Mumbai is a notoriously hard city to own a room in — the rules are different here. During brunch at the upmarket Indigo Deli in Andheri, the staff’s attention veers more or less equally between four tables on Tuesday. Three of them belong to almost-famous faces, actors from little known soaps and reality shows, earning barely more than a curious glance from the ladies at lunch. The fourth, occupied by director Sanjay Gupta, a dimpled baby and an equally dimpled Dino Morea, emerges as the clear favourite: waiters are always a discreet gesture away; girls fluff their hair as they walk past, smiling, first at the baby, then at Morea.
All this changes when Aditya Roy Kapur enters the room.
Unlike their predecessors, Bollywood’s newest generation has not embraced melodrama en route to stardom. Shraddha Kapoor, Aditya’s co-stars from his first blockbuster Aashiqui 2 (a Rs 100-crore spinner, where he plays a depressive, alcoholic lover), or even more established colleagues like Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Kalki Koechlin (from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani), are not the kids who go to rehab, battle depression, hide guns at home and slap people at parties. Like them, Kapur too exudes a squeaky clean wholesomeness — his ‘rise’ to stardom, much like theirs, has been more of a steady ascent.
Born in Mumbai, always relatively well-off — his mother, Salome Roy Kapur, is an ex-Miss India-turned-choreographer, responsible for Rishi Kapoor’s swinging hips in the iconic Main Shaayar Toh Nahin — Aditya is the youngest and arguably the luckiest of the three Kapur brothers. Though his eldest brother Siddharth, CEO of UTV Motion Pictures and husband to Vidya Balan, could ostensibly make that claim, his meteoric success is underpinned by years of hard work, and a painstaking climb up the corporate ladder (the self-proclaimed Bachchan fanatic was working with Star TV in Hong Kong before he decided to come home to his kind of cinema). Kunaal, the middle brother (Nitin in Delhi Belly, and Kalki’s plump and gentle beau in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani), grew up making occasional appearances on television (even then, ‘plump and gentle’ Sanju on Just Mohabbat), and was a permanent fixture in Mumbai’s theatre and comedy circuit.
Meanwhile, tall, well-built, impossibly chiselled Aditya was “bumming around” in college when someone first suggested that he give VJ-ing a shot. A few years later, director Vipul Shah suggested that he try acting in films. Cut to 2012, the Bhatts suggest he is the right fit to play the lead in Aashiqui 2, and it is as if Aditya was always around, waiting to skip the queue to stardom. That other Kapoor boy, Ranbir, has been giving Aditya tips of late on how to handle the throngs of screaming women. “You have to give them a little love ya, you can’t just walk away,” he grins over his pizza. Given the packaging, the easy charm, the proclivity to fame, Aditya certainly has the potential to be much more than just screen-candy — there are moments in Aashiqui 2 when RJ’s alcohol-fuelled rage and vulnerability are palpable, and while Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani offered little scope to act, Aditya (a brooding alcoholic once more) manages to make his on-screen resentment of Ranbir quite real.
But these are, as Aditya says, “the early days”. When his first flush of success abated, after working with Vipul Shah and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he remembers months of unsettling silence, a phase spent “thinking too much about the self”. With two blockbusters this year, the noise around him has grown — perhaps a warning of the deafening silence that could follow.
At present, the deli has mysteriously been cleared out — the staff is in full attendance around our table. It wasn’t too long ago that Kapoor was one of the barely acknowledged faces here: he’s been “some VJ”, “that guy in London Dreams”, “the dude with the Afro in Action Replayy” or “Hrithik’s friend in Guzaarish” for the past 10 years. Now, heads swivel, pausing to gawk as he walks by. His entourage of managers (all female) smile. In a city accustomed to ignoring celebrity, Aditya Roy Kapur has finally earned a double take.