Janhvi Kapoor: Pardon me if I sound arrogant….

Bollywood actress talks upcoming survival thriller Mili, career choices and more


Ambica Sachin

Published: Wed 2 Nov 2022, 6:02 PM

There’s no escaping Janhvi Kapoor. Having made her Bollywood debut as recently as 2018 with Dhadak, the Hindi remake of Marathi hit Sairat, the Kapoor scion’s intense act as an upper-caste girl who falls in love with the ‘wrong’ boy, was probably not a stereotypical pick for an industry kid.

The daughter of film producer and director Boney Kapoor and one of Bollywood’s most luminous presences on screen, Sridevi, Janhvi’s entry into the haloed portals of the glitzy world of Bollywood was foreshadowed by the tragic passing away of her mother in a freak accident in Dubai, an event that sent shock waves through the world. But the grief struck 21-year-old debutant pushed on, rallied by support from family and friends and the goodwill of fans.

While Dhadak went on to be a commercial hit, the movie also came in for criticism for glossing over the intensity of the caste issues from the original version.

It was evident that a star was on the anvil. She may have been unfairly compared to her legendary mother in the early days, but unperturbed by the unrelenting media glare and harsh social media trolls, she has held forth and gone on to prove her mettle by picking up roles in movies that have defied the norms of standard Bollywood fare.

Cue her second appearance in Netflix anthology Ghost Stories where her section was helmed by none other than Zoya Akhtar. Janhvi followed it up with a solid turn in the biopic on the real life aviator Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl (2020). The movie showcased her range and her next choice further cemented her status as an actress who revels in going against the grain as far as roles are concerned. Horror-comedy Roohi may have missed the mark but Janhvi’s performance as a small-town girl with a split personality gave her enough material to showcase her histrionics.

For an actress who at 25 has done such multi-faceted roles, Janhvi has definitely broken stereotypes about star kids and their propensity to appear in airy movies where more attention is paid to the budget of the heroine’s wardrobe than a solid script. It’s difficult to pigeonhole this actress for whom Bollywood may have come easy courtesy her glamorous lineage, but one, which is not impressively reflected in her career choices. Or it could be the security of the same lineage that offers her the flexibility to experiment with challenging roles that many others may demur to pick up for fear of upsetting the mould.

“Pardon me if I sound arrogant …,” she responds when we admit to finding it hard to pigeon hole her due to her multi-faceted appearance in Bollywood. “I don’t want to be pigeon holed. I don’t want to be put in a bracket because I think that I can do it all… I think the minute you put me in a pigeon hole my inherent personality is to try to break it and do the opposite and the most unexpected thing. And that’s what excites me as an actor.”

That excitement is, of course, evident in all the roles she taken on, be it her last release, quirky dark comedy Good Luck Jerry, a remake of Tamil hit Kolamaavu Kokila or the more enigmatic horror comedy Roohi that came before it.

The young actress who is known to court attention with her fashion forward appearances be it for film promotions or during her personal outings in Mumbai, India, is in a rush during our brief chat ahead of the release of Mili, a Hindi remake of the Malayalam survival thriller Helen, out in UAE theatres on November 4.

Directed by Mathukutty Xavier, who helmed the original version as well, the drama follows the story of nursing graduate Mili Naudiyal who has to fight against odds to survive after being locked up in a freezer. Starring Manoj Pahwa (who plays Mili’s father) and Sunny Kaushal (who plays Mili’s boyfriend Sameer), much of the movie sees the actress fighting the elements on her own, with no co-actor to play off against. In a recent interview Janhvi has admitted she is best in scenes where she doesn’t have to spout dialogues, instead relying on her facial expressions to convey the right emotions.

Mili seems to be the right vehicle for a young actress, scouting for roles to prove her range, though she admits it was her dad Boney Kapoor who was more keen for her to do the movie while she may have initially harboured some reservations about taking it on.

“My father felt very strongly about the film,” she tells us about taking on another South Indian remake so close to her last release Good Luck Jerry. “He felt very moved by it and I think he saw a lot of me and him in the father-daughter relationship in this film. And it also felt like a very exciting challenge as an actor.”

Janhvi with Manoj Pahwa in Mili
Janhvi with Manoj Pahwa in Mili

If the original Helen (played brilliantly by Malayalam actress Anna Ben) is anything to go by, Mili must have been an extremely challenging movie to make especially the scenes which showcase the actress fighting the cold and frostbite.

“I fell very ill during the making of the film,” Janhvi admits. “Mentally it took me to a very dark space and I still get triggered when I think of how tough it was to shoot the film.” At the same time, she is clear that shooting the film was “an experience I will never forget. I came out stronger from it and with a lot more confidence.”

As for all the rumours that she had to put on nearly seven kilos for this role, the actress known for flaunting her figure on and off screen, says it’s true. So how does a young actress, whose calling card is to a certain extent her hourglass figure, make peace with it, we wonder. “It wasn’t very tough to put it on,” she explains. “It was during the lockdown and I was organically putting a lot of weight and Mathu sir (director) was like, this is what I want from the character and I continued.”

“When I was starting Bawaal (with Varun Dhawan) I was still a bit heavy but in Mr. & Mrs. Mahi (alongside Rajkummar Rao) my director is like, you need to lose weight and look athletic so that’s been tough.” Then with a slightly forlorn look; “I’ve been dieting very intensely of late.”

Mili marks a milestone in Janhvi’s career, as it is her first in-house production venture with dad Boney Kapoor. But she asserts that he was not an interfering producer and it was the director who took the call on set for all her performances.

“He played the role of a producer with as much professionalism as any other producer would and I don’t think he ever put the father cap on. I was the actor and he was my producer and when I’d come home, he was my father and I was his daughter.”

During a recent media interaction Boney had laughingly referred to the duo as “bhai-behen”, and the bond between the two is evident from her conversation. While personal questions were strictly forbidden during our interview, Janhvi has recently spoken about how protective she is of her younger sister Khushi who is making her Bollywood debut with Zoya Akhtar’s The Archies alongside Suhana Khan and Agastya Nanda.

The Kapoor siblings have had to grow up overnight under the harsh glare of media lights, and if there’s one lesson they probably learnt from it all just like Janhvi tells us she walked away from the set of Mili with, it is “… that your body and your mind can take a lot more than you expect it to - you as a human are a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for.”

Mili is out in UAE theatres this Friday, November 4

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