“Who am I to reject an offer to work with John Abraham?”

Pick Your Language

She’s seen two sides of the spectrum too soon in her acting career that has taken a detour after Aashiqui 2. From a time when no one had anything worth her while to offer to now, when everyone in the top rung of filmmakers is queuing up for her dates, life certainly has changed. Her acting prowess now stands somewhat unchallenged. The challenge ahead perhaps is to sustain what she has achieved this summer. A star at the cusp of superstardom, here’s Shraddha Kapoor’s most honest conversation on everything that life and her three films have taught her!
Success is difficult to handle they say. Some are addicted to it, and do just about anything to have it. Some take it in their stride and move along, without feeling a sense of ownership for it. Some lose their mind while some know what a safe distance between their mind and success is. Heavy literature, right? But if you took a minute to analyse these words with respect to the dozens of newcomers entering show business every Friday, you’d know these words aren’t shallow.

Shraddha Shakti Kapoor is a girl, who holds her head high today, relishes the sense of accomplishment that has set foot in her life after the musical, Aashiqui 2, became a hit, and is still sane enough to know her ‘well-wishers’ from her loved ones. It’s indeed a happy high for the actress, although it has been five months since the film released.

“The happiness is only increasing. People in a long time haven’t seen two newcomers whose previous films hadn’t worked too well becoming success stories with a modest film. People tell me through tweets and mails that they’ve seen the film 20-30 times. I get feedback in the most unlikely ways. I was at Baramati for dahi handi. There were 1.5 lakh people shouting out for me but calling me Aarohi.

It gave me such an immense sense of gratitude,” beams Shraddha, who believes people take her a lot more seriously now as an artiste.

“People seek my opinion, and listen when I speak. This is the outcome of a certain Friday of April. I know that this adulation is because of the last good work I did. People have changed around me, which is good, but I can see my genuine well-wishers from those who have turned towards me only because I’ve had a big hit recently. When you look at such people, you know what induces that behaviour. So long as I can differentiate this, it’s fine. I’m happy I have a strong family that puts me in my place by shouting and yelling at me when I go wrong,” she adds.

The 20-something actress believes Aashiqui 2 was her Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. It popularised her as Aarohi, the way the 1996-hit made Kajol a household name as Simran. She agrees a hit like Aashiqui 2 bestows a huge amount of responsibility on the shoulders of an artiste, and she is working on choosing her next films, keeping that in mind. Reportedly, she has offers: Mohit Suri’s The Villain, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Hamlet adaptation, Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Milan Talkies, and a couple of more though she doesn’t divulge details for professional reasons. But her career, she insists, has taken a complete U-turn today. Before this year ends, she will be seen in a friendly appearance in Punit Malhotra’s Gori Tere Pyaar Mein. 

However, this petite girl hasn’t conveniently forgotten her past two films because she’s landing one big offer every day now. She debuted with Teen Patti, in which she played a girl who circumstantially comes into her own. The film tanked, and the period that followed was filled with anxiety and self-introspection. For the longest time, Shraddha had no offers in hand to look forward to. Determined to make it work, she hung on to her dreams, thanks to her mother, and went through a tough audition before landing her second, Luv Ka The End, with Yash Raj Films.

“If you have a hit, line lag jaati hai, and flop ke baad koi nahi hota. This line is so true. I have experienced it first hand. I have experienced that feeling of no one wanting to work with you because your last film tanked. It was miraculous that I landed Luv Ka The End. I didn’t even think about returning to my liberal arts course in Boston in the interim. I didn’t know what to do. I had to make it work because this is what I wanted to do. My mum put me in line. I tested for Luv…. with five scenes and three songs. It took a whole day but somewhere I knew I’d get it. I had worked really hard for it. It did better than the first film,” Shraddha recalls, adding that she had to work extra hard to make people believe in her again.

Aditya Chopra, the man at the helm of affairs at Yash Raj Films, cast her in his first Y-Films venture, when no filmmaker was looking to casther in his film, small or big. The film worked but it left the film company and the actress in a scuffle of sorts. She was in a three-film deal with the company. It had been over a year since Luv Ka The End, and Shraddha hadn’t signed another film. She dropped out of her contract with the company when she was offered Mohit Suri’s Aashiqui 2. The episode left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.

“After Luv Ka The End, I was waiting to see what comes my way. I wanted to be careful with my next. I read those few scripts that came. None excited me. I continued with my routine. I spent time with friends and family, doing various classes, gym, yoga and meeting people. I learned a lot in that phase. I used that time constructively. The wait was difficult but it wasn’t bogging me down. And when Aashiqui 2 came my way, I was ready to give an arm and leg for it,” she reminisces, adding, “I don’t want to get into the minute details but working with Yash Raj Films was a life changing experience which I will look back at with happiness. His company believed in me when no one did, which will stand out all my life. It’s one of those times when no one believes in you and there’s one person who shows faith. Adi showed that faith in me, but I couldn’t say no to Aashiqui 2. I hope that I work with YRF again, really soon.”

Her musical extravaganza turned out to be the anthem of romance. The music, the performances and the direction worked well. Understandably, no one had imagined what the degree of the outcome will be. Mohit had approached Shraddha because he’d seen her interacting with her mother in Marathi with oil in her head and her glasses on. She quite literally took on the mighty YRF banner because of the role and the kind of romance the film spoke of. She admits she had a feeling that it would touch chords but never thought it would become a landmark in her career.

Her father, Shakti, had seen the film when she wasn’t in town. He gushed about it over the phone to her. He had adjective-laden praises for Mohit and Aditya but not a word for her. Only when he met her, did he tell her that he was extremely touched by her acting abilities, with tears in his eyes and pride oozing out of his face. But wasn’t he perturbed by the intimate moments she shared with her co-star Aditya, given that fathers are usually quite possessive of their daughters?

“I knew what I was getting into and what the moments were. And even he was aware because he had read the script. Baaps (as she fondly calls her dad) had no concerns in mind after that. He knew how everything was interwoven into the film. So, he was quite chilled out,” she says.

It might sound weird but a lot of people actually find it difficult to gulp that Shraddha, the daughter of a character actor, famous for his outright negative roles, rape scenes and an inane sense of comedy and well-timed punch lines, has made it to the top rung of newcomers. She’s being hand-picked for various plum assignments, and even then, isn’t letting go off her sanity. Is that because there were barely any expectations from Shakti Kapoor’s daughter? Had she been a superstar’s kid, wouldn’t that have led to sizeable pressure to live up to the famous parent’s image?

Shraddha pauses to think and avers that she still has huge shoes to fill, and faces tremendous pressure to deliver better performances each time she’s on screen. “My father is one of the most iconic villains and comedians of India. Crime Master Gogo’s fan-page on Facebook has insane amount of likes. My father has worked in over 700 films and irrespective of what I do, I’m never going to get that far,” she says matter-of-factly, adding, “I’ve big shoes to fill, so what if Baaps didn’t take the quintessential route to stardom? He is a star in his own right. My aunt Padmini  (actress Padmini Kolhapure) is another big name in the family that I have to live up to. And then, I just had a hit! Being Shakti Kapoor’s daughter doesn’t mean there are no expectations, and pressures.”

The actress hasn’t seen all her father’s 700 plus films but she’s impressed with him in the few hundred that she has. She believes he was extremely convincing in every part he played, and had the knack of terrorising heroines, and tickling bones. “He was so bloody good! I wondered how he could be at both ends of a spectrum at once. I’ve been star struck about my father ever since I started watching his films. He’s my favourite villain and comedian. But you know, I have the ability to separate my father from his profession, be in awe of him and gain inspiration from him,” says Shraddha with a smile, remembering how intrigued she’d be to see her father in his funny get-ups with fake moustaches, beards, shiny jackets and eye-masks. “I’d ask him, ‘Baaps, why are you looking like this? Why is your skin red?’ I liked a jacket of his which I have in my cupboard all the time.”

The actress’s school buddies, although knew that she was an actor’s daughter, wondered if he was like his screen self at home. She was often asked about it and had to bring her friends home, put them before her father, and he’d make them laugh with his witty remarks, which convinced them that he was a gentleman at heart, so what if he harassed the heroine and was bashed by the hero. Today, Shakti, who prefers to spend time with his family, wife and kids, often offers suggestions and advices to his star daughter who lovingly accepts them and follows them too. “Lots of advice is given and a lot is taken. I have experts at home and I’d be a fool not to take their advice, right?” she says rhetorically. Outside her family, she only trusts Mohit Suri for help and advice.

Success, they say, is like a double-edged sword or like a pill that relieves you of pain but has its own side effects. In Shraddha’s case, the side-effects were comments from her detractors that sudden success had hit her head. According to tabloid headlines, her arrogance had won her the new tantrum queen crown. It was also said that she had developed attitude problems and was acting difficult. A leading newspaper even stated that she had turned down offers to work with John Abraham in Welcome Back, the sequel to Welcome, and Akshay Kumar in Gabbar, stating that these heroes were too old for her to be paired with.

Bring this up and Shraddha takes off, “Everyone has their opinion which I have no control over. But at home, I get a different kind of

suggestion. They’re asking me to be more poised at work, which is difficult. So, people will say whatever they want to. Sometimes I feel bad about what’s written because it doesn’t even have a base. It’s true I was never offered Welcome Back or Gabbar. I don’t even know what really went down in concerns with Welcome Back.”

When prodded, she insists, “Who am I to reject an offer to work with John or Akshay? I have grown up loving Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar… and wishing one day that I get a film with them. I don’t have a problem romancing older heroes on screen. That is not even a question in my mind. What has age got to do with that anyway? If I’m convinced about my character, I will do my best to be true to it.”

Inevitably, we had to ask her if the rumours upset her relationship with John, because, apparently, it affected her elder brother Siddhanth’s rapport with the dimpled star-producer who was promoting him in a big way for Shootout At Wadala. “I have met John. And he is extremely sweet and nice. He didn’t embarrass me. He’s got a sweet persona,” says Shraddha, adding that her parents have always come to her rescue when she has been marred by controversies and rumoured reports.

They have tried explaining and helping her to detach herself from untrue stories written about her. “They have seen life and what comes

along with being a public figure. But if something really absurd is written, the way it was about Welcome Back, then it reflects so badly on me because I’d wished for the opposite actually!”

In the last four years since Shraddha’s foray, plenty of newcomers made impressive debuts. Girls like Aalia Bhatt, Parineeti Chopra and Ileana D’Cruz have made fabulous entries in Bollywood and have showed promise. But that doesn’t seem to bother Shraddha, who believes that the audience has created a space on the movie marquee to place her automatically after Aashiqui 2.

“I know there are newcomers pouring in big numbers but I want my work to be appreciated. For that, I have to concentrate on it. People will hate me and like me, and make space for me accordingly. And that is not in my hands after a point. The good thing is that with so many new people, there is new energy, new ideas and lots of smaller and moderate-sized films which provide opportunities to all of us, including me. So, if I will have a chance anyway, why bother about who debuted last Friday? It’s a waste of energy,” she says.

Trade analysts believe that if a trend like this continues, it might bring down the shelf-life of the typical heroine considerably because there will be a surplus of new faces ready to replace her at the drop of a hat. Shraddha disagrees, stating that Bollywood is now heading in a direction where character-driven roles are all that one looks for. “Look at Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts! They’re still central characters because their industry is more about character-driven films. And that might just happen here too. I absolutely love Rishi Kapoor. He was a hero and he still is a rockstar in every film of his. Our industry is changing and I want to be a part of this change,” she says with a broad smile.

For a long innings, it’s said, starting out early is essential. Her aunt Padmini started as a child artiste and debuted as a heroine in her late teens and continued to act for many years. Actresses like Madhuri Dixit Nene and Sridevi also broke on to the scene when they were extremely young. Ditto Shraddha. But the actress doesn’t believe in the concept of early risers. She thinks irrespective of when you start, it’s the characters you play that immortalise you in public memory, and not the number of years you spend acting or your numbered age.

“Shahid started really early. And in 10 years, he has such impressive films. Kaminey and Jab We Met are my favourites. Working with him and Vishal is on my wish-list for sure. I hope it happens. If it does, I know my Hindi will definitely improve,” says Shraddha, who sees Priyanka Chopra as her role model, and wants to act in as many genres as she can. She adds, “I’m glad I’ve not been stereotyped. That is what I admire about PeeCee. She fits in everywhere. She goes all out for it, and you can tell from her performances.” 

Rumours have it that Shraddha is dating her Aashiqui 2 co-star Aditya Roy Kapur. Love blossomed on the sets and has continued for long after the film is over and done with. Bring this up and she invariably denies the affair. “I would like to say I am single. I am not dating Aditya. We’re friends. When I’m dating, I’ll announce it at the right time. Aditya and I have laughed about our link-up because it came after the film, which is unusual. It usually happens just before the film releases!” she chuckles.

But hasn’t being an actress forced her to compromise the details of her personal life too often, thanks to speculations and rumours?

Shraddha says, “It’s tougher for the superstar heroines to have a private life who have a lot more intrigue around them. So far so good with me! People should respect an artiste’s life. And it’s also an artiste’s personal choice how much he or she would divulge, no?” 


 Rachana Dubey Sharma

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