This post is going to be on an Indian TV actor. Not so long ago I was one of the believers that those three words (ok, one is an acronym) don’t go together, so any one else who does believe that, let me introduce you to Mr. Kunal Karan Kapoor. To many people he is Mohan, from the relatively new show on the TV channel Colors- Na bole tum na maine kuch kaha. The show started when I was in India for my three month ‘vacation’ within my long term vacation which could very well be retirement at 30. This post is not about the show per se, so only a few words on it unrelated to Mr. Kapoor’s character. Great casting, I particularly revel in Renu bhabhi’s snide remarks and remarkable shrewdness enclosed in a concrete shell of stupidity and self obsession- I don’t really believe in pure anything, including evil and she is exactly as complex as any of us can be. Waagle ji from my elementary school days, as papaji and all other characters have that- a character, though not as complex as Renu or Mohan.
Why choose Mr. Kapoor for the second person I write about, well it was originally going to be Che Guevara, he will be next- even though everyone and sundry has written about him and what more could I add, subtract, deduce or extrapolate? While Mr. Kapoor is quite talked about in the Indian forums that I don’t really frequent, except for reading a couple of his interviews (from which I deduced I really like him) he is not that written about and I like that too. I think its a lie when it is said that actors cannot be private- many manage that quite well and here I bring out Kevin Spacey for the first time in this post.
Mr. Kapoor is unfortunate to have the same name (Kunal Kapoor) as another actor, famous for a role in what some consider a cult movie in India- Rang De Basanti, about the same age as himself- Mr. Kapoor resorted to adding his father’s name in the middle, to avoid confusion and more importantly some embarrassment, I think. In science, this could be a smaller, yet irksome problem, imagine people having to sift through all the journal articles or news stories of someone else in the same field as you, to find you. Now imagine that someone who is looking for you, is you. But at least you are not competing for recognition by the masses- or the casting crew. Especially since they both look somewhat the same and they can both act. Though obviously, since I am writing about Kunal Karan Kapoor, I muchly prefer him.
It is one thing to convince people, hungry for entertainment in a 30 min – 3 hr appearance that they may have paid money for, and quite another to convince people to turn their television sets on to a particular show everyday, especially for a show which is deliberately subtle and has no fancy clothes or sets or people all of which together attract the TV watching crowd.
Moreover it is even more unlikely for people like me, who are born sarcastic with an acidic lining and a well under cover romantic heart, for TV’s conscienceless ( and may even be unconscious, to the amount of thought that goes into some of the shows) melodrama to grip and hold. Reality TV (a.k.a. the Kardashians) lets the public live vicariously off celebrity madness. And such celebrities usually record the show in between rehab and divorces or simple drunken festivities.
I don’t think thats the case with any of the cast members of NBTNMKK. Mohan convinces me with his narrowed questioning eyes or what some may call smoldering looks, but more by his voice modulation (aapki aankhon mein nafrat..., nahi dekh sakta ), or scratching his head or the hesitant smile and body language (wherever possible, its Indian TV meant for family viewing, people!). I think most of it and the characteristics are likely to be an extension of his real self- after all it is not easy to shoot 24/7 and be someone else constantly and convincingly. I don’t think he smiles a lot in real life either. I realized later that this sounded as though he doesn’t laugh or is a serious introvert. I don’t know about the latter, which is a very big hurdle for an actor, but you do what you have to- to do what you love to do. So, I am just re writing what I said in response to a comment, I do think he doesn’t smile a whole lot- he may be more likely to laugh- his comic timing is great and I think it has not been exploited to the max in the script. Plus he has acquired the ability to not take himself too seriously- something extremely hard to do if you don’t have a healthy sense of humor..
When he convincingly hugs nanhi, and you feel they are really fond of each other, I would say they truly are.Their chemistry is the best on screen in the show, according to Mr. Kapoor himself. Though, that is not to say thats not acting- the one thing I think any good actor has to be is- complex, like Kevin Spacey or Naseeruddin Shah, they always have to have something inside already that can be molded into the character they are playing. Something that is used to nucleate the beginning of their new role, but has to exist to start with. And they may also have a very amorphous feeling for their ‘self’ so that it doesn’t stand in the way of the character- something that requires an incredible amount of humility, considering the amount of fame some of the good actors accrue and remain good. Or some like Ms Rai- Bachchan never get over themselves to be someone else.
Now for Kevin Spacey there were years of training by specialists at institutes like Juliard, the caliber of which is still quite unattainable in India, just because fine arts are neither well paid nor popular in India. Surprisingly few actors who act well are liked by the masses or even known to them. Unlike movie stars many TV actors don’t haul from a known family, just like Mr. Kapoor, but they also don’t evolve as he clearly has,while in the profession. Whatever training he had in the beginning has been overhsadowed by what I see as self training, he can’t possibly have time for classes once the show started. I am sure the director/producer of the show deserves credit here, and never let it be said that I didn’t give it. He did say in one interview that he was his worst own toughest critic- and that is showing!
Indian TV for me, for the near future, is going to be restricted to and personified in Kunal Karan Kapoor, and I thank all those real life characters who led to those experiences that molded and made him what he is now. Especially those that have given him the perfect forlorn look, though he may never have wanted it. But (then and in the future) he deserves more and if there was any fairness in this world, he will get it too. Whether or not there is (fairness in the world, that is), if he does read this ever, he should know that he has one fan for life, who is currently waiting to be shunned by everyone who knows her since birth for writing about a actor who is on an Indian ‘soap opera’, when in the 3 decades of her life she has never been a fan of anyone, other than Stephen King, George Orwell and Charles Darwin ( and no, while I greatly admire all the other actors named in this post, I am not a real fan of any of them, which would require me to watch all their movies). Lekin mujhe bhi kuch adha adhura pasand nahi…
And yet another loong post, but I cannot end without explaining why Kevin Spacey was mentioned at all.In one rare interview he said that an actor’s job is to convince the viewers he really is the character he is portraying and thats why he himself keeps a low profile. Now the cynic in me knows this and paradoxically still thinks that there is a lot in common between the NBTNMKK character and Mr. Kunal Karan Kapoor…
Again, I don’t think anyone is purely this or purely that.. And I would like him any way..
This post will not be long. I have been castigated for writing posts that are too long for a blog and dull, to boot.
I have been thinking of all the things I could have been doing, or perhaps am doing in the parallel worlds in existence, and if there were clear markers that I missed, that had tried to direct me to a position I would have been more productive at. I can’t think of any, except my mother being opposed to me doing a Bachelor’s in Biochemistry. There weren’t any better options then. Even if I had wanted to take be an engineer, I didn’t have the confidence that is needed to work hard for the entrance exams. I know now, that I do have a brain, a little late for it to be any of any use. Who knows, maybe thats its true purpose, to remain hidden until its presence is irrelevant. Maybe only for people like me, who are just plain lazy. It sees its uselessness and remains dormant in the hope of divine intervention.
Anyhow, the goals of most of my life are in tatters right now. Most of it was doing good science, though to be honest, even that was very early twenties. Before that was making my dad happy, which doing well in school, college or university, invariably did. In fact, until I did really badly in my senior year in high school and saw how it could affect him, I was not a hundred percent into doing even that well, as I realized later (again). What people may call a lack of the killer instinct.
I found that elusive streak for a short while when it had seemed almost impossible for me to have any hope for a ‘future’ and lost it almost immediately once hope in the name of a graduate student fellowship at JHUSOM, was delivered. It made a come back twice, once it led to results that made a thesis despite all the odds (not yet free to divulge all), and the second time when I successfully wrote and published a science story and while I have published more since, I didn’t need the KI. When an undergrad science writing instructor thought my ‘skills’ were not up to what he thinks can handle his class on science writing, while I was doing a PhD at the SOM! But at that point, my brain had made its presence felt, thanks to killer instinct reprisal#1, and I knew the guy didn’t know what he was talking about. NPR show host/ Harvard PhD. or whatever, there aren’t many Hopkins grads who I think are worth their salt, why should Harvard grads be any different.
Plus, he, like me is a failure in science. Are they not the only people who do allied services to science because they can’t do ‘science’ anymore? My problem is I did ‘do’ science or do justice to the parody of science I had to participate in because of the paradoxical situation extant in the academic world, where no one is actually accountable to people working under them. Only to some larger purpose aiming towards uplifting the world, otherwise alien to scientists. No wait, isn’t that true everywhere? The difference being that in most other professions this fact is out in the open, so it tends to be fair to the people who have the ability and resources to know what they are getting into. Unlike science, where all you have is the larger purpose of solving world problems.
I think this is an acceptable length, as an ode to a profession I can no longer profess to ever successfully make my own.