Grusha Kapoor on her Acts!by Aparajita Krishna November 23 2021, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 15 mins, 12 secs
Aparajita Krishna walks down the road of actor Grusha Kapoor’s life, and career, which started at the young age of 15.
Grusha Kapoor is a child of theatre and one who has grown up in the wings and on stage. Little wonder that she took flight in acting. Her paternal grandfather, Shri Madan Lal Kapoor, ran a travelling theatre company, Bhopal Theatre. He chose theatre much against his own family’s approval. The paternal family were from an army background. A group of around 100-150 members would be travelling on trucks with tents and luggage from place to place to perform. Her grandmother Kamal Shabnam Kapoor was a shaiyara, writer, teacher. Her father Ranjit Kapoor, an NSD alumni, is a very acclaimed theatre-director, writer, actor, film-writer. mother Tisha has been a home-maker.
Her chacha Annu Kapoor, again an NSD alumni, is a good actor and one who has made a very successful career on television as a presenter of music programs. Her bua Seema Kapoor has done her puppet training under the reputed puppeteer Dadi Padamjee and is a writer and director. Grusha, a name of German, Russian origin means ‘wild horse’. It is also the name of the female protagonist in the landmark play The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht. Was her naamkaran done keeping the literary character in mind? The play is a parable about a peasant girl who rescues a baby and becomes a better mother than the baby’s wealthy biological parents.
“Yes, my father named me after the compassionate and loving character from Caucasian Chalk Circle. He loved the play and the character and so decided to give me the same name. While I was growing up I was very conscious of my name as it was extremely uncommon, but when I grew up I finally realized how unique it was and had such a rich backstory to it. I somehow feel aap apne naam jaise ho jaate hain.”
For someone who would be as much at home on stage, TV, film sets, it was perhaps a fait accompli that she become an actor. There is a photograph of hers as a child donning a costume while hanging out on the sets of serial Amir Khusro that her father Ranjit Kapoor had directed. She says, “I would be roaming around the sets in costume along with my brother.”
At 43 Grusha the actor has made her mark in selected works on television and web-series. She is deserving of much more. We get talking on her personal life and professional Act.
Tell us about your birth. What was your ambition as a very young girl? What is your earliest memory of theatre? Your first step on stage?
My parents got married in 1969. I was born nine years later. I have one younger brother. I had an elder brother. He contracted meningitis when he was 3 years old. He lost his mental health and remained like a 3 year old till the age of 27. My parents tried every treatment but nothing made him normal again. They suffered a lot and I feel their pain more now as I am a mother myself.
I am from Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, New Delhi. I could not attend college as I started working at a very young age. My ambition was to become a tennis player. I had a stadium right in front of my house, but I could never learn tennis as the tennis racket and training was very expensive. My parents could not afford it. I was good at sports. As for my earliest memories of theatre… I acted in a play directed by Mausi Amita Udgata for Sahitya Kala Parishad. I must have been 7 or 8 years old then. I remember getting a huge round of applause when we came for curtain call.
Do professionally assess from your point of view your known family members - Ranjit Kapoor, Annu Kapoor, Seema Kapoor.
All of them are achievers and survivors. Sometimes I feel blessed to have a family background like mine and at times I feel burdened by it, especially in my father’s case because no matter how much I read or study I will never be as talented as him.
My father Ranjit Kapoor is an extraordinary talent. People like him are born rare. If I have even 1% of his talent I will feel successful in life. He has mastery in the disciplines of writing, direction, music, painting, history, politics. Such talent is rare. Annu chacha is one of the best actors we have in our industry. He is so versatile. Be it comedy, serious or any kind of a role, he is outstanding in it. Only he can play Kabir in Kabir and Dr Sperm in Vicky Donor and Gandhi in Sardar Patel! Is it possible to have such a range in an actor! Bua Seema Kapoor is a brilliant writer. The way she feels about everything is so beautiful. She is a very sensitive person and has untapped talent and potential. She has a very deep understanding of everything. My mother used to be a singer in my grandfather’s company, but the day she got married to my father she wasn’t allowed to be on stage and surprisingly she was very happy with that as she loves being a homemaker.
Your television journey started with ‘Tara’ aired on Zee (1993 - 1997). It is a serial you continue to be associated with by a generation of viewers. It was telecast in early 1990s and ran for about 5 years. You made your debut as Devyani Seth and made a definite mark. It was one of the first Indian soaps on contemporary Indian women. It was written by Vinta Nanda, of which the dialogues were translated to Hindi by Varun Gautam and Sanjay Joshi, and directed by Raman Kumar. Tara starred Navneet Nishan, Amita Nangia, Rakesh Bedi, Ratna Pathak Shah. Raja Bundela, Neha Sharad, Shefali Shetty, Harsh Chhaya, Sushmita Mukherjee and others. Do summarise your experience and the value of that serial. Besides focusing on the life of Tara, the series also showed the lives of her three other friends, Kanchan, Arzoo and Sheena.
Tara changed or rather started everything for me. I did not expect that the response would be so tremendous. People appreciated my performance but honestly at that time, I never thought that what I was doing was great or difficult.
Maha-Yudh (1998) was your first feature film.
Maha-Yuddh was my first film. It was directed by K D Shorey, father of Ranvir Shorey. It never got released. He had launched his elder son in it.
In 1999 you acted in the film- Jaanam Samjha Karo - starring Salman Khan, Urmila Matondokar. How was the experience?
I did Janam Samjha Karo because I was working with the same producers for a TV show. They asked me to do the guest appearance and I complied.
It is television and then web-series that did fair justice to your talent. You acted in the TV series C.I.D, but got fame from the serial Kehta Hai Dil, telecast on Star Plus (2002 - 2005). You acted as an evil, menacing mother-in-law. I am quoting from the net, “Her acting was so hilarious that all the daughters of the country prayed that they never get such mothers-in-law in their lives. Her role was simplistic, but her acting was so genuine that people became scared of her. However, she has a very comical nature. She won many awards for this role and was also nominated for different roles in award shows.”
I did a few episodes of CID. I did a lot of shows post Tara. Kora Kagaz, Kartavya, Lipstick, Kashish, etc. Kehta Hai Dil was very special as I made my character a comic-vamp which was unheard of in those days. You had the typical overdressed, over made-up conniving mothers-in-law but I was not doing it that way. I changed the character completely and it worked really well. My portrayal was loved by one and all. Comedy is something you either have or it is non-existent. There is no in-between.
In Siya Ke Ram (Star Plus - 2015-2016) you played Kekayee. You returned to TV after 5 years. How did you see her? You know how to pitch characters in your acting. You are quoted saying, “Mujhe sabse human character lagta hai - Kekayi is grey. Sacchaa character. She expresses herself. Portray karne mein maza aata hai. Mythological, larger than life. So theatrical element daalne ka scope tha. Theatre experience use kiya. Veer-rass, shringar-rass daala. Empathy.”
Siya Ke Ram was my comeback show of sorts. I had taken a break from acting, not only because I had a baby but also because nothing good was happening on TV. I think TV is going through its worst days. Siya Ke Ram was different as it was a show mounted on a large scale. Playing Kekayee was a challenge as I had not done any mythological or historical show in the past. Everything fell into place from the money to the dates, so I did it. Though I was extremely nervous and wanted to run away, I got a grip on myself and threw myself completely into the character and got back my bearings. I regained my confidence after working in Siya Ke Ram.
You acted in the film Chintuji (2009). You played the role of Kanta in this very interesting subject. Do inform about your role and experience. It was directed by Ranjit Kapoor. How was it working with father-guru? And how was it sharing screen space with Rishi Kapoor?
Chintuji was a very beautiful experience. I got the opportunity to work with my father. He made his film directorial debut at the age of 60. We were shooting in Himachal for more than 40 days. It was so wonderful. And working with Rishiji was a wonderful experience. A thorough professional and a seasoned actor! I enjoyed every moment.
Film Jia Ho Democracy came in 2015. It was produced by your husband Bikramjeet Bhullar and directed by your father Ranjit Kapur. It starred Om Puri, Annu Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Seema Biswas, Adil Husain, Aamir Bashir. Do share the experience of making the film and what did you take away from it?
My husband Bikramjeet Singh Bhullar produced the film. It was a different kind of an experience. It wasn’t easy though we had a stellar cast and people I had literally grown in front of. But industry mein koi kisi ka dost ya dushman nahi hota hai, ye producer bannne ke baad samajh aata hai. My take-away from the film was to never make a film with your own money. Always find an investor. Par bina marre swarg nahi milta issliye film ne bahut kuch sikhaya jo bina khud banaye nahi seekh paate. (But to enter heaven one must first die! Likewise this film making taught many lessons that one may not have otherwise learnt). Adil Hussain, Seema Biswas, Om Puri, Aamir Bashir and others are not only good actors but wonderful human beings too.
Karanjit Kaur - the untold story of Sunny Leone - is biographical. A ZEE5 Web-series of 2018 it tells her story of being a porn-star-turned actor on her terms, in her inimitable style, unapologetically. It tells of Sunny Leone’s personal family life, her reasons of getting into the adult industry, choosing the name Sunny, meeting boyfriend turned husband Daniel Weber and traces lesser-known facts about her transformation from an adult film star to a popular mainstream actress. You played her mother Balwant Kaur Vohra. You were very good. Tell us about the making and the experience of working with Sunny Leone who in her interviews comes across so good, intelligent, amiable. Also what did you take away from this role? You were nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category at the second edition of News18 iReel Awards 2019.
Karenjit Kaur was a different journey altogether. When they called me for the series I refused to listen to the story or meet the makers as I was so biased. I had so many preconceived notions. I thought probably her mother forced her to do adult films. When I finally agreed to meet the director and got to know the real story, all my doubts were laid to rest.
Sunny is a very good human being and has a special place in my heart and yes we all became like a true family. It was difficult for Sunny and now I can understand why because she wanted to change so many things in life, which she could not and she felt bad about those things. She was reliving her life and watching it as a witness this time so there were bound to be regrets and emotions, which she never knew before. She loves me a lot, actually like a mother, though our age difference is only 4 years.
Yes I was nominated for both the seasons though I feel I deserved the award for the second season as I was really good in it. I was quite surprised when I watched myself in the second season. I performed well. I was conscious of the fact that I was playing a real life character. Playing Balwant wasn’t easy. She was an alcoholic and an extremely emotional but tough woman. I was conscious initially, but director Aditya Dutt and writer Karan Sharma were right there for all the support I needed.
Film Ujda Chaman (2019) featured you as Sushma Kohli. It had a different premise as a film. Directed by Abhishek Pathak it starred Sunny Singh Nijjar, Manvi Gagroo, Saurabh Shukla, Atul Kumar and others. Tell us about the film.
Ujda Chaman was a beautiful experience. They wanted a loving Punjabi mother and they watched Karenjit Kaur and found me perfect for the character. It was a small film but it did well and got me some amazing reviews, especially from the audience and critics like Anupama Chopra and Komal Nahata. They had such lovely things to say about me in the film. I loved it.
What about film Aankh Micholi, starring Paresh Rawal, Abhimanyu, Mrunal Thakur, Sharman Joshi, Divya Dutta, Abhishek Banerjee, Darshan Jariwala, you and Vijay Raaz ?
Aankh Micholi has not released yet. It’s a fun film with a wonderful cast and is directed by Umesh Shukla. It got postponed due to the pandemic. Hopefully it will release soon.
I want to know from someone as balanced and matured as you that is the demand of Indian television, films so acute that actors and crew stress beyond endurance? Haalaat kaise hain?
For past five years I have only been doing films and web-series. There the situation is much better. In television it was not so. How television now functions I would not know.
How were the working conditions during corona?
Working during corona was scary and blissful at the same time. Happy that in the given circumstances one has work and frightened of the situation itself.
Who are the film actors, film directors, who have influenced you as an actor?
Irfan Khan, Peter Dinklage, Morgan Freeman are few actors I love watching. No director has influenced me because I never wanted to be an actor. God never gave me the time to think and plan.
Our television in the 1980s, 1990s produced very good fiction. Now our non-fiction on TV like the music shows are good, but fiction is caught in a trap of modern programers trying to make sanskari fare.
I have seen and been part of the golden phase of television when people like Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, B R Chopra worked for TV. Today the TV scenario has completely changed. Today it is done only for money. If there was good quality work on television then the web-series makers would never say that do not cast television actors in web-series. There is a reason behind it. TV does not need good actors. It needs people who can just mug up lines and deliver them.
At one time our television content was even better than that of our films. Now even the web scenario is slowly, slowly getting into the television mode. At one time, earlier on, television sets were owned more by the class of people who were culturally and literary oriented or informed. So the content being made was for that segment of audience. Times changed. Television sets reached across demography. And likewise the content got made as per that taste. Today’s television audience is not of a literary bent.
In your personal life you are well settled with your husband and lovely son Vivan. Is your husband a lawyer? What is his name? What are Vivan’s interests in life?
I am a very gharelu person. Domestic. Since childhood I dreamt of marriage and family. I love being at home. My husband has done law. But he does not like to practice because he is not fond of arguments. He is a very creative person. He has studied world cinema and has a better understanding of films. I myself have understood films much better after meeting him. We have our little world. Hamari choti si duniya hai. My son Vivaanjeet is twelve years old and wants to become an automobile engineer.
Do you dream for your son or want him to dream for himself?
Yes I do dream for him and let him dream as well. I have had a very unconventional upbringing and set of parents so I want everything conventional for him. Degree ke saath saath skillful hona bahut zaroori hai.
Do you feel actors like you deserve much more than what television, films, OTT have till now offered?
Absolutely! There should be no slotting. They put actors in typical moulds. Ye hero ki mummy, ye heroine ki mummy, ye comedy, ye serious… aise nahi hona chahiye. Things would not appear so repetitive if good actors were cast in different roles. There would be a freshness in it. But the question is who is going to address that?