Rajit Kapur: ‘As an actor, you have to learn to switch on and off…. otherwise it could be dangerous’ | Art-and-culture News


Whether as Mahatma Gandhi in The Making of the Mahatma, as the original Byomkesh, or most recently as Jawaharlal Nehru in the web series Rocket Boys, Rajit Kapur has always impressed the audience with his impeccable acting. But the veteran artiste is equally passionate about theatre — a medium he has been associated with for over four decades. Some of his most well-known plays include Love Letters, Class of ’84, A Walk in the Woods, and The Siddhus Of Upper Juhu, an NCPA presentation in collaboration with Rage Production, which he recently performed in Mumbai. And, despite being busy with the rehearsals, the Uri actor took out time for us and patiently answered all our queries.

From his journey as an actor spanning various mediums to his love for theatre, and the need to disassociate with the character one is essaying — he spoke about all this and much more. Read the edited excerpts below:

You have been an integral part of India’s theatre circuit for a long now. How would you describe your journey with the medium?

I have been a part of the theatre circuit for about 40 years now; never really left it. I always kept my link(s) with it, right since I was in school and college. It’s been fulfilling and exciting — starting with the so-called ‘very, very English theatre’ and then moving into ‘Indian-English theatre’ with I am not Bajirao. So, it’s been quite satisfying, but one is still looking for different ways to explore this medium.

But you also have immense experience in TV, films, and now also OTT. Which of all the mediums do you find most challenging and rewarding as an actor, and why?

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Definitely, theatre because it keeps you grounded and there is a certain discipline it involves. It allows you to explore, search, and stretch as an actor because you get a chance to do so many shows. Also, it allows you to focus your energies and helps you to build up your concentration. So, it’s definitely a far more fulfilling and challenging medium. Furthermore, it keeps you on your toes. It’s a different kind of high — that exchange with the live audience which can create magic. There are no takes, once you are on you just go for it while enjoying the thrill of that moment.

Tell us about ‘Bubbles’, a character you have been playing for quite a few years now. How do you ensure that essaying the same role does not get boring and repetitive?

I have been playing Bubbles (Balvinder Siddhu) for more than eight years now and it’s still fun. For those two hours, I allow myself to become Bubbles and just enjoy. There’s so much trust between us actors, particularly between me and Shernaz (Patel). If you look at it from an actor’s point of view, we are still searching for those little things while performing. We don’t restrict ourselves to the idea that bas lines bolni hain, it’s more about enjoying being on stage and being a part of a production — that is what infuses a different kind of energy in you. Finally, it’s the love for the theatre that keeps you going.

You have performed across cities at multiple venues. Which Indian city/state do you feel has a genuine audience for theatre? Also, has the audience evolved over the years?

There are certain cities that have a very discerning audience, and you’ll be surprised that Baroda is one of them. Also, Calcutta is one such audience that looks into very fine details, they catch very small things and are very, very committed. In terms of how the audience has evolved, I think particularly in the metros, there are more youngsters who are part of the audience. When we started, the audience was mainly 30+ (years). There are more 20-year-olds coming to watch plays these days.

How important, would you say, is it for actors to keep reinventing themselves to avoid getting typecast in the industry — whether on stage or on the screen?

I think this is very subjective and depends from actor to actor. Certain actors are very comfortable in doing what they are doing in spite of it being repetitive. So, it’s an individual choice — how much an actor wants to explore and expand himself and does not apply to everyone.

Rajit Kapur Rajit Kapur and Shernaz Patel in a scene from the much-loved play. (Photo: PR handout)

How different are things for actors now from when you started out? Do you miss anything?

The major difference is that the supply is much more than the demand. You know, 25 years ago not so many people wanted to take on acting or become actors. Today, every third person wants to become one, and because of that there is more disappointment and exploitation — that’s how the tables have turned. And what do I miss? That ease of working. The stress levels have increased because of deadlines, marketing and promotion, so the actual time spent on working towards the project or a character gets reduced. The other pressures have become more important than focusing on what we’re trying to do.

After all these years, what keeps you motivated to work?

Basically, it’s the love for acting and a little beyond that is the want to stretch myself and explore more of myself within myself — is there anything more I can do? The possibilities are immense, so that effort of wanting to try is what keeps me going.

The play is a take on life on Mumbai — do you connect to the character you play in anyway?

Yes, the play is not just a take on life in Mumbai but in all the Metro cities because the stress (in cities) has got to everybody. People have started moving out; some of them have left cushy jobs and gone back to smaller towns, even pursuing agriculture. So, it throws a light on where we are heading, and in that sense yes I do connect with the character.

How important is it for you to resonate with the character you play? Also, does it get challenging to disassociate yourself with it?

You may not always agree with the choices a character makes when you are playing that character but you have to somewhere understand or delve into what makes that character move forward — what drives it, what pushes it, and what the essence of his thinking is. It’s important to understand and imbibe that whether or not you agree with the decisions, actions, or reactions of that character — that is immaterial and that is why we call is ‘acting’. But yes, I think it’s important to also disassociate yourself with it at the end of the day. As an actor, you have to learn to switch on and switch off  otherwise there are always possibilities of a character affecting you, which could be dangerous. It could have an effect on your mind, your brain, and your day to day thinking.

 Among the many roles you have played, which do you consider your best, and why?

On stage I would say, without doubt, its Love Letters simply because we have been performing it for over 30 years, and it still gives you goosebumps. It still makes me extremely nervous portraying somebody’s entire life from the age of 8 to 58 in two hours. It keeps you on your toes, allows you (as an actor) to explore such a wide range and tests you in so many ways in just those couple of hours. In terms of films, there’s one that comes along every few years that allows you to push yourself to give your best. But it is a collaborative effort with the writer and the director, and I cannot take full credit for that. So, whether it’s Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, my first film, or Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish and then a few years later The Threshold, Raazi, Birha — these are all roles where it felt like some magic has been created but that is not just the actor, but the energy brought in by the writer, and director also. So, its a collaborative effort and the actor cannot take full credit for that.

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