Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Another Kapoor Blooms | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Another Kapoor Blooms

ByMalavika Sangghvi
Apr 07, 2024 07:08 AM IST

Musician, educator and performer, Tulsi Kapoor, who released her debut song ‘Bloom’ digitally last week, belongs to the Kapoor clan that perhaps you don’t know much about: just as talented, creative and charismatic as the members of Bollywood’s Kapoor family

Going by the media reports, you would be forgiven for not knowing that there are actually two Kapoor families that exist within the Indian film industry.

Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Another Kapoor Blooms
Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Another Kapoor Blooms

The first of course, is the family whose members have dominated the silver screen and public consciousnesses for five generations and whose lives and loves you’re acquainted with- perhaps better than those in your own; they are the ones who pictures you see incessantly at parties and premiers and lunches and launches and in and out of airports, restaurants and their building compounds, often with kids and coffee cups in tow.

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The second Kapoor family is the one you perhaps don’t know much about: just as talented, creative and charismatic as the members of the first, this family has chosen to live away from the flashbulbs and arc lights. A quieter lot, its members are the ones touring the world solo on their motorcycles; or pursuing their degrees in Philosophy; or enrolling in pottery or poetry workshops; or establishing grassroots cultural institutions; or championing the cause of good theatre and art cinema for the urban middle class; or photographing Old People’s Homes and dying Anglo Indian communities; or working anonymously as computer engineers on the West Coast…

Musician, educator and performer, Tulsi Kapoor, who released her debut song ‘Bloom’ digitally last week, belongs to the second Kapoor clan. She is the great-granddaughter of Prithviraj Kapoor, granddaughter of Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali, grand niece of Raj and Shashi Kapoor, Ranbir, Karisma and Kareena are her cousins. Rishi Kapoor was her uncle. Raha is her niece and Taimur and Jeh are her nephews.

Written 6 years ago when Tulsi, the survivor of an abusive relationship that lasted 3 years, was a student at the Los Angeles College of Music, she says composing Bloom with its haunting lyrical melody that belies its gut- wrenching lyrics, had been a cathartic experience, when she had finally faced her early trauma head-on.

“It also happened to be the Me Too era and I began to understand terms like ‘consent ‘ and ‘agency’. It was an eye opener,” she says.

“I know it’s a sad song, but unless we talk about these things, nothing will change “ she told me when we met at a SoBo café, over nimbu pani. “For me, art is something you create to share, not keep hidden. And, I’m trying to do that with my music.

***

To understand the courage behind Tulsi’s action, one needs to acquaint oneself with the 38 year old’s back story.

As children, Tulsi and her brother had grown up living with her parents Aditya Raj and Priti Kapoor and her grandparents, Shammi Kapoor and Neela Devi.

Contrary to public perception, their upbringing was highly conservative and protective.

After Shammi Kapoor’s wild ways and days as one of the superstars of the 60s and the tragic death of Gita Bali, the actor, known for his flamboyant dance moves and tumultuous personal life, had settled into a quiet marriage with Neela Devi, who hailed from an erstwhile royal clan, becoming a devotee of a spiritual guru, pursuing his passion for music, design, computer technology, poetry and intellectual discourse.

His curiosity about things, his passion for learning new skills and the speed at which he evolved had made her grandfather one of the most progressive people she knew, says Tulsi.

It had fostered an atmosphere of self-discovery and personal growth at home and Tulsi had begun singing and playing instruments at the age of four.

But due to her acute shyness and undiagnosed ADHD, in her family schooling in Mumbai though Tulsi had excelled in the arts and music, she says she had been a backbencher, spending her time day -dreaming or doodling and wondering why she was so different.

High school and college, where she had graduated in journalism , had been a better experience, when she began to emerge from her shell and participate in cultural and social activities.

Soon along with her batch mates, she had joined an NGO and begun teaching music to the city’s slum children. It was at this time that she’d realised how much she enjoyed music and wanted to further her knowledge of it.

So, post-graduation, after a few years of working at media organisations, Tulsi enrolled in a music school in California.

It had been a pivotal experience. “Imagine meeting and living with hundreds of other kids from across the world-just like yourself: creative, differently wired and passionate about music. It was a dream come true.” She tells me.

Back in Mumbai, Tulsi had plunged into doing what she loved most : composing songs (at last count 60) and teaching music to hundreds of students in schools across the city.

Then, after years of therapy, healing and support from friends and family and especially encouragement from music producer Prasanna Vishwanathan, a few months ago she had recorded Bloom and released it on her 38th birthday.

***

What is it going to be like for someone who has so far eschewed personal publicity, to be under scrutiny on a topic as sensitive as abuse, I ask Tulsi.

Her words are cautious, though her voice is strong. “If it means I encourage others to speak out about their own abuse or start a dialogue about mental health issues and how women are often expected to suffer in silence, then I say bring it on.” she says.

Germane to my question of course, is the fact that Tulsi has refused to fall back on her family connection to promote her song; after all, given the collective Kapoor charisma, even a single tweet by one of her famous cousins or a family group picture at the song’s launch, would have received exponential attention and coverage.

“I want Bloom to stand on its merit and find its own way in the world, “she says. “Of course, if it’s a huge success or wins a Grammy, I will be thrilled. But it’s got to make its mark on its own strength and not because of my surname” she says, adding: “ Being a part of this family is an honour. I’m incredibly proud of all my relatives -inside and outside of the Indian film industry. I’m amazed at the amount of creativity and artistic talent this gene pool has created and spread far and wide. And I’m glad to be a part of that.”

But as far as her more famous relatives are concerned Tulsi is grounded and full of respect “It may appear from the outside that fame and fortune are the ultimate things, but few can imagine how much hard work, inner strength and resolve it requires to be up there at that level. I have enormous admiration for those in my family that are out there managing all the pressures and stresses that come along with the territory” she says.

***

So, as I was saying, there are two Kapoor families that exist in the film industry; both creative, talented and charismatic. And even though both might have chosen to pursue different paths, they are as closely bonded with ties of love, respect and affection, as any other: meeting as often as they can for raucous family lunches, cheering each other on social media and being there for each other during times of strife and grief.

Because in the end that’s what families do.

And the Kapoors, for all their fame and fortune, are just a regular Indian family, albeit one of the country’s most well known…

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