"I’m in the loo," yells Shraddha Kapoor. A chap (her manager, we assume) has just walked into the hotel room in Juhu where we’re meeting, dramatically enquiring where she is. Seconds later, from "the loo", she emerges, a warm smile and a "hello" offered on cue.
If you’re anticipating a stiff, make-up-caked actor, with airs about her, Shraddha can strike you as different. She appears like a disarmingly regular, 20-something girl. Or, she’s trying really hard to be. The casual jeans, and the T-shirt with a ‘Dream, believe, achieve’ quote help; as do the tomboyish converse shoes. The rose-gold Rolex on her slim wrist, not so much. Neither, somehow, does the assertion that she goes "grocery shopping".
The actor has had two hits to her name in 2014 (Ek Villain, and the critically- and commercially-successful Haider), was born a star kid (to Bollywood baddie Shakti Kapoor), and has already graced the covers of most glossies that count. That’s how we get talking about things the Mumbai girl (who lives in her dad’s sprawling, sea-facing Juhu penthouse) misses post attaining stardom: "I miss just being able to walk down the road," she says, "but I still manage to go grocery shopping".
Curious, naturally, we wonder how, and she elaborates on her modus operandi: "I put my glasses on (glasses, she clarifies, not shades), pull my hair over my face (pats hair down over face as she speaks) and am really, really quick about it…before anyone can recognise me," she says.
Yet, Shraddha’s stardom didn’t come instantly. Compared to the well-packaged star-kid debuts that have become the norm, hers was a quiet affair. She started with a small role in Teen Patti (2010), which flopped, in spite of starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ben Kingsley. Then, in Luv Ka The End (2011), she was one of the leads, but that, too, didn’t make a mark.
Ask if she second-guessed her decision to quit studies (one year into a psychology course at Boston University) at this point, and she says, "Yes, I dropped out of school…but it’s something I say with pride," she says beaming. "I wasn’t so elated when my films didn’t do well, but I was sure I didn’t want to go back."
Then came Aashiqui 2 (2013), the film, she admits, "turned everything around". But ask about the contract she broke with YRF to do the film, and she’s every bit the seasoned Bollywood actor with her guard up: "Let’s not get into that," she says, resorting to rehearsed lines instead: "It felt right ... I was dying to work with Mohit Suri (the director) and I heard it and was sure I had to do it."
The brief period in Boston, USA, was "a great year" though, she says, "We did weekend trips to New York… I was also part of a dance troupe, so we travelled a fair bit for that."
But if she knew she wanted to act, why didn’t she study acting? With a casual shrug, she says, "Guess I was interested in psychology as well."
And while you might judge that as a tad too carefree, it seems genuine. You realise she oscillates between the 20-something girl, who just wants to try something new for the heck of it (like most of us at that age), and a newly-minted public personality who’s expected to speak within template.
It’s the young girl who says she’d "probably be a pop-star if not an actor… I grew up watching Britney Spears", and who’s now willing to take another risk by venturing into fashion, by co-creating a line of contemporary ethnic-wear, called Imara. But isn’t it too early in her career to try other things? The seasoned professional is back, defending herself, claiming she likes to surprise people: "It was also a risk when my first two films didn’t work, but I didn’t lose hope… It feels good that I was stubborn about my choice," she says.
In real life, when she isn’t busy being a popular actor, she says she’s "not fashion-conscious at all". "Mom just trashed three-four T-shirts I keep wearing at home," she says. Phone in hand, she also reveals her entire, close-knit family is on one big WhatsApp group, and they chat all day long. And with that, again, there is that glimpse of the ‘regular’ young Shraddha Kapoor; irrespective of whether or not she goes grocerhy shopping.
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