Arjun Kapoor made his debut with a violent romance in Ishaqzaade. He’s back with a more cutesy offering of love in 2 States, based on Chetan Bhagat’s novel

His kiss with co-star Alia Bhatt in the film 2 States, based on Chetan Bhagat’s book, is the most talked-about in Bollywood. But Arjun Kapoor waves it off as “something normal for a couple in a live-in relationship to do; it’s natural to have such intimacy”. Moreover, he pointed out, quite casually, when asked about the chemistry with his co-star: “You get paid to act, to have that chemistry…Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol have created the most fantastic chemistry ever…” In Bangalore’s Inox to promote the film releasing this Friday, the son of producer Boney Kapoor and nephew of actor Anil Kapoor, who’s already had three good films in two years, starting with a dramatic debut in Ishaqzaade, talks of the dynamics of acting. Excerpts from an interview:

You’ve had a great run quite early in your career. What do you credit it to?

Audience acceptance, and Aditya Chopra (Ishaqzaade’s producer) for taking me on and putting me in a fish-out-of-water scenario where I worked hard and eventually thrived on doing something I’m not comfortable with. I think if I had gotten a film that was playing to my strengths I might not have made such a big impact with the audience. The fact that I was uncomfortable with that small town thought process to begin with, because I’ve never lived there, made me look at the dynamics of acting in a unique way.

What are you strengths then? If it wasn’t what was in your first film?

What I mean is I don’t relate to the small-town sensibility because I haven’t grown up there. My strength in my first film would be playing a urban college-going kid …what I’m doing now. I think 2 States would be more ‘designed’ as a first film for me. Most people ask me why I didn’t choose a film like this earlier in my career. And the fun is to do things that are different and then do what you’re excited to do. I don’t know my own strengths and weaknesses. But what I know is that the quintessential clichéd format of making your debut is to do your run-of-the-mill romcom. Which is a pretty safe genre. Ishaqzaade was a very violent romantic film.

Your role of a kabaddi player in Tevar, a remake of the Telugu Okkudu, takes you back to the small-town character, and playing an unglamorous sport. No problems with that?

For me that was the fun. It’s very easy to look at it as uncool. I could play basketball…that would have been an easy way out. Kabaddi is embedded in our sensibilities. Every kid knows about it, whether you’ve played it or seen it being played, you’ve heard the term kabaddi. So I think it’ll be fun and good to educate our audiences remind them about the joy playing a typically Indian sport. It’s a very earth-driven sport. And anybody can play it. My excitement was ‘let’s reinvent a sport that hasn’t got its due’. For example, hockey got a lot of credibility after Chak De! India. It takes me back into the Ishaqzaade world in terms of the small-town setting. Because the film is based in Agra and Mathura, but the performance of the film is completely different. I know Mahesh Babu did it with a certain amount of stoic and an air of confidence of the character. In my case I’m playing a college kid who is having a good time and gets stuck in this scenario. I didn’t want to play him as a brooding angry young man because I’ve already done that in the past few films.

2 States talks of the north-south India divide, and uses stereotypes to depict the polarisation. You agree with all that?

It exists! I mean I will be lying to myself and people if I say it doesn’t exist in society. Of course, the levels are different. Like in Ishaqzaade it was for political reasons that there divides were created. If you look at 2 States we deal with reality; hum sab ke ghar pe ye hota hai, baatcheet to hoti hai like, it doesn’t have to be at the level of being opposed to someone getting married to a girl or a guy. It’s a conversation: “Accha, ladki kahaan se hai?” This question is asked by any elder in our family. And we all relate to that thought process in our home… it’s a normal thing. It’s a very Indian culture thing. So it exists at different levels. It does not mean such marriages don’t happen; marriages still happen. Time has changed the youth’s philosophies but we love our elders and respect our culture and we will go take their blessings; there are obstacles in getting married in any family. It’s not always hunky-dory. That’s what 2 States deals with – the practical obstacles.