Harshvardhan Kapoor: "'Thar' is the most difficult role I have played"

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Harshvardhan Kapoor in ‘Thar’, which released on May 6, 2022. (Image: Netflix)

In Harshvardhan Kapoor’s fifth film, Thar, which just released on Netflix, the 31-year-old actor also took on the additional role of producer. In the Western noir thriller, written and directed by Raj Singh Chaudhary, Kapoor plays a mysterious man who arrives in a dusty small town in Rajasthan. His father Anil Kapoor co-stars as a senior policeman on the brink of retirement.

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From his debut in Mirzya in 2016 to Bhavesh Joshi Superhero and ‘Spotlight’, an episode in the Ray anthology (2021), Harshvardhan Kapoor’s filmography is making steady, measured and unpredictable strides. In spite of the commercial legacy associated with his father and sisters Sonam and Rhea, he’s unhurriedly and thoughtfully charting his own course. Excerpts from an interview:

What was it like wearing two hats on the sets of ‘Thar’?

Global Tech News Daily

As a producer, most of my work was during pre-production and then post-production. During principal photography, I was focusing more on my performance. In certain instances, I would have conversations with my HoDs to see if everyone was getting what they wanted in terms of footage, coverage and performances, and comfortable in the working environment. I did try to watch the monitor as much as possible because I didn’t want to come back to Mumbai to see a first cut that might shock me. I had to be as objective as possible about the film as well as my performance. It was difficult because I didn’t want to start overthinking my performance, but then at some point I was able to lose myself to the role. It was a very stressful experience but in a very positive way. Everything had a solution and most importantly Raj and I had a common vision, which we did not compromise in any way.

Also read: Thar review: Anil Kapoor is in topnotch form, but the lead characters aren’t satisfactorily realised

Global Tech News Daily

What was it like working with your father, Anil Kapoor?

We kind of broke the ice on AK vs AK. Sometimes the best thing a person can do is finding it in them to disappear and not interfere, because you don’t want to be intimidating. In AK vs AK, I was sure I was only there for two scenes and he came onto Thar saying this is Harsh’s baby.

He took a backseat and focused on his performance. Of course you don’t want your children to make mistakes but he let me learn from mine. He was very much Anil Kapoor the actor, and only when the first cut was ready did he become Anil Kapoor the producer. We combined our energies for the production and edit, but on set, our roles were clear.

#Harshvardhan kapoor, #thar
Harshvardhan Kapoor and Satish Kaushik in ‘Thar’. (Image: Netflix)

You once said that your ideal rhythm is doing one film every two years. ‘Mirzya’ came out in 2016 and ‘Thar’ is your fifth film. Do you intend to stick to this pattern?

Well, I really need the money now. I need to pay rent. So maybe I will do five films a year. I am just joking. I think that one film in two years was to get to focus on each one. So far I have done four films and one cameo. So it’s almost in tune, but for me, quality trumps quantity. I would not want to do something for the wrong reasons because I don’t see this as a job. It’s my passion. My decisions are not financially motivated nor are they motivated by delusions of fame, which is why the output is not as much as that of some of my contemporaries.

What have each of your acting experiences thus far taught you?

With Mirzya I was getting familiar with the camera. It’s a very quiet film, which is more about the silences and being a part of this world. We had a lot of time and creative freedom to make an intimate film on a large canvas. It was a unique experience for a newcomer.

Vikramaditya Motwane always has you on your feet. Bhavesh Joshi required a lot of improvising and putting your back against the wall hoping you fight back and find something. It is the most difficult shoot I have done. It was 90 days, lots of night shoots, long days, training montages, shooting in the rain – but that all comes through in the film. As a viewer I would have loved that film no matter who was in it. It opened me up as an actor and was a huge learning curve.

I had a two-year break before I got back on set for AK vs AK. That was a huge rebirth for me. For the first time I was playing a character who is loud, extroverted and seeking validation. I had only a couple of scenes, including one monologue, but I approached it like I was doing a whole film. The reception to the film gave me a lot of confidence and put me at ease.

I was offered Ray during lockdown, before AK vs AK came out. I was a bit down on myself and anxious because of Covid and the uncertainty of the times. Vasan Bala gave me this great opportunity. It turned out to be a very difficult role, of a self-absorbed, self-obsessed character that does not do anything heroic. How do people empathise with a character like that? I had to be ready to be self-deprecating. ‘Spotlight’ was very well received and it was also my best on-set experience.

After these films, I felt a real momentum building up. Then came Thar, which is the most difficult role I have played. It is hard to play a character whose motivations you don’t understand, someone who is cold and disconnected. And yet you have to find a way to engage the audience. You have to internalise the character’s thought process, which should seem authentic. A lot of work goes into finding those silent, quiet moments and the nuance to achieve a kind of magnetism that is not the centre of attention. This was very challenging.

Do you think your sensibility and choices subvert expectations in terms of mainstream appeal and an acting legacy?

I think my credibility has been built up with the films I have done. With Thar, there is a clear trend. I get a lot of encouragement from those who really like my work. It might be a smaller number, but they are very loyal and understand that passion is the driver. I am not trying to earn validation in the traditional way. I am not interested in a splatter-paint-on-the-wall approach to reach 10 million people. I am OK with a smaller number being impacted. I want to create my own legacy.

Thar has just come out, and then there’s the biopic on (Olympian shooter) Abhinav Bindra. Every film is original. It’s an unpredictable journey where you don’t know who your work will talk to. That’s exciting. And it’s still the beginning.

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