HT Brunch Cover Story: Love lessons in lockdown

In their first public outing together, actor Arjun Kapoor and his younger sister Anshula peddle the “giving back” gene through a charity that can make challenging times easier to live down
Actor Arjun Kapoor is a bonafide superstar. But so is his little sister Anshula, who has been helping to save the world since she was 13; Styling by Manisha Melwani (for Anshula) and Abhilasha Devnani (for Arjun); Hair and makeup for Anshula Kapoor: Meenal Agarwal and Saba Khan (via Eficiente management);Styling assistant for Arjun Kapoor: Diptee Agarwal; Hair and makeup for Arjun Kapoor: Hakim Aalim’s team and Vikram Banatkar; On Anshula: Dress, Mishee; earrings, Marc Jacobs; necklaces and midi ring, Misho; bangles, MantraBand; bracelets, Vintage, heels, Sam Edelman; On Arjun: Jacket, Perona; shirt, Bhaane (Rohan Shrestha)
Actor Arjun Kapoor is a bonafide superstar. But so is his little sister Anshula, who has been helping to save the world since she was 13; Styling by Manisha Melwani (for Anshula) and Abhilasha Devnani (for Arjun); Hair and makeup for Anshula Kapoor: Meenal Agarwal and Saba Khan (via Eficiente management);Styling assistant for Arjun Kapoor: Diptee Agarwal; Hair and makeup for Arjun Kapoor: Hakim Aalim’s team and Vikram Banatkar; On Anshula: Dress, Mishee; earrings, Marc Jacobs; necklaces and midi ring, Misho; bangles, MantraBand; bracelets, Vintage, heels, Sam Edelman; On Arjun: Jacket, Perona; shirt, Bhaane (Rohan Shrestha)
Published on Apr 25, 2021 08:12 AM IST
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The idea of giving back was embedded in Anshula Kapoor’s mind and heart early in life. When she was just 13 years old, the daughter of Bollywood producer Boney Kapoor and his first wife, Mona, made her way to a local municipal school in her neighbourhood, where she volunteered to coach the underprivileged.

“One was a Hindi medium school, and the other was an Urdu medium one,” she recalls. “They had English as a second or third language and I remember helping the kids there with pronunciation, showing them how to write cursive and guiding them in basic maths. I realised then that I enjoyed doing this more than I enjoyed most other things.”

Now 30, Anshula Kapoor runs Fankind, a platform that connects stars with their fans, and uses the proceeds for charitable causes. And the backbone of her passion project is her superstar brother, actor Arjun Kapoor.

The backbone of Anshula’s passion project is her brother, Arjun Kapoor; Tshirt, DSquared2 at The Collective (Rohan Shrestha)
The backbone of Anshula’s passion project is her brother, Arjun Kapoor; Tshirt, DSquared2 at The Collective (Rohan Shrestha)

“When Anshula conceptualised Fankind, she came to me with a PowerPoint presentation,” Arjun laughs. “Unfortunately, I’m not one to be impressed by such corporate stuff. I’m also not a brother who’d ever say ‘jo karegi main haan bolunga’ (I’ll agree to whatever she does). I saw her passion and excitement for the project she was talking about and that’s what got me involved.”

An ode to Ma (and Pa!)

Both siblings individually agree that the idea of philanthropy was ingrained in them by their late mother, Mona Shourie Kapoor, who died fighting cancer in 2012, weeks before Arjun’s first film, Ishaqzaade, was to release, and a few months before Anshula was to finish her graduation.

“My mother was the kind of person who’d first help a person in need, then help herself. She pushed me into the tutoring I did as a teenage girl; it wasn’t philanthropy for her, it was about being active in the community, helping out with skills we may have, that others can benefit from,” says Anshula.

Ever since Arjun made his debut, a lot of his fans sent Anshula DMs and ask her for his autograph and signed CDs; Dress, Jodi; shoes, Stuart Weitzman; accessories, Lune; watch, Chopard (Rohan Shrestha)
Ever since Arjun made his debut, a lot of his fans sent Anshula DMs and ask her for his autograph and signed CDs; Dress, Jodi; shoes, Stuart Weitzman; accessories, Lune; watch, Chopard (Rohan Shrestha)

Arjun is a bit more pragmatic. “I’d like to say both my parents contributed to the idea,” he says. “Mum, obviously, because we lived with her. She was very giving and not one to ever expect things in return. Even years after her passing, I hear stories of her large-heartedness. But I know my dad too, even when he has been in a financially tricky spot, would wake up in the middle of the night to go help someone close to him in need. So Fankind is an extension of our upbringing in many ways.”

Fan to stable

The idea for the venture came to Anshula in the years after Arjun established himself as a star.

“What we do with this project is something I had unofficially been doing ever since Arjun bhaiya became an actor,” Anshula tells us. “Bhaiya wasn’t on social media then, but I was. So a lot of his fans sent me DMs and they’d ask me for his autograph, signed CDs… I even got requests like ‘We know he’s shooting in Agra, could I get a photo with him?’ As a sister, it gave me so much happiness to hear from people who loved my brother as much as I loved him, and wouldn’t mind travelling miles just to get a five-second photo with him.”

Today, her small organisation with a big heart makes dreams come true. “Varun Dhawan was the first star to participate: his fans could bid as little as 100 for an opportunity to play a game of paintball with him. The winners were randomly selected and we’d fly them to Mumbai and give them an experience they’d cherish forever,” Anshula explains. “Choosing the charity the proceeds go to is a collaborative effort with the star, as many have causes that they support.”

Anshula’s charity initiative has seen participation from (clockwise) Prajakta Koli, Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Janhvi Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha
Anshula’s charity initiative has seen participation from (clockwise) Prajakta Koli, Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Janhvi Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha

Other stars, including Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal and Parineeti Chopra, have participated, many over Zoom sessions after the pandemic began. Arjun, of course, is a big part of this.

“For one of the sessions, we had people from Australia and America, across time zones,” Anshula tells us excitedly. “And it resulted in thousands of needy people getting a month’s supply of ration kits: food, hand sanitisers and masks!”

Sister speak
Sister speak

The wonder years

“My relationship with Arjun bhaiya has evolved over the years,” Anshula says. “We’ve gone from fighting with each other to playing WWF on mom’s bed and breaking it, and sharing a room for many years. There’s a five year age gap between us, so there came a time when bhaiya almost became a parent figure to me. The first time I went out, I didn’t have a curfew from mum, but I did have one from him.”

Arjun laughs, admitting his guilt. “I used to also force her to play cricket. I was horrible at studies and she was very studious, which I never understood, so I’d always make fun of that. Eventually, we got separate rooms, but when we travelled, I think I gave my mother and sister a tough time. I am also responsible for turning Anshula into somebody who loves food more than she would have wanted, because I was obsessed with it!”

Arjun Kapoor talks about his loved ones
Arjun Kapoor talks about his loved ones

Did Arjun feel an added sense of responsibility as the older brother once their mother passed away? “I’d say it’s the opposite,” reveals Arjun. “I was very selfish at that point in time and was fully focused on my career. Think about it: my first film was due to release within 45 days of me losing my mum. If it had not done well, I would possibly have been jobless. When mum passed, I didn’t know how to run a house. Anshula came back to India, when she could have continued her studies and made a career in America – that would have been ideal. I know what drew her back was me, and I needed her because I worked relentlessly for three years. I needed her to be my anchor and that’s what she was and still is.”

“Do you know that I have an anchor tattoo of his name on me?” Anshula asks. “That’s because Arjun bhaiya keeps me grounded and tethered. He is my rock!”

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From HT Brunch, April 25, 2021

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Friday, December 03, 2021