mean in terms of female stardom, I mean more in terms of growth as an actor. So that’s what it’s been about for me. For me, building a relationship of trust with audiences is imperative. Every decision I make, professionally and personally is made keeping the audience in mind and is made to cater that relationship.
Your sister is about to make her debut. Have your conversations and bond evolved since she started shooting?
It has. And the thing is that as an elder sister, all I can do is try to support her and guide her. But I really do think that she’s a lot calmer and more confident than I was. If there’s any wisdom I can offer her, it’s just to explain the mistakes that I made and make sure she doesn’t do the same things. But I realised that in relationships, life, or even in films, you need to have your own path and make your own journey. So, the only thing that we can do for her as a family is to offer our support in everything she chooses to do.
The new generation of actors has a wonderful camaraderie with their contemporaries. But is there any sense of healthy competition as well?
Of course, there’s a sense of healthy competition. I think at many points in our lives, all of us have been vying for the same role. In such circumstances, I’m obviously hoping that I get it over my contemporaries and I’m sure they felt the same thing on multiple occasions too. But having said that, I don’t think we wish ill on each other. I think we are very secure individuals that are capable of being happy for each other and respect that our professional ambitions are independent of that relationship.
In recent times, has there been a movie or a character that has inspired as an actor?
Alia (Bhatt) in Gangubai Kathiawadi. What she did and what she transformed into for that film, it was nothing short of magic.
Furthermore, you worked with some of the most celebrated thespians in your last four films, Janhvi, be it Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi or Deepak Dobriyal. What has that experience like for you, and what has been your biggest takeaway from working with actors?
I think the biggest takeaway has been that all these individuals, even though their craft might vary, and their approach might vary, is that they are all extremely consumed by their passions for cinema with a child-like will.
Tell us a little about your upcoming projects…
We’re done with shooting for Bawaal. It’s ready to be released soon, and I’m excited about it. I had the best time shooting for that film and it is everything that filmmaking should be. It was such a precious feeling that I’ll cherish my entire life. Mr. and Mrs. Mahi has been a tougher journey. We’ve all given so much sweat, blood, and bones, literally, to that film. I deeply believe in what these films are trying to say, so I’m hoping that it resonates with the audiences.
Moving to social media, does the negativity still bother you?
When I first started out, it was extremely difficult. I don’t think I knew what hit me. I didn’t realise how cruel people could be and how exciting it might be for them to hate on me. Sometimes, just my lineage is reason enough for them to point fingers at me. I didn’t anticipate all of this. But then I realized that it’s stupid of me to sit and sulk about it. Because look at all of the things that I’ve got in life. And honestly, even this resistance on social media is a blessing in disguise because I can either be bogged down by it or I can use it to fuel my ambition. I have great aspirations for myself, and maybe people also have greater aspirations for me. I’ve already got a head start and I need to justify it. I need to work doubly hard.
In moments of insecurity and doubt, what’s Janhvi Kapoor’s biggest pick-me-up?
Being on set and just being in front of the camera, doing the work… it just feeling like I’m working on myself. Nothing makes me happier than my art, my films, and the characters that I want to be. The idea that I’m working hard enough to make my parents proud, that’s my pick-me-up.
What do you enjoy doing the most in your downtime when you’re not working?
I think I like travelling a lot, reading, and watching movies.
Tell us the last three books that you read …
I read Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, the Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I actually re-read it. I also, quite enjoyed it, Palace of Illusions.
What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
I think my biggest guilty pleasure is maybe that I’m not guilty about my pleasures.
Speaking of your characters, who are you more like, Jerry or Mili?
Neither. I think I’m very different from all the characters that I’ve played. But I think in Milli, the way she is with her father and how much she dots on him and feels for him, it’s similar to my relationship with my dad.
If someone were to describe Janhvi Kapoor in a few words, what would you want those words to be?
You can’t put me in a box. I would want people to say that I can’t be described that I’m like a chameleon. I think for an actor, it’s important to be that way. I think I’m fluid, and I’d like people to think, rather believe that I’m talented. That validation I’ve yearned for a very long time”
What is the one thing that you love the most about yourself?
I practice what I preach, and I honestly think that I can be and do whatever I set my mind to.