Family Reunion, Filmi Style

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Kunaal, Siddharth and Aditya: the Roy Kapurs on how they bumped into each other in the same industry where their grandfather had lost his fortune

With the likely success of Delhi Belly, there’s an unlikely, quiet interest gathering around the Roy Kapur brothers, two of who, Siddharth and Kunaal, worked on the comedy together. Kunaal, the film’s mainstay, was seen as the bumbling photographer Nitin who sets in motion a chain of scatological events, while Siddharth, who heads UTV Motion Pictures, was the co-producer.  

“But it was not really a close collaboration as such. In fact, I had no idea that Kunaal had auditioned for the role of Nitin. It was only when Aamir (Khan) told me, ‘Your bro is a really good actor,’ that I knew he was in the film,” points out Siddharth, the eldest of the three. The youngest is Aditya, a curly-haired former VJ who has acted in Action Replayy and Guzaarish.

A previously unheard-of name, Kunaal’s poker-faced comic act in Delhi Belly has shoved him into the limelight, and he seems to be enjoying all the attention. “Acting is fun; I have been on stage since my college days,” says Kunaal, who screen-tested for the role and was surprised to get positive feedback from the production team. “At first, I had no idea that there was an audition. A theatre friend asked me to help him out with a few lines. I ended up giving an audition. For a long time, I didn’t hear from the production team and had no clarity about my role, or even whether I would be in the film [Delhi Belly] at all.”

After an endless wait, when Kunaal was finally cast, he was in the middle of releasing his directorial film, The President is Coming. “It was tough to do the balancing act because things were overlapping,” he says, adding, “But I realised that Delhi Belly was too good a project to let go of. I had to find a way to multi-task.” 

What strikes you on meeting Kunaal is how similar he is to the goofy Nitin he plays in the film. “And [we are both] photographers,” says the 31-year-old who once worked with Boman Irani as an assistant. “Maybe that’s why I look convincing holding that camera,” he speculates, adding, “To your earlier question, I think more than goofy, I am messy—my cupboard is disorganised, papers lie everywhere, but I am nowhere close to Nitin in goofiness. He’s just crazy.” In real life, though, with his beard shaven off, Kunaal laments that he is not being recognised by crowds at multiplexes. “Maybe with the beard I would have attracted some autograph-hunters,” he sniggers.

On a more serious note, Kunaal says he enjoys direction more than acting. “Let us be clear about one thing, character actors don’t always get great roles. I don’t want to be there merely for comic relief. Frankly, I am more intrigued by direction. I have a lot to offer as a director,” says Kunaal, currently scripting a comedy which he’s slated to direct for Rohan Sippy’s company.

Not only Siddharth and Aditya, but their parents, too, loved Delhi Belly, declaring it to be one of the most daring attempts in Hindi cinema of late. “I was blown away when I first saw it. I was like, ‘Kunaal, amazing stuff, bro’,” gushes Aditya, while Siddharth contends that Kunaal is a natural actor and that he wasn’t surprised by his performance. “Kunaal has honed his skills in theatre. I knew he would do justice to what has been offered to him. He will be a great new addition to the industry not only as an actor but as a director too.”

At 21, while still in college, Kunaal acted in the teen show Just Mohabbat. That was his first major break. But he refrained from taking on more work at the time because he felt television wasn’t the kind of space he wanted to be in. “I consciously didn’t want to do any more television stuff. I wasn’t too happy with the quality of programming, and decided to stick to theatre,” he explains.

The Roy Kapurs grew up in a creatively charged atmosphere in an upper middle-class family in Cuffe Parade, a posh South Mumbai locality. Their mother was a dancer, and Kunaal admits to being hugely influenced by her. “My mom used to have a dance studio and there would be people around all the time. It was an electrifying environment to be raised in.”

His mother would tell them stories about their grandfather, Raghupath Roy Kapur, who arrived from Lahore in the 1950s and squandered his newly-inherited fortune on three films. “We grew up listening to that folklore,” he laughs, adding, “That was the only filmi connection. The sad part is I haven’t even seen any of my grandfather’s films, so I don’t know what the fuss is all about. I wish I had that much money to blow away on my film.”

As siblings, their collective memory is of watching television at home. “And a lot of movies—Siddharth and I were crazy about cinema and theatre. I have spent a lot of time watching films at Strand (an iconic theatre in Mumbai, now defunct), which was an old hang-out,” says Kunaal.

Siddharth, who’s now in the business of filmmaking, was appropriately obsessed with trade magazines. “When I was seven, I used to browse box-office collections religiously every week and was always keen to know which film was opening when, whose mahurat was happening, and the hits and flops. I was the most filmi of us all,” proclaims Siddharth. On the other hand, being the youngest, Aditya was the most pampered. 

“Yes, they keep telling me I was pampered. In hindsight, I don’t think I was. They are lying,” smiles Aditya, who says he was more interested in cricket while growing up. “He was a good fast bowler, and I think somewhere he did toy with the idea of becoming a cricketer. It was only when he became a VJ that he realised he loved being in front of the camera,” says Siddharth.

Aditya notes that the wide age difference between the brothers—Siddharth is 11 years older than him, and Kunaal, six—never got in the way of their friendly equation. “We got along really well. We have our memories like everyone does. Once, Siddharth directed me in an adaptation of The Sound of Music when he was in college, and I would act cool, telling everyone, ‘Hey, my bro’s a director.’ We used to talk and share a lot. We still do. I seek their advice all the time,” says Aditya.

Siddharth says he had never imagined that one day the three would land up in the same industry in what seems like a classic case of a Mahmohan Desai twist. “I was in a corporate job for a while, and growing up, it didn’t look like Aditya would have anything to do with movies. So, yeah, we are surprised to find each other here. We had never planned it this way.”

Now that they have somehow “miraculously” found their way into the movies, Aditya doesn’t rule out the possibility of working together. “I would love to be directed by Kunaal or Siddharth. Nothing is impossible. Now that we are here, we will certainly think of doing something together.”

Accepting Aditya’s offer, Kunaal assures, “Of course, I will direct him. I see a lot of promise in him. He has a certain endearing charm. You can see that here’s an actor who’s not trying too hard. I would like to tap some of that potential as a director.”

With their busy schedules, they don’t find too much time to spend with each other. However, despite staying separately, it is a family ritual to assemble at their parents’ home for lunch on Sundays. Aditya is alarmed by the restriction their careers has put on their mealtime conversations.

“Earlier, there used to be other topics that would comce up for discussion. Nowadays, it’s always films,” rues Aditya. Kunaal claims there is so much film talk around now that even their parents have taken to it. “Suddenly, mom and dad have also got into the act. They have become film literates.”