Lesser F**ks You Give, the Cooler You Are: Rhea Kapoor
In a tell all interview, Rhea Kapoor the youngest producer in Bollywood speaks to The Quint about Veere Di Wedding and why she thinks that the least she can do as Anil Kapoor’s daughter is have some balls!
Essentially, what’s the message of Veere Di Wedding?
The message of the film is, ‘you’re better off making that mistake than regretting it for the rest of your life. There will be consequences when you will feel like a moron, but you’ll grow and you’ll become who you are supposed to be.’
Q: How was working on Veere Di Wedding different from your previous films such as Aisha and Khoobsurat?
I don’t know, it was complicated. The thing about this film is that, there are four girls who’re all making mistakes all the time. Just like you and I. We do the worst things with the correct intentions and the best things with the wrong intentions.
And sometimes, just because we are girls, it doesn’t mean that we are doodh ka dhula and that we don’t lie or cheat or do shady things. Yes, we want to be the best versions of ourselves, but we are not perfect, what I wanted is for one to watch the film and feel like, ‘Okay, I’m not a freak. And I feel like if you don’t feel empowered enough to fail and to make mistakes and to sometimes not be perfect, then you are not going to be an individual. You’re going to be like a cardboard cut-out of a human being that somebody else wants you to be’.
But that’s probably relatable for a girl who has grown up in an urban set-up?
No, I think it’s for everyone. Like the boys have also loved the film. While for some guys it comes as relief that they are finally watching girls that they can recognise and for some guys it comes as a little bit of a shock. But I think that at least it’s engaging. Swara’s character (Sakshi), for example, is in that phase of her life that my mother calls, ‘budhi brasht,’ (laughs) where you make all the wrong decisions for all the right reasons. I know so many girls who are in this phase of their life, where you just can’t get through to them. And then suddenly they wake up at 30 and they are like, ‘Oh shit, I did all these things!’
You are 31, so tell us what was Rhea Kapoor like when she was 18?
When I was 18, I was just greedy for life. I just wanted to do everything. I moved to NYU to study Dramatic Literature and this was the first time I was on my own. I have been really blessed to have progressive liberal parents, but I was still very protected. I obviously grew up in a very comfortable cocoon and not like NYU was like roughing it out or anything like that, but at least I was open to more experiences. And that’s also when I realised how important it is to make mistakes. That’s when fashion enriched my life also. Because being on the streets of New York, seeing people willing to make a fool of themselves... was the best thing in the world. And 18 was when I started to become much braver. I became much closer to my mother and a lot changed for me, those four years of college changed my life. Leaving Bombay changed my life and made me a much stronger and, I think, a cooler person.
I learnt a lot about relationships, I learnt a lot about sex, I learnt a lot about how sexual politics plays a part in you growing up as a girl, whether you have it in you, or you are having it or no. I learnt a lot about friendship, about people and all their different shades, just things that you don’t really see when you are in that little glass box.
And what’s your idea of being cool?
My definition of being cool is as you give lesser f**ks, you become cooler. It’s inversely proportionate.
Coming back to your evolution, Rhea Kapoor at 25?
At 25, I was already a producer. After Aisha, yes I was doing a lot. But as a personality, I was a little bit of a wise-ass. But apart from that, I haven’t really changed much. I am anyway in my own zone, I don’t go out that much and have my own set of friends. I’m not a very Page 3-ish person.
Rhea Kapoor today?
I have evolved, because what is important in life is becoming so much clearer tome. I can gauge people’s perspectives, much easier. It’s easier to swallow criticism. And I really feel like I know who I am at this point of time in life.
What is the worst thing you have heard about yourself?
First of all, I have no bones about being a stylist or whatever it is – I love beautiful things. But because you like beautiful things and you spend some of your time on that, people ignore the rest of your life. They feel like because you like beautiful things you must be superficial, or you must be dumb, or you must not deserve to be here or whatever. When I was young it used to bother me. But now I recognise it as misogyny. Because when boys talk about Ferraris or gel in their hair, nobody says they are dumb. But if you like a beautiful dress or a nice pair of shoes then you are trolled.
And how do you deal with these online trolls?
Honestly, it used to get to me at some point but not anymore. Because, now I am at a point where I’m so comfortable with who I am, that it will take some seriously nasty shit to get to me. Sonam gives it back occasionally and I try to control her, but she doesn’t listen. But as far as I am concerned, I am 30 years old, I managed to make three films, I have another career, I have a clothing line, I run my business – I’m happy!
Apart from films everyone is aware that your interest lies in fashion. If there weren’t fashion or films what would Rhea Kapoor be doing right now?
I am really interested in a lot of things. From beauty, food and beverage to interiors. I have done up this space (referring to the AKFC office) with Zameer Basrai. I spoke to my friend Pooja (Dhingra) she might open a Bistro, I might do that with her in terms of interiors. So really, I have no bones about going into spaces that are not familiar. I thrive on it and I think this millennial generation is also is a multi-tasking generation. It’s not fair to confine yourself to just one thing. I love food. I’m very passionate about music. I am obsessed with music, I had so much fun making this album.
You picked up Lisa Mishra and flew her down from Chicago to sing the reprise version of Tareefan. Tell us how did that pan out?
I was hash-tagging Tareefan and I love watching people cover my songs. I love those Musical.ly’s - they’re so shady. Like sexy people doing their moves and giving their take and I saw this girl. Karan and Badshah had both commented, so I opened the video and I watched it like 3 times and I was like she is not just internet good, but she is like good good. So, I called Ekta and it happened in four days, literally.
You have worked with Sonam in all your films so far. As we all know sisters are best friends, but they also fight. Tell us a little about how your professional relationship?
Now we’re basically telepathic, it’s almost become like a machinery. We’re just partners in everything. So, we just have the best working relationship. Like any relationship, we have our meltdowns and breakdowns and twice a year it’ll be damn bad. Like it gets bad like crying and screaming and shouting. But lasts only for 2-3 hours max. Someone says sorry and cries more. You see, we’re a dramatic family, no point in lying about it. But compared to how much we work together, we barely fight.
Has your personal relationship evolved because of working together or is it the other way around?
No. I think even if you are immediate family, you get so busy with your life that you lose that connection. I think I’ve been so lucky to work with my sister and my father because it keeps us so close and yes, it’s tricky working with your family but if you can crack it there’s nothing better. I feel blessed to work with my family.
What is it that you love so much about the craft of filmmaking?
I like putting an idea across and having so many channels to communicate it. I love that film is visual, it combines storytelling with music, or a character or a dialogue or even a space within a film. Like there are so many films where just a location becomes iconic and it says so much. Like The Royal Tenebaums, that house – Grand Budapest Hotel. When it comes to the brat pack movies, fashion. I love Midnight in Paris, because it’s just that little Hemingway and there is so much you can do. It’s just a dream world and if you do it well, with technology, it’s the most unadulterated glorious way to put a story across in today’s day and age. We can create a world and have people come into it. It’s exciting and I love doing it. And I want to do more.
For a layman, a producer is simply someone who mints money. Can you tell us what exactly does a producer do?
There are different roles of a producer. A producer can also be someone who provides the money upfront or someone who puts a project together and then sort of lets the creative brains do their job. A producer can also be a creative producer which is somebody who kind of partners up with the director to make sure that creatively and logistically, the vision comes to life. I put the project together and I am a creative producer, I am very involved with the film at every level. There is a lot of me in my films, especially Veere di Wedding and Shashank (Ghosh) and I have found this amazing relationship with each other. I can market a film the way he sees it, he can make a film the way I see it. We work together on the script and I am extremely involved. Also, the producer takes all the blame.
Those who have worked with you allege that you’re a control freak. Are you one?
I am a control freak and I make no bones about it. Now what to do, I am taking responsibility and saying give me control, but then also once I take the control and I f**k it up and then you tell me I f**ked it up it’s fine, I’ll take it. But then let me be responsible for it. I have no problem taking responsibility, I have a problem with people who have a problem to take responsibility. That’s what I have!
The styling of the film is certainly remarkable, with of course, Abu Jani & Sandeep Khosla marking their entry into films after almost 15 years. Tell us more about why you dressed up each character the way they have turned out?
Bebo’s character Kalindi, cares about trends the least. She has a wardrobe that’s full of old and new things. She doesn’t care about which brand she wears. She probably wears the same pair of shoes for like ten days at a stretch and doesn’t give a shit. She is a girl who lives by her own rules when it comes to fashion, she is just cool. I think fashionwise I relate the most to Kalandi, I don’t really care what’s trendy, I am just like that, I wear whatever comes my way. I basically raided thrift stores and vintage stores. I didn’t even want her to wear a t-shirt, which feels like it hasn’t been worn a hundred times. Everyone expected me to ‘glamazon’ her up, but I just wanted to make her that effortless fool. Just that chick that makes you feel, ‘Why can’t I look like her’. So, everything I got for her is timeless. But still it feels, I hope, contemporary. She is just that quintessential, cool effortless chick.
Sakshi (Swara’scharacter) is a schizophrenic dresser. One day she wakes up in the morning in a saree, one day she wakes up and wears shorts. She is that chick whose wardrobe makes no sense. She has no filter, she has no inhibitions of what she wants. She can go to a party in pyjamas, she can go to a lunch in a ballgown. That girl who is never appropriately dressed, is Sakshi. The party is in her brain.
Sonam’s character, is always appropriate. She is always well turned out. She has just the perfect sensible blouses, she wears the less jarring colours, she is very sensible and well put together, feminine. Everything has to be perfectly tailored for her. There is only once or twice in the film when she goes out of character and that is on purpose, because she is trying to do something out of her comfort zone. She is trying to live a little. And you’ll see that in the film.
Meera is Shikha, who is a mother. Her body has just changed, but she is very aware of her sexuality. So, even if she is a curvier girl, I still made sure I cinched her outfits in the right places. Meera is a mom who doesn’t want to look like an aunty. She wants to look hot. But then when she is off duty, she is in her Anokhi kaftans. I was so clear about the fact that this is the woman who lives in the middle of somewhere with her white husband, but she gets her kaftan from Anokhi on a yearly basis.
Despite hailing from a family of actors, you’ve struck out on your own and made your mark as a businesswoman. How was the response to that?
Dad was really supportive. In fact my family is quite chill, they are not like, ‘Okay let’s talk about this decision.’ They are like, ‘Okay do it, let’s see’. And turns out, they think I am a good producer. My parents are damn chill, they just want you to work hard, even if whatever ridiculous my profession was, if I worked hard - honestly my parents would not care and that has enabled me. That little courage, that has come because of them.
What’s your vision for Anil Kapoor Film Company?
I never want to stop making films for young women, it’s my comfort zone. It’s my sweet spot and I love it. For AKFC I always want to make entertaining films, that engages the audience but take it one step further.
And it’s not like other people who come here to struggle, they don’t have strength of character. They do, but it’s so complicated. Films are a murky business, you need 200 people to align at once and everything to go right for you, you need to have support. The fact that he is my dad has opened up doors for me, that I am not even aware of. So the least that I can do is have some balls.
I am not shy about the fact that I was able to make a film at 21, or because I was Anil Kapoor’s daughter. A lot of people will never get that opportunity in their life. I am so proud of my father, he’s worked so hard for over 35 years. And I can’t apologies from where I’m coming from. I only ever have one dad and he happens to be a successful actor and I am grateful for it. The only way I can express my gratitude, is by at least trying to make movies that others don’t have the opportunity to make. That might be a little harder for other people to make. I worked that extra and I make them. Anyway, people are just struggling to even become producers or directors, or actors and I had that opportunity, so I should make, a Veerey di Wedding or an Aisha.
On a parting note, what are the 3 things that the Kapoors do really well, apart from throwing parties?
While our parties are a big mess, we love feeding people… but that also tails down to throwing a party. But what do I do, I am a Punjabi. I guess, we are really good at being warm, close. Even amongst each other we are extremely close, we tell each other everything, we are always on top of each other, in each other’s laps and I still feel like we are a normal family!