The young girl whose quivering fingers rose up to flirt with the season’s first snow and in return gave Indian cinema one of its most iconic scenes, is busy catching other dreams now. Ayesha Kapur was ten when she starred in Black, which completes twelve years on February 4.
The actor became an instant favourite for how impeccably she played the role of a visually and aurally impaired girl who overcomes these challenges courageously. Now 22 and a Liberal Arts student at Columbia University, New York, she says she took a break from films to focus on education, but is open to acting offers since she has a “flexible schedule”; and hopefully we’ll see her on screen soon.
Looking back on her ‘Black’ days, she tells us a lot — how challenging the role was, how kind and warm director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was, that she had no idea Alia Bhatt had auditioned for the film, but the best part is her first (and extremely endearing!) meeting with the film’s lead, Amitabh Bachchan. Read it to believe it.
“The first time I saw him, I asked Mr Bachchan if this was his first film too. Apparently, the whole set burst out laughing. He was very kind about it and gave me a signed copy of his biography the next day. I hadn’t grown up watching Bollywood films and I was nine years old , after all (while shooting the film), so I was quite oblivious,” she says.
Everyone in Bollywood found it quite cute how she referred to the veteran as just ‘Amitabh’ in her interviews and speeches at award shows. Remind her of that and she says it won’t be considered so “cute” anymore. “I think I could get away with it then because I was so young. But I’m not sure how cute it would be anymore. To be honest, that is just how I grew up, and it (calling people by their first name) is still what I am most comfortable with, but as I have grown older I have broken out of the habit, especially to demonstrate respect,” she says, adding that she still has an equation with both Bachchan and the film’s director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
“Over the years, I have been in touch with Mr Bhansali and Mr Bachchan but unfortunately, not very recently. They have never stopped being kind and supportive however, and I really appreciate that.” She equally extends her support to Bhansali, who was recently attacked in Jaipur by the Karni Sena. “I think it’s absolutely awful and very sad. People should have the freedom to be creative and express themselves, and if anyone feels upset about an artist’s creative work, then the matter can be discussed, but nobody should get hurt. Violence is never the answer.”
After Black, Ayesha starred in Sikandar (2009) as a child actor, and was later to do Shekhar Kapur’s Paani with Sushant Singh Rajput, but the project never took off. “After boarding school, I wanted to re-discover my passion for acting and therefore spent some time training and auditioning in Mumbai. I signed a three-film contract with Yash Raj Films but after it looked like Paani was put on hold, I decided to re-apply to college (which was always something that I wanted to eventually experience). My family and I really believe in an education, and it has always been a priority. I have been loving my experience at Columbia so far. It has been a great opportunity to explore and learn new things.”
She also shares that she often gets recognised on campus considering there’s a large community of Indian students there, and most have heard of Black, which she says will always be special. “I loved the entire experience—I think the most challenging part was actually leaving. I fell so deeply in love with acting that it was difficult to just get back to my daily routine. It was an unbelievable experience and I am so grateful for it. I think the most challenging part of the acting experience was to get the eye movement (the rolling of the eyes) right. It took a lot of training.”
Did she know that Sonam Kapoor (who was an assistant director on the film) had auditioned Alia Bhatt for the role? “I actually did not know that, but I think that is great. I really respect her as an actress and I think she is very talented.”
About the kind of films she is looking at doing hereon, she says, “I don’t want to limit myself to anything, so I am very open to all genres. I think that through films, actors have an opportunity to make a difference in the world — so that would be nice (if the film had an important message/meaning). Not to say I’m not open to comedies and light-hearted films. I would really like to work with Shekhar Kapur sometime, to make that dream come true. Regarding actors, I don’t have anybody in particular in mind — but it would be amazing to work with Amitabh Bachchan again.”
It’s not just films on her mind. Ayesha, who had started a line of accessories a few years back, says she still takes an active interest in that. “My mother and I started an accessory brand together. I am definitely still interested in it and I am involved in trend research, design, and PR. It has been a great journey so far working together with my mom, and look out for some very cool and fun stuff coming out in our stores soon.”
Follow @htshowbiz for more