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The long act

Kunnal Kapoor is now basking in the glory of "Meenaxi... A Tale of 3 Cities". A chat with the actor having a foot in theatre


AS KAMESHWAR in Meenaxi... A Tale of 3 Cities Kunnal Kapoor entices one with his subtle performance. This newcomer chose an unconventional launch pad. Kunnal Kapoor may be a debutant in Meenaxi... but he is certainly not new to movies - having worked with ad and film-maker Rakesh Mehra for about four years.

He was assistant director for the Amitabh Bachchan-Manoj Bajpai's Aks. Having dabbled in different fields Kunnal is now busy with film and theatre.

Acting is what he always wanted to do. Wasn't he apprehensive of choosing Meenaxi... for a debut? "It was challenging and I had my own fears. I was initially apprehensive till I met the team. Strangely I wanted to start off on the unconventional route."

Working with an artist with a different vision was indeed an experience. "There was no static moment. There was tension and nervousness and this changed to respect in course of time. There were frustrating moments when I felt I couldn't get things right. Husain Saab speaks from a different level and I have not experienced that depth. He displays that kind of passion and has lived life very closely."

For Kunnal who grew up watching mainstream cinema, doing Meenaxi... was different. "This was poetry. It was an interesting set-up." Kunnal was not sure of making it to the film as he "made a mess of the screen test the first time. The first thing I was asked to do was to lose weight for the Jaisalmer part and that's easy for me though I didn't count the kilos I lost in a month."

Kunnal had to ensure he put in a "subtle performance. It's easier to get angry or show any other emotion. Doing what I had to do was difficult. There was a lot of nervous energy and it got channelised over a period of time and I got used to it."

Working with Tabu was a good experience. "She's a normal person and that is reflected on the screen. There were no ego hassles." "When I look back and romanticise on the film it's all very beautiful. I have got appreciation but there were moments when I felt `can I or can't I'," says Kunnal. It was after working with Rakesh Mehra that Kunnal found the place he wanted to be. "Rakesh gives every one a lot of space.

There was a lot of community feeling. I enjoyed the haphazard atmosphere of the sets. It was a good learning ground." Next Kunnal will be seen in a bi-lingual film Rang de Basanti (Paint it Yellow in English) to be directed by Rakesh Mehra.

"The film, based in Punjab and Delhi, has four protagonists - Aamir Khan, Atul Kulkarni, myself and the fourth one is yet to be finalised.

This script was being written when I was assisting Rakesh. I am playing the character I wanted to portray at that time. This film will go on the floor in September," says Kunnal, without revealing much about the film. "It's too early to talk about it."

Kunnal is not rushing into signing films. "I am reading scripts like the cliché goes but I have rejected many. I do not want to do many shifts at a time. I'd rather do one movie at a time." His family is happy because he has settled down finally.

This Mumbai-born-and-bred lad (who is trained by Kishore Namit Kapoor) did street theatre with Barry John for a while in Delhi. Right now he is working with Naseeruddin Shah's theatre group.

He stepped in as replacement for an actor in Manto Ismat Haazir Hai (based on stories of Manto and Ismat's) and another one based on Premchand's short stories. The latter will be premiered in May at Prithvi Theatre.

Reading is something Kunnal cannot resist. "I read anything." He maintains a diary where he pens his experiences of the day. "I look forward to the end of the day to do this".

Life is looking up for Kunnal Kapoor. Is it going to be just movies, movies and more movies? "There's no doubt that movies give you a great high and reach out to more than you can imagine.

They also give you name, fame and glamour. But I want to do just acting, acting and more acting."

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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