Arjun Kapoor on his struggle against the fat in the genes and industry stereotypes

“Why didn’t you feature me in this column before?” Arjun Kapoor is excited to have finally made the cut to the column that goes against the usual drill of media interviews. In Delhi to shoot for 2 States, we meet at Chao Bella restaurant of Crowne Plaza Today at Okhla.

The Chinese Italian restaurant is full of delicious options but Arjun is on a strict diet. He is shooting simultaneously for 2 States and Gunday and the two films require two different looks. So he settles for five egg whites and one yolk for taste and combines them with multigrain bread and coffee. “I owe it to myself and my audience to look in sync with the characters I play. In 2 States, I am playing an IIM graduate while in Gunday, as the title suggests, I am a lovable rogue who is known for reducing opposition to pulp. So when I shoot for 2 States, I cut my hair and do cardio and when I shoot for Gunday I grow my moustache and hair and emphasise on weight training.”

Talking of weight, a few years back Arjun used to weigh 140 kilos. “I am not cut structurally like other Kapoors in the family. I am big on my shoulders and legs. My shoulders are much broader than my uncles and my father. I am a double Punjabi!”

Like many other youngsters from film families, Salman Khan took him under his wings and Arjun blossomed. “Food control is more important than exercise,” he says from experience. “People tend to think that if they are exercising they can eat as much as they want. You have to be disciplined for a long period of time. You can’t go for something like, I will reduce it by six kilos in four weeks. You have to be prepared for a lifestyle change.” Arjun kept his favourite rice recipes out from his diet for a year. “I didn’t go for any crash diet. I went for a healthy process of dieting for four years. My metabolic rate was very poor. Now it has slightly improved as I can get away with cheating once in a while.” He doesn’t leave the scope here for he returns the extra loaves of bread. “Please take them away else I might feel tempted.”

But all this control doesn’t stop Arjun from calling himself a foodie. “How can I? My grandfather (Surinder Kapoor) was known for throwing lavish parties and my father has carried on that tradition. My grandmother is a great cook. In fact, I avoid going to her house because she always finds me thin! We like ghar ka khaana. Kadhi chawal and rajma chawal are my favourites. I still yearn for keema, paya and biryani. I love fried yam. Then shikari mutton is a Kapoor speciality.” So is khujjama, which Arjun describes as the Indian version of French toast. “It is quick and tasty.” Arjun’s grandmother is a close friend of Raj Kapoor’s wife Krishna Kapoor and Arjun says there are many similarities between the food at RK house and his house.

However, how has his uncle Anil managed to retain his waist size for a couple of decades? “He doesn’t eat from his plate. He picks little portions from other’s plates and moves on,” Arjun lets out the secret. “Recently, he came home for lunch and kept on asking me aur kya ho raha hai and in the process polished off my dosa. And when I ordered for another, everyone started commenting that Arjun is having two dosas!”

When it comes to cooking, Arjun has a standard reply: humein aata hai sirf khaana, hum nahin jante pakana. “I learnt making pao bhaji during cookery classes in school but didn’t find it interesting. I will learn cooking when I will find a girlfriend.” To impress her? “I think every man should know at least five dishes so that he remains self sufficient,” Arjun gives it a philosophical twist. “In India, there is no concept of fixed portions and we use food as an expression of love and care. Even tea needs accompaniments in the form of biscuits; hard drinks are served with peanuts…,” he goes on.

He even has to eat food on screen in both his films. “In Ishaqzaade, I had a scene where Parma is slapped by his grandfather on the dining table and then they have food. I was supposed to eat karela and Habib (Faisal) sir told me that you have to eat karela as if it is the world’s best dish. Now I hate karela. I told the production guys to bring baigan ka bharta. So eventually I ate bharta but said Wah! maa tune aaj kya karela banaya hai.” Something similar happened on the sets of Gunday, where he was supposed to eat dal chawal. “I told the unit that I will bring it from home because I didn’t have it for a long time. I had no dialogue in the scene. I just had to eat and listen to Saurabh Shukla. I thought it is a good opportunity to break my diet schedule without giving the trainer an opportunity to complain. These are the little advantages you get as an actor.”

What he doesn’t get is the opportunity to dwell on his films. “When Aurangzeb released I was shooting an action sequence with Ranveer Singh atop a train in Satara, where telephone signals are weak. By the time I returned, all the post mortem was done. Next day, I cut my hair and left for the shooting of 2 States. I can’t afford to tell my directors that my film has released, let me soak it in.” Also, he is learning that for an actor there is very little space that is personal. “I hate smiling because Habib sir made such good use of it that now everybody thinks that I am acting like Ishaqzaade. How should I explain that it is my natural smile? I have seen stars in my family but I never thought that I will be noticed so minutely.” Sweet! “Don’t tell me I am missing red velvet cupcake but for now I have to cut my hair and become an IIM graduate,” he rushes off.

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