Bollywood actress Vaani Kapoor, who recently celebrated her 35th birthday in Dubai, has almost mustered up the courage to go skydiving in this city. However, her fear of Shah Rukh Khan — her dream co-star — continues to cripple her.

“I have absolutely no confidence to walk up to him,” said Kapoor in an interview with Gulf News. A day after her birthday, we were in her hotel suite at the Palm Jumeirah, discussing her wishlist and things she wants to accomplish. Khan is one of Hindi cinema’s biggest cultural exports with immense star power, clout, and blockbuster appeal.

“Even though he has met me, and we have sat and talked once, I still don’t have the confidence to approach him because I don’t want to crowd him. I am a very awkward person,” said Kapoor with a laugh.

But Khan surprisingly was blissfully unaware of her reservations and made her feel welcome.

“He was so kind and was so generous to speak to me, despite having met him just once,” she added.

The self-described “introvert”, who made her debut with the Sushant Singh-starrer ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ in 2013 and topped it off with her memorable turns in blockbusters such as ‘War’ with Hrithik Roshan, is slowly learning to let go of her inhibitions. But she's still a work in progress. 

In a freewheeling interview, we caught up with the actress on life, her love for cinema, and her pet cats who have her heart. Here’s Kapoor’s take on …

Turning 35 this month and ringing in her birthday in Dubai:

“Age is just a number and I still feel 12. It’s all about how you feel mentally emotionally, and physically. Luckily, I am still active, healthy, and fit. And I believe I am getting wiser by the minute, learning something new and then having to unlearn and figure things out … I love Dubai and I couldn’t think of a better city to ring in my special day. Dubai feels like home because I am familiar with all the places and restaurants. We have all decided that we will go skydiving in Dubai on our next trip … Trust me, I am not very adventurous unlike my sister. I was never the one who wanted to be on any giant wheel, and I have no fetish for adventure activities, but recently I did a show that had scope for me to attempt action. And that has made me ballsier, so I am now contemplating skydiving in Dubai.”

Bollywood actress Vaani Kapoor with actress Raashii Khanna in Dubai.
What's life without friends? Vaani Kapoor with friend and actress Raashii Khanna in Dubai to ring in her birthday this month

Failure being her stepping stone to success:

“Anything challenging motivates me and I don’t like not being able to pull off something challenging. I want to try even if I fail. I am not ashamed to fail, and that feeling teaches you a lot more. I am sure that I don’t want to do the same thing that everyone is doing. I have always aimed to do something different.”

Her role in ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ being that tough role:

“I read that script in the midst of the pandemic when I couldn’t even meet director Gattu, Abishek Kapoor, in person. I didn’t have any discussions, but I still said yes to that film based on the script and one conversation over the phone with Gattu. We were always on the same page when it came to perceiving Manvi, my character. He’s one of the few directors who give you room to express your ideas and merge them with his vision. Gattu is an insanely cool person with no façade to him. He’s unabashed and authentic.”

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui
Vaani Kapoor and Ayushmann Khurrana in 'Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui'

Being a part of ‘War,’ one of Bollywood’s biggest action adventures:

“I am still known as the Gungroo girl [a hit song from ‘War’] or the ‘Nashe Se Chad Gayi’ girl [a hit song from ‘Befikre’] and many identify me with that song. I got so much love for these films, and I am witness to their joy when they approach me and speak about those films … I have always followed my heart, and so far, my heart has not led me wrong, at least professionally. My biggest victory is that I worked with the right people. Even when I am 80 years old, I know I am going to look back and feel proud of my work. Recently I did a film called ‘Sarvagunn Sampanna’ with Maddock Films and Dinesh Vijay. It’s a slice-of-life social comedy, and I have an empowered role in it.”

Working with Hrithik Roshan:

“He’s a fabulous co-star and is one of my all-time favourites. He's a lot like me. I am extremely fond of him and he's a warm and chivalrous man."

Hrithik Roshan and Vaani Kapoor in War
Vaani Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan churned out a blockbuster with action adventure 'War'

Something the world doesn’t know about her:

“I come from a super competitive family. My father and I used to play chess as a kid. While we both love playing chess, the competitiveness among us couldn’t be ignored. Imagine, my dad would sometimes get mad when he knew he was about to lose. He used to leave games midway and we both fought like kids. So I take after him.”

Bollywood actress Vaani Kapoor
Bollywood actress Vaani Kapoor at Taj Dubai. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Bollywood being a brutal place to survive:

“Absolutely, your pride and self-respect may take a beating. While I would never compromise on those fronts, you just have to learn to keep your ego aside at the end of the day. You’re literally always doing what you have been asked to do -- whether it’s taking instructions from a filmmaker, theatre producer, or during promotions. There’s a chance of you losing yourself in the bargain. So you have to learn to maintain that very thin line and balance, that mid-path where you do your job right and you listen while respecting your audience and the people around you … I love my job and I am passionate when I talk; many may find that I have too many opinions. There are times when your actions are misconstrued. The fact is that I am introverted and I am constantly working on my confidence level. I am that shy and awkward girl who has to really put an attempt in today’s social media era of oversharing. I often wonder whether there’s a place for introverts in today’s times. The fear of being lost in the crowd is constant.”

Her life philosophy:

“I want to live in the present. I don’t want to jog my brain to the future or the past. The present needs to be celebrated and enjoyed. Many are always living in the future and that takes a huge toll on stress levels. I have learnt to be happy in the present and I believe in enjoying the moment right now.”

Ranbir Kapoor and Vaani Kapoor
Ranbir Kapoor and Vaani Kapoor while promoting their film 'Shamshera'

Her most precious item at home:

“I love animals. I have two cats called Kiki and Coco, and they are very cute. I adopted them and they melt my heart.”