Reza Noorani (BOMBAY TIMES; August 10, 2018)

Actor, writer, tech entrepreneur and a pilot — Kunal Kapoor has donned several hats in his career. Now, the artiste is a part of Reema Kagti’s latest outing, Gold, a film based on a true story about a team of patriots with a dream to win the gold medal for their country. The film gave Kunal an opportunity to play hockey on a competitive level. Not just that, he cherished the opportunity to be a part of a romantic era where men were cut from a different cloth. The articulate and handsome actor shares his views on patriotism, sports and more...

In Gold, you play a prominent role of an Indian hockey player, who helped win India’s first gold medal post independence. Have you ever played hockey before?
Before this film, I had never played hockey. My respect for hockey players has gone up manifold. It really is, by far, the most difficult sport that you can play. To take up a sport I had never played before, and to make it look believable on screen was very difficult. Also, the way hockey was played in the 30s and 40s was very different. The game was played on grass and not on turf, like it is now. It was played with sticks that were far more difficult to control, which made it even more challenging. Plus, for a tall guy like me, it is harder because I had to bend and slouch while I was playing. But it was also a lot of fun. As an actor, this is what you live for; the chance to do something you have never done before, where someday, you get to learn something new. So, it was both challenging and difficult, but there was a great amount of creative satisfaction in that.

Was it more challenging because a film like this is physically more strenuous?
My character is someone who has led India to win a gold medal several times in the past when India was a British colony. His only dream is to win gold as a free nation. He doesn’t have a personal life or any other interests for that matter, besides seeing his country win as a free nation. So, I found his singlemindedness very attractive. I am like that, as I am purely driven by passion in real life. I am not the most practical person, and that’s why people tell me that I do very little work. But if I don’t put my heart in what I am doing, I can’t do it. Yes, I had to be physically fit to play the role because, firstly, we had our daily training like actual hockey players do. Secondly, I changed the way I worked out at the gym. It was not about aesthetic muscles at all. I wasn’t trying to look like a bodybuilder. We were building functional muscles. So, the workouts were different. We focused on the core muscles more. Also, it is very challenging to shoot a sports film because we were shooting in UK, where the weather was a very unpredictable. Sometimes, each take was done 20 to 25 times. So, I was bending and running for the ball and doing a 25-metre sprint for some 20 takes. It required a completely new level of fitness. Plus, shooting a sports film with Akshay Kumar is an experience in itself. In fact, any film you shoot with Akshay sir is a sports film, because between takes, he made us play all kinds of sports; from cricket to volleyball to football.

You are known for your style quotient. So, were you excited to work in a period film set during the 30s and 40s? It was an era with a distinct sartorial style...
I love that era. I am obsessed with the 20s and 30s’ era, and even the late 1800s. I feel that people were a lot more stylish back then, than they are today. I have not lived that period, but my imagination tells me that there was a lot more integrity in people back then. There was a lot of passion for the country. People were really passionate in general, too. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when people are generally very dispassionate about a lot of things. We also live in a time where your interests change from one thing to another very rapidly. I feel like that was a really interesting time. I have read up a lot about that period purely out of interest, hence dressing up and behaving for that era didn’t feel alien at all. To play the character in Gold, I just had to step into an all-new mindset and that’s a creative process I really enjoy. Men actually dressed up during those times. If you look at pictures and videos from that period, men wore a tuxedo to go to the theatre and watch a movie show. I find that magical.

The film has a prominent patriotic theme. Today, we are going through a phase where we often have to display our patriotism to be taken seriously...
I see a lot of armchair patriots today. There are a lot of ‘patriots’ on social media, whose only job is to retweet something, post a comment and that makes them patriotic. I feel that is misplaced patriotism. In my understanding, true patriotism boils down to your contribution to society and to the people around you. Are you contributing in a positive way? If you are, then you are a patriot. If you are not doing that, then no amount of social media posts can make you a patriot.

Apart from being an actor, you’re also involved in several vocations like writing, information technology and even aeronautics. What drives you to these various pursuits?
I wear several hats. Yes, I like to fly. I fly a Cessna as a hobby. I also race cars when I feel like. Besides that, I am a huge fan of the tech industry. For me, anything that is changing the world we live in, for the better, is exciting. Anything that disrupts the usual in a positive way excites me. Besides that, I am also into writing. That is something I have always enjoyed since I was young. As a kid, I was very shy and the only thing that I would find exciting was telling stories. So, I think stories were a way to express myself.