The Break Out Star
Man's World|October 2021
20 years into the film industry with quite a few hits in his pocket, actor Kunal Kapoor feels his journey has just begun. Kapoor talks projects, the importance of not being typecast, and the way forward
Jigar Shah

Kunal Kapoor’s slow-motion walk sporting a beige shirt and trousers with a long black overcoat in the song Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlaata Hai from his debut film, Meenaxi-A Tale of Three Cities, is still fresh in my memory. Everybody wanted to know about this good-looking man, and his whereabouts. He was never just a handsome face with a fabulous body. He proved his acting mettle with films like Rang De Basanti, Aaja Nachle, Lamhaa, and more. In fact, The New York Times gave a raving review to his Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. Kapoor is back on screen in the recently released series, The Empire, where he plays Mughal king Babur.

Kapoor believes he manifested the role of ZahÄ«r ud-DÄ«n Muhammad, or Babur, — the Mughal Empire’s founder and the First Emperor of the Mughal dynasty during 1526– 1530 in the Indian subcontinent. He explains, “The show is based on Alex Rutherford's historical fiction book titled Empire of the Moghul: Raiders From the North. I had read the book a few months before I was approached for the role. Whilst reading the book, I felt it would make excellent content for a movie/ series, and Babur is a fascinating character. Nikkhil Advani called me a few months later, and said he had bought the book’s rights for the screen. I was quite surprised because I had just read the book. So, I completely manifested it. Often, you might have a great book and great source material, but the script might not turn out as good as the book. Here, I felt they had enhanced the script, and it was even better than the book. So, it was an obvious choice to do it.”

Kapoor ended up living this character for two years. The shoot for the show began just before the pandemic hit, and post that, the shooting pace slowed down. When you live with a character for such a long time, you tend to take it home. You find it difficult to shrug it off even after the project is done. But Kapoor isn’t that kind of an actor. He reveals, “I spend a lot of time working on the character. When I'm on the set, I try and stay in character, but once the project is over, I move on very quickly. I thought staying with the character for two years was challenging, as you expect the shoot to get over within five or six months. When it extends, it becomes difficult to be in that space and zone.”

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