For every actor there’s one eventful episode on a film set that alters their understanding of themselves and their craft. It’s a moment of startling reckoning for a talent and Bollywood actress Vaani Kapoor remembers hers rather vividly.
It was on the sets of 2016 Bollywood romance ‘Befikre’, also starring Ranveer Singh, where she was rehearsing a dance-heavy number with National Award-winning Indian choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant, whom she respected tremendously.
“On the first day, I think she was highly disappointed. I was so sad, that I actually went and cried thinking I got such a big opportunity and why they had bet on some newcomer like me … I had this huge responsibility and I want to prove that I am not a waste of time,” said Kapoor in an interview with Gulf News.
This actress, whose latest film ‘Bell Bottom’ is now playing in the UAE cinemas and will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on September 16, was wracked with self-doubt and a smidgen of self-pity.
“‘Befikre’ changed my whole perspective when it came to performing and dancing … I didn’t want to disappoint her [Merchant] and she has worked with best of the best in Bollywood. And I remember during my rehearsals, I had no sync, no rhythm, and I was a bit off. Your core needs to have that stability and I knew I had to work on my core strength. I lacked all of it,” said Kapoor. But she didn’t let that under-whelming day define the rest of her acting career.
Kapoor, who made her debut in the blockbuster ‘Shudh Desi Romance’ with late actor Sushant Singh Rajput and Parineeti Chopra, has come a long way since that disastrous working day.
In her career’s biggest blockbuster ‘War’, led by buffed Bollywood hunks Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff, the lithe Kapoor matched steps with the nimble-footed Roshan with a dexterity that would put a trapeze artiste to shame.
She also has big-ticket Bollywood projects including Yash Raj Films production ‘Shamshera’ with Ranbir Kapoor and ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ with Ayushmann Khurrana under her designer belt.
“Many people, after they saw me in ‘War’, asked me if I were roped to a harness while doing those moves on the wheel … I was not! The truth is I am not a dancer, many people just assume that I am a dancer. But I have no professional training as a dancer and Bollywood was my grounds for training and learning,” said Kapoor. In ‘War’, Kapoor had to be in top athletic form to pull off scenes where she’s on a swing pole and a Cyr wheel — a far cry from her questionable form during ‘Befikre’ where she felt she was struggling to nail the dance moves.
And, she’s keen to move forward in her career.
Often described as top producer Aditya Chopra’s discovery, Kapoor is keen to do stronger roles in films. Her eight-year-old career is a mixed bag of hits and misses. Even if her role is brief in films, she has managed to make her presence felt – be it in the spy thriller ‘Bell Bottom’ or in ‘War’.
For this actress, it’s not the length of her role in a film that dictates her career choices.
“I do look at roles, but the script is of the most utmost importance… For instance with ‘Bell Bottom’, I got a call in the midst of a pandemic. I was sitting at home where they go: ‘let’s shoot this movie’. At that time when I got the call nobody was even stepping out and here I was getting work,” said Kapoor.
She firmly believe that being a tiny part in a big film has worked well for her in her career.
“Sometimes, you need to look at the bigger picture … As long as I find the concept and script interesting, I look at it as opportunity,” said Kapoor.
The last two years of the pandemic, which brought the prolific Bollywood film industry to an abrupt halt with the closure of cinema halls has been an uncertain time for Kapoor. She lives alone in Mumbai, while her parents live in Delhi and her sister lives in Amsterdam. She famously shot 'Bell Bottom' and 'Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui' during the pandemic.
“Everybody’s lives in the last two years has been put on hold … My parents were the most nervous when it came to me travelling abroad, taking a flight and going to a country where we don’t know the rules and regulations. And God forbid, if you test positive, they worried how I was going to come back … We are now working in an unknown territory,” said Kapoor. But periodic tests, being in bubbles while filming, and following all safety protocols helped them adjust to the new reality.
But is she happy with the roles that she’s being offered at this juncture in her career? The math is pretty simple, believes Kapoor. Strong roles are offered to actresses with a certain body of work.
“When you go to directors or producers and you ask them to take you in a certain film, such films don’t come that easy to you unless you are a credible actor and you have proven your ground. You need to have loyal audience who wants to watch you. Everybody charts a different course for themselves and I have charted mine,” said Kapoor.
The self-made actress, who was not born into an acting dynasty and made it on her own steam, claims she’s just grateful for being accepted among Bollywood fans.
“The films that have come my way has only helped me and sculpted me in several ways. They given me a lot of exposure. I have been blessed to work with producers, directors, and actors who have their A-game on. I am just a silent observer who is constantly learning on every subliminal level. I get to understand the industry better from best of the best and that’s my journey,” said Kapoor.
While she’s happy with her career and the way it’s progressing, she claims she is her own worst critic. Fortunately, all that love from her audiences make her stay afloat.
“Inherently, I am not a very confident person. I have a bit of my own instability and I am my biggest critic. But I don’t intend to change it because it leads me to places that have got me these fine movies. The more work you do, the more you open up as a person and as an actor,” said Kapoor.
“I might sound generic, but we have all realised deep-down about how grateful we need to be for our privileges. We are blessed to live in some modern times with so many facilities … After the times we had, either you become stronger or you collapse. I chose to be the former.” -- Vaani Kapoor.